After seeing what can happen when people are divided and disengaged, Abraham started bridging those gaps in his Korean American community. He reflects on how far they’ve come and what still needs to be done.
One of the challenges we face as Asian Americans is that our immigration history goes back more than a hundred years. Our forefathers immigrated here many decades ago, and many of us were born here. Yet, when people see an Asian face, they assume that we are foreigners or have allegiance to other countries.
We are Americans and want to be recognized as Americans.
We are all actively engaged in building a better society in this country.
Asian Americans are often perceived as a highly successful group, but that image masks many of the challenges and hardships that our community faces. We have a huge elderly population that lives close to or below the poverty level without proper healthcare. At all education levels, Asian Americans are paid less than their counterparts.
Beyond the acronym
I think it is important to understand that there are similarities and differences between the various Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities. The AAPI community is not a monolith and is diverse.
We share common experiences coming as immigrants to the United States and pursuing opportunities that freedom, hard work, and a diverse society offer. However, each community has differing cultures, languages, history, and circumstances why immigration occurred. I think appreciating these underlying cultures and the dynamics between communities is important to serving the AAPI communities. Each community’s unique voice offers richness to the United States.
One thing I admire about the Korean American and Asian American communities is the resilience and grit of our people. Despite challenges and hardship, our people have sacrificed and survived through it all. We are a community that cares for one another and strives to innovate, prosper, and give back.
My formative moments
As a young college student from the Los Angeles area, I saw the impact of the LA Riots on my community and my family. I realized that Korean Americans could no longer be isolated and inward-focused. They needed to be civically engaged and politically active, building bridges with other communities and investing in our communities. I studied political science in college, and this experience helped put me on a pathway toward being more politically active and civically engaged.
I was one of the original founding board members of the Council of Korean Americans (CKA), back in 2011 when the council was first established. Many Korean American leaders across the United States believed that we needed an effective national voice for our community that could represent and advocate for its interests.
Now, we have more than 250 members across a diverse range of disciplines and locations, and I am proud to have led the organization as its Executive Director since 2018.
Building bridges, amplifying voices
The spike in Asian American hate crimes has led to much self-reflection on what we as a community can do to build greater channels of communication with other racial/ethnic communities, work for stronger allyship, and collaborate with other leaders.
The recent violence has confirmed the important work of advocacy, education, and bridge-building that we do as an organization. It has also shifted our focus to areas that we need to address within our own community.
With issues of race and history becoming more prominent over the last 18 months, CKA has actively sought to be a voice for the Korean American and broader Asian American community in this time of great need. Our members have all risen as vocal leaders of their organizations, companies, and communities.
In addition, we are finding ourselves and teaching history about our own community and others through webinars and discussions. Our country has a long history of racism and exclusion against Asians and Asian Americans, but there is an important history of different communities of color working together to fight for freedom, civil rights, and human dignity that many in our current generations are not aware of.
Support Abraham’s mission to increase the voice, visibility, and influence of Korean Americans and connect with other communities.
Featured Photo: Donate to the 2020 CKA Gala by Council of Korean Americans