May is Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month, which “pays tribute to the generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders who have enriched America’s history and are instrumental in its future success” (Asian Pacific Heritage). In recognition, we’ve taken time to learn more about Asian American & Pacific Islander communities, organizations, and support systems that make New York City so strong.
Learning is essential, and awareness is important. But in order to move the needle — to make this work authentic and action-oriented — we need to tie awareness with direct action. There are so many ways to contribute — through education, volunteer opportunities, monetary donations, supporting local AAPI-owned businesses, and more — and we’ve compiled a list of resources to aid your support of the AAPI community this month and moving forward.
Organizations to Support
If you have the means, we encourage monetary donations to organizations that are doing the groundwork to support our community members and stop the spread of hate:
- Heart of Dinner: Founded at the onset of COVID-19, Heart of Dinner exists to combat food insecurity and isolation within NYC’s elderly Asian American community — two long-standing community issues heightened by the pandemic. Heart of Dinner delivers care packages of hot lunches and fresh produce every week, paired with a handwritten and illustrated letter in Chinese or Korean. They currently serve 1,500+ elders in Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, delivering weekly hot lunches, fresh produce, and bulk ingredients while supporting local small businesses during their COVID-related recovery process.
- Asian Americans for Equality: Through community development, AAFE advances racial, social, and economic justice for Asian Americans and other systematically disadvantaged communities, guided by their experiences as Asian Americans and their commitment to civil rights. Founded in 1974 in Manhattan’s Chinatown to advocate for equal rights, AAFE has transformed in the past four decades to become one of the city’s leading housing, social service, and community development organizations. They have created more than 1,000 affordable rental units in Manhattan and Queens, and provided over $400 million in mortgage financing. From neighborhood offices in Chinatown and the Lower East Side, Flushing and Jackson Heights, they provide multilingual counseling and educational programs in support of low-income tenants, seniors, and immigrant youth.
- MEKONG: Mekong NYC aims to improve the quality of life of the Southeast Asian community in the Bronx and throughout New York City by achieving equality through community organizing and healing, promoting arts, culture, and language, and creating a safety net by improving access to essential social services. The Southeast Asian community in the Bronx primarily consists of Cambodian Americans and Vietnamese Americans. Mekong NYC is where history and culture are valued and learned, where history and culture are living, where people’s needs are met, where people are united through struggle, and where the people feel liberated.
- CAAAV Organizing Aisan Communities: CAAAV works to build grassroots community power across diverse poor and working class Asian immigrant and refugee communities in New York City. Currently, they have three programs organizing low-income Asian immigrants in Chinatown and Queensbridge Public Housing for racial, gender, and economic justice. CAAAV was founded in 1986 by Asian working class women alarmed by the spike of hate violence on Asian communities and its root causes stemming from institutional racism in the United States. Through CAAAV’s organizing model of base-building, leadership development, campaigns, and alliances, they organize Asian communities to fight for institutional change and participate in the broader movement towards racial, gender, and economic justice.
Women-Focused Organizations to Support
Team Reit loves empowering Women and supporting organizations that do the same. If you have the means, we encourage monetary donations, event sponsorships, or mentorship opportunities for women-focused organizations as well:
- Womankind: Womankind works with survivors of gender-based violence to rise above trauma and build a path to healing. They bring critical resources and deep cultural competency to help Asian communities find refuge, recovery, and renewal. For 37 years, womankind has helped Asian women survivors of domestic abuse, human trafficking, and sexual violence. In more than 18+ Asian languages and dialects, the organization works to offer refuge, recovery, and renewal to survivors of trauma.
- AAPI Women Lead: AAPI Women Lead and #ImReady Movement aims to strengthen the progressive political and social platforms of Asian and Pacific Islander communities in the US through the leadership of self-identified AAPI women and girls. Their goal is to challenge and help end the intersections of violence against and within communities. The #I’mReady Movement raises visibility around self-identified AAPI women and experiences with #MeToo, racial discrimination, war, immigration, and more. It also celebrates the leadership and power of AAPI women in Education, Business, Technology, and Politics.
- Asian American Feminist Collective: Asian American feminism is a world-building project. The beauty of this movement is that it can continue to change and evolve, by constantly reflecting upon and refining a political agenda that works for all of us. The goal of this organization is to continue interrogating and defining this movement as well as producing different spaces and resources to build stronger coalitions, connect people in the Asan american community, and produce new ideas. Their events seek to foster dialogue that explore the intersections of Asian/American identity with issues of social justice and also cultivate social change. We draw on the expertise and experiences of those in our community by hosting international spaces for dialogue and discussion as well as organizing panels and performances with community leaders, organizers, artists, scholars, writers, and policymakers.
- The Center for Asian Pacific American Women: In corporate American during the mid to late 1990s, very few AAPI women were in prominent leadership positions — due to stereotypes, race and sex discrimination, lack of leadership and professional development opportunities. To address this, Martha Lee and 18 other successful Asian American women (who call themselves “the Warrior Sisters”) founded the Asian Pacific American Women’s Leadership Institute (APAWLI) in 1995. The overarching goal of APAWLI was to develop, prepare, and support AAPI women for leadership roles in the United States. Since then, APAWLI’s signature program has been its training institute, which each year selects a group of outstanding women to embark on an intensive three-week leadership development training course and complete a community impact project.
Chinatown-based Organizations to Support
Businesses in Chinatown were hit first by the pandemic, suffering revenue losses of 60-80% as anti-Asian sentiment swelled (Send Chinatown Love). Today, merchants are still struggling to stay afloat. Below are some ways to support Chinatown-based organizations through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond:
- Send Chinatown Love: Most Chinatown businesses were rejected for government loans due to application requirements that are inequitable to immigrant-run microbusinesses. That’s why Send Chinatown Love was born. Send Chinatown Love built an easy-to-adopt online solution to create revenue streams for Chinatown-based businesses, and also found creative ways to build a relationship with each merchant on the platform. For Chinatown and its 7,000 businesses that are mostly cash-only, lack an online presence, and had to close down due to the pandemic, Send Chinatown Love brings them online to weather the economic hardships of COVID and potential future crises.
- Welcome To Chinatown: Welcome to Chinatown is a grassroots initiative to support Chinatown businesses and amplify community voices that generates much needed momentum to preserve one of New York City’s most vibrant neighborhoods; they’re here to help say: Chinatown will always be open for business. Welcome to Chinatown was created to support and augment the existing assets of our communities, and they recognize the importance of developing solutions in partnership with those communities. They build relationships with small business owners and community members by applying a diverse range of skills toward already resilient and adaptive establishments inherent to immigrant communities.
- Think!Chinatown: Think!Chinatown, a non-profit based in Manhattan’s Chinatown, is here to listen, respond, and build Chinatown’s capacities as a strong & vibrant immigrant neighborhood of NYC. Their mission is to foster inter-generational community through neighborhood engagement, storytelling & the arts. Think!Chinatown’s aim is to overcome barriers of community organizing that create challenges for immigrant communities’ autonomy to make decisions in their own neighborhood. The organization was built to push from within Chinatown’s neighborhoods to shape better policies and programs that define public spaces, to celebrate Asian American cultural heritage, and to innovate how collective memories are represented.
- Pearl River Market: In 1971, a group of young overseas Chinese men and women worked together to open a small “friendship” store in New York City’s Chinatown. For over 50 years, they have cultivated a reputation in NYC for being the place where you can find just about anything: from Buddha statuettes to rice snacks to chopsticks, and much, much more. Today, Pearl River is a beloved New York institution and symbol for the creativity and ingenuity of Asian Americans in this country. In mid-2020, Pearl River started a Chinatown Collection in collaboration with Welcome to Chinatown. The collection features over 50 pieces from the neighborhood’s beloved small businesses, organizations, and artists. All proceeds from the collection go back into NYC Chinatown, including 10% that will be donated to the many inspiring charitable initiatives working hard for the community.
There are many non-monetary options to help support the AAPI community and one of our favorites is to donate our time. Consider these organizations (and so many more), then carve out some time to get local and give back:
- Protect Chinatown: Protect Chinatown is an organization by the people for the people. The effects of COVID-19 and the worrying surge of hate crimes and racism directed towards Asians prompted the development of Protect Chinatown and the initiative to promote unity and safety, rather than disparity. Protect Chinatown remains committed to spreading awareness on major issues, collaborating with like-minded individuals and organizations, and restoring our community’s safety and confidence. Volunteering with this organization will help further their goal of a united community and protect the Asian American community overall.
- Main Street Patrol: Main Street Patrol is a female-led, diverse group dedicated to protecting its beloved Flushing community by standing up against xenophobia, speaking out against racism, and safeguarding the neighborhood from anti-Asian hate crimes. Founder and President Teresa Ting, a native New Yorker, was inspired to start the group in February 2021 after learning about a violent assault on a Chinese woman in Flushing. She feared that such a brutal attack could happen to her own mother, a friend, or a neighbor. Between 2019 and 2020, anti-Asian hate crimes have increased an estimated 150%, and this statistic excludes the most recent, unfortunate and horrific events of 2021. Their volunteers patrol areas of NYC and they offer training for bystander intervention to help prevent crimes.
- NYC Human Rights: New York City is organizing a large variety of events for the community. Commission staff works with organizations to provide free workshops to educate community members about their rights and obligations under the law. In light of the current pandemic, the Commission has added new events in communities facing heightened levels of discrimination and harassment as a result of COVD-19 stigma. Workshops are available in English, Korean, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, and more.
- Soar Over Hate: A grassroots initiative to protect Asians in New York city against hate crimes by providing self-protective equipment to those most vulnerable. They have raised over $50K, which has been used to purchase and distribute 4,000+ personal alarms, 1,000+ pepper sprays, and printed booklets about preventing and reporting hate crimes for Asian elderly, women, and LGBTQIA+. The co-founders, Michelle Tra (Sinai APAMSA medical student) and Tiffany Yuen (8th grade), are an Apex for Youth mentor-mentee pair, and love to get people involved to help expand this initiative to help the community feel more safe and cared for.
Support Local Small Business
COVID-19 has severely impacted local, small businesses in NYC. Consider dining in / ordering takeout from your favorite AAPI-owned restaurant or stopping into your local AAPI-owned small business and supporting where you can. The Reit team has compiled a few of their favorite restaurants below:
- SnowDays (Consider Reit Project Coordinator Annie’s favorite flavor, Yetitracks)
- VCafe (Liz recommends the poached shrimp salad!)
- Chung Shing Chinese Take-Out (Elizabeth loves the steamed dumplings)
- Spicy Village (Our favorite noodle shop!)
- Golden Steamer (We recommend the Bao Buns)
- Oramen (You can’t go wrong with the Tonkotsu Ramen and a side of chili oil)
We hope that by bringing awareness and action-oriented opportunities to Reit’s community, we can inspire more individuals, companies, and communities to support our AAPI neighbors and work toward a more inclusive, equitable future. We hope that you will join us, not just for May, but for the rest of our lives in our battle against hate.