Fostering unity among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) has been a longstanding aspiration. Nevertheless, the substantial diversity, language barriers, and a historical lack of mutual trust among Asian Americans have presented significant challenges, rendering this objective seemingly insurmountable. It wasn’t until a new generation of immigrants and their offspring began to embrace the identity of being Asian American that progress was made. Despite the AAPI community’s remarkable growth, comprising 6-7% of the U.S. population, the absence of unity has relegated them to the status of an invisible minority, impeding their capacity to effect meaningful change.
The Asian American Unity Coalition (AAUC) emerged following a pivotal conference held in Alaska in 2018. This groundbreaking event brought together representatives from 12 distinct AAPI organizations and 20 leaders representing five major ethnicities: Chinese, Indian, Filipino, Korean, and Japanese Americans. At this gathering, they collectively formulated the core values and platform of the AAUC. In 2019, the organization formalized its structure by establishing a Constitution and Bylaws to govern its operations. By year’s end, AAUC had also obtained 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, further solidifying its foundation.
In February 2020, the Board of Governors was elected, and AAUC currently comprises a 19-member board, including five officers and eight standing committee chairs. Its active members encompass 24 national, local, and regional organizations, along with 28 individual lifetime members representing 12 different Asian ethnic groups.
In its formative year, 2019, AAUC undertook the monumental responsibility of chairing the 2019 National Civic Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C., with the support from Civic Leadership USA, Asian Pacific American Public Affairs (APAPA), 80-20 United, New American Leaders, and United Chinese Americans (UCA). This four-day forum drew over 200 AAPI leaders, and during a press conference held at the Capitol on September 17th, 2019, more than 70 AAPI organizations, representing over 10 different ethnic groups, collectively signed a statement committing to a comprehensive civic engagement effort within the AAPI community. Several congressional representatives voiced their support at the congressional reception, signaling a growing momentum for AAPI civic participation.
AAUC’s commitment to fostering civic engagement continued from 2020 to 2022 with the hosting of the National Civic Leadership Forum. Originally planned as a physical gathering in Las Vegas in June 2020, the event was adapted into a nine-day virtual conference in September due to the pandemic. In 2021, with the pandemic still looming, the virtual event was shortened to just 3 days. After the pandemic was lifted in 2022, AAUC resumed the national event in Las Vegas in September 2022. In 2023, AAUC relaunched the national forum to refocus on its mission in fostering unity and held a very successful 3-day event in Washington, D.C.
AAUC started its monthly newsletter in 2019, focusing on its mission of civic engagement and building unity among different Asian ethnicities. In 2021, AAUC launched two major initiatives: the monthly audio podcasts on building our collective American Dream and developing an online community hub project. The 31 audio podcasts gather the opinions of AAPI leaders on different issues confronting the AAPI communities and aspiring to build an equitable society for all to thrive.
The goal of the hub project is to connect different AAPI communities with shared information to empower each other through collaboration. The AAPI Hub employs the latest ESRI ArcGIS technology. It currently contains shared information that includes the latest census data on AAPI representation in the voting powerbase down to each congressional district, as well as the AAPI populations down to each precinct. It also contains partial elected official information down to the city level. These 2019-2020 data need to be updated.
The work done in 2022-2023 by AAUC in the AAPI Hub project mainly focused on developing a comprehensive database for the AAPI communities. Currently, the AAPI Hub displays nearly 15,000 AAPI nonprofit organizations in all 50 states with data from the IRS. The comprehensive database provides significant information about our diverse AAPI communities, which was groundbreaking. The beta version of the AAPI Hub launched during the 2023 Unity Summit in Washington, D.C., in September was well received.
Together, AAUC will thrive if all its members and its board work towards strengthening unity and civic engagement within the AAPI community, ensuring that they are no longer the “invisible minority” and are empowered to bring about the change they seek.1