the character commonly translated to mean "to persevere". But it also means to endure, tolerate, and conceal. It is considered a virtue in Chinese & Japanese cultures. 忍者 - a person who perseveres - also means ninja.
I am angry. I don't get angry very often. In fact, I almost never get angry because that is not how I was raised. If something bad happens to me and it is upsetting, keep it inside and "忍" - endure it and hide it. The chain of attacks on Asian elders earlier this year, preceded by countless racial-motivated verbal assaults across the country; made me upset. The latest hate crimes in Atlanta, pushed me over the edge - it made me angry. I spent days feeling a combination of sadness, numbness, and anger; but this anger is new to me. I wanted to scream, to break things. I have had enough. I could no longer "忍" - and I think this is what so many of my other Asian American friends feel as well. The crime was atrocious. Then add to that the continual denial that it was a racially-motivated hate crime; and the deputy police sheriff's claim that the assailant was having a "bad day" - as if all Asian women are only defined as sexual objects that are inherently disposable. And this wave of violence has not stopped - this week, a 65-year old Asian woman was beaten in broad day light in Manhattan, in plain view of several building security guards, and no one responded to help her. No one cared.
A couple of weeks ago, a friend shared Sharon Kwon’s article, "This Is What No One Tells You About Being Asian In America In 2021" with me. I re-read the article many times because it captures the feeling (my feeling) of muffled tears so well; a feeling I believe many other Asian Americans share. When attacks on elderly Asian Americans happened in different parts of the country, I didn't hear about them. They weren’t covered in any of the news outlets that I consume regularly. When I shared this news on social media, many of my Asian American friends were also surprised to see it - because they had not heard about this violent trend either. These attacks are scary and painful. But the heaviest blow is that no one else seems to care enough to even talk about it. Like Kwon says in her article, "This lack of acknowledgement is nothing new for Asian Americans. We are used to being ignored. We are used to minimizing our own pain because we don’t want to rock the boat." And for the first time I hear myself asking, when is it our turn to take up space, to be included in conversations, to be counted? Does it take a mass shooting for people to see us?
I have lived in the US on and off for 20 years now, and my hesitancy and nervousness about speaking up and asking to be counted (and indeed my hesitancy to even write this piece) comes from the same place that has allowed Asian Americans to remain invisible for so long. I feel nervous about causing trouble - as an immigrant, we study hard and work hard, we take care of our family, we keep our heads down. I feel nervous about my English - no matter how hard I try to hide my accent, I will never sound American enough; and my written English will never be good enough, because I am not a native English speaker. I feel nervous about raising my voice - as someone who grew up in British colonial Hong Kong, I was bred to not have a sense of civic engagement - we were taught at a young age to accept that as non-English people we will never rise in ranks of any large institution.
But there is nothing like becoming a parent to force you to challenge your comfort zone; to think beyond what you know and have strength to do. Because these attacks are not just about what happened to those poor Asian grandpas and aunties whose faces remind us of our kin; it is also about how my Asian American child will thrive or be stifled as an adult.
My eleven-year old has a more straight-forward response to the recent events: "This isn't OK. It's dumb that people are attacking Asian people because it doesn't matter where Covid was started. If it was started in Europe it wouldn't be like this. The victims were only trying to make money and survive. They didn't deserve it. You can't justify killing people.”
"I feel enraged. I wish I could protect all the Asian people out there and change the minds of all the racist people. I think people are racist because some people look and do things differently, and speak different languages, and these differences make racist people feel threatened. They worry that everything around them could change. Asian people are picked on because they think Asians won't do anything about it, because we tend to be respectful and peaceful, and we won't fight back. Now is time to fight back; we need to stand up for each other and make a change!"
I suppose the next question would be - what is justice? What is "just," what is "equitable," and how can we create the changes that are urgently needed where our BIPOC children can feel that they are valued as much as their white peers? I am saddened by what has happened, but I also believe firmly that our future will be steered by a new generation who is more clear-eyed and has the strength and optimism to pursue the just world in which they believe.
Sue Lowcock is the Director of Development at VISIONS. Sue is an immigrant from Hong Kong with a mixed race background of Chinese/ Parsi Indian/ English heritage.
Anti-Asian violence and discrimination has been on the rise throughout the pandemic; and we must all stand up and speak up against it. These incidents are antithetical to the values we continue to claim we hold as a country. Tuesday's senseless murders of eight individuals are only the most recent tragedy amongst too many. Feelings of sadness and anger have reverberated throughout our VISIONS community. VISIONS condemns these racist acts, and to our Asian American brothers and sisters within VISIONS and throughout the country - we hear you and we see you. Your lives, your wellbeing, and your humxnity are valuable and valued.
The killings were violent and dehumxnizing. The suspect attributing his actions to his "sexual addiction" was a deplorable move that is deeply entangled with race, gender, and power. The suspect's claim that he was not racially motivated only makes the racism even more clear. The deputy Sheriff's statement that the suspect was just having a "bad day", were nothing short of misogynistic, entitled, and racist.
This violence is a type of normalized racism and xenophobia. This racism is steeped in colonial history, as white men have, for centuries, stolen the freedom, resources, and the humxnity from other countries, including many Asian countries and cultures; while creating this idea that Asian womxn are cheap and disposable. Today, the stereotypes that popular media perpetuates of the exotic, submissive Asian temptress without agency leads to sexual objectification and reflects a hard truth about this country's legacy of racism.
Stop AAPI Hate reports that there were 3,795 reported hate incidents in the last 12 months, which represents only a fraction of the actual number of hate incidents. Anti-Asian hate crime in 16 of America’s largest cities increased 149% in 2020 (while such crimes in 2020 decreased overall by 7%), with the first spike occurring in March and April amidst a rise in COVID cases and negative stereotyping of Asians relating to the pandemic.
To support the healing of our Asian-American communities, we must continue to be a model for what the world could be and share our learnings with others so they learn how to coexist respectfully. Dr. Martin Luther King said, "Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love." Bigotry only corrodes our shared humxnity. My hope is that we can join together and repair the divisiveness that currently exists in our country in a lasting way, through repeated learning, connecting, discovering of one another’s differences. Only with that can we truly recognize and value each other's full humxnity.
Elika Dadsetan-Foley, Executive Director
This is usually a time of celebrations for many of our Asian American friends, as many get ready to celebrate the Lunar New Year on February 12th, welcoming the year of the Ox. Unfortunately, there has been a chain of recent attacks on Asian Americans, and specifically elderly Asian Americans, across the country. These attacks were fueled by the xenophobic rhetoric stemming from misinformation about COVID, which has led to many other physical and verbal attacks against Asian Americans since last year. These incidents of hate should not be tolerated. We stand in solidarity with everyone in the Asian American community who is hurting right now.
Words have impact. Words like the poetry recited by poet laureate Amanda Gorman lifted our spirits and gave the nation hope and strength. Words that focus on blame can incite hatred, culminating in these violent attacks. This is a clear demonstration that our words can hurt - how misinformation led to actual wounds and deaths.
At VISIONS, we place great importance on the value of community and interpersonal connectedness. We strive to create community in our work and conduct ourselves with empathy, so that we seek to understand and accept others. With this in mind, all of us can play a part in learning about these recent incidents and help raise awareness. As we send our well wishes to all of our Asian American friends, let us look forward to continuing our work in healing and building a stronger community.
- Elika Dadsetan-Foley, Executive Director
It has been a heavy four years for many in our community, and sometimes we don’t feel the full weight of something until it is released. I hope you feel a tad lighter in the recent days - not because our work is done, but because we know the work we are doing will be more supported than it has been previously.
An Executive Order was signed a few months back prohibiting certain types of diversity training. As of January 20, 2021, that specific executive order was removed. President Biden specifically called out white supremacy and the “sting of systemic racism” as he revoked the limits placed on diversity and inclusion training. He also took down the partisan 1776 Commision and their report that was issued a few days before the end of the last administration - one that tried to whitewash our hxstory. Again, this does not mean our work is done; however it brings me hope for a brighter future.
The revoking of the "Muslim ban" executive order also impacted me personally. My family members in Iran can finally come visit in the U.S. My partner and I were not able to have some of my family and friends attend our wedding a few years back. It was sad (and embarrassing!) that the country where I grew up was broadcasting so much hate. And although I held a U.S. passport with Global Entry, as well as a diplomatic (UN) passport, I am not as fearful that I will be detained (again) at the border and asked questions like “why were you born in Iran?”, making me feel that there is something inherently “wrong” about people born in certain countries. I feel more at peace...AND yet, I am also reminded how far we are from where we want to and should be.
At the presidential inauguration, we heard some of the most beautiful and poetic words from Amanda Gorman:
“Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished...[T]here is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.”
There is always light, that is true. And to say something is broken, means this is a nation that was once whole, which we know was never the case. Indeed, it is unfinished. Let us continue looking forward with the lessons of yesterday to create a nation we all deserve to live in, and let’s also remember what MLK stated: “only in the darkness can we see the stars”.
Elika Dadsetan-Foley, Executive Director, VISIONS
Currently, I am the Innovations Manager at VISIONS, working to amplify the historic work that VISIONS has done by finding more compelling methods to communicate the VISIONS model and to engage newer audiences. I am also a lead search consultant at Carney Sandoe. Previously, I worked in education for 15 years, in higher education and also in independent schools, including working in DEI.
What do you think have been the most important changes in the DEI landscape as we start 2021?
A lot of the DEI work that has occurred are around the more performative aspects of the five F's of culture - food, fashion, famous people, festivals, and flags. These things don't necessarily lead to meaningful change, like around board and management diversity, school curriculum, etc. I think we have gained the understanding that we need to move from what is additive, to what is transformative.
For the communities who are traditionally not in power - for example, people of color, the LGBTQ community - they have always been engaged in these conversations and this work. This year we have seen people who are from traditionally in power communities, engaged in this work. Because a truly diverse organization or community, will bring prosperity and a better outcome for everyone.
What do you think are the main issues DEI practitioners need to focus on, after the new presidency starts?
Author James Baldwin said, "To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a state of rage almost, almost all of the time — and in one's work." I think we all need to be appropriately dissatisfied this year. I anticipate that after Biden takes office, we will see some initial gestures around diversity in representation. We may see certain policies around areas like immigration to soften or return to their pre-Trump status. However, that alone does not take us to true inclusion or a post-racial America. We need to focus on substantive change, and make data-informed change. We need to be as critical of the Biden administration as we were of the Trump administration.
Racial justice movements have taken center stage since 2020. Do you think there are any backlashes, or exhaustion from the general population on this topic?
Many people who identify themselves as allies have worked hard for many months assisting with philanthropy and supportive work, and educated themselves about racism in this country. Many of them feel this sense of exhaustion and feel like they are done, and want to move on. Of course, people of color, black people, LGBTQ communities and other disempowered communities can never afford to take time off from this fight. Actually, what we need to do is to move from conversations to strategies and cultural change.
What do you think we can learn from our history, to guide us in our work going forward?
There is a lot that we can learn from the unifying approach during South Africa's struggles against apartheid. There are a few inspirational quotes that I find useful:
“When a deep injury is done to us, we never heal until we forgive.”
– Nelson Mandela
“Forgiving is not forgetting; it’s actually remembering--remembering and not using your right to hit back. It’s a second chance for a new beginning. ”
- Desmond Tutu
Most effective moments in many historical events was when people were brought together and felt a sense of unity. We can appreciate the differences of each other, and recognize that we are a part of a larger community. And if communities of people have been unified around a social movement before, we can do it again.
2020 was a challenging year, and left me humbled on several occasions. In March, the uncertainty of the global shutdown was stressful, and initially, we were not sure what it would mean and how it would impact this organization. I wondered how creative we had to be to maintain our fiscal health, how we'd be able to continue serving our clients, how it would impact our staff and their loved ones, and especially as time went on, how much it would impact our hxstorically excluded groups - with the disproportionate impact we saw COVID having on these populations.
The VISIONS team took to heart great advice from our "elders" and took it day by day...we slowed down to reflect. We were able to find creative solutions to the context and developed new ways to support our clients through COVID and beyond. We were living out our own principles, and "tried on" some new ways of being.
I am relieved to share that we have continued to serve our clients uninterrupted this entire year without any reductions in our staff. We immediately adapted to serve our clients remotely, started exploring other virtual programs, such as our webinar series, and published a few articles in order to bring attention to the disproportionate impacts from the awakening this summer.
We built and strengthened our community through crises through launching weekly community calls to stay connected and check in with one another. We took our programs online, increasing access and reaching an even greater audience, as well as reducing travel costs. We experienced silver linings like developing virtual trainings and webinars, reaching hundreds across the country (and world!), and strengthening our bonds of community.
The heroes of this story are our incredible staff, consultants, board, and volunteers - and of course, our clients who reached out and were ready to do this courageous work. I am honored to work alongside them every day and am inspired by their creativity and willingness to put in extra work for the betterment of our communities throughout this challenging year. Although this year held its challenges, our team did not skip a beat to do what was best to support our clients and to impact our communities.
As we turn the corner into 2021, I am confident we will continue to serve our clients and community organically and effectively. We will keep strengthening our systems, fine tuning our processes, designing new programs intentionally and with creativity, and updating our curriculum. We cannot do this work as securely without your support. I hope that you will consider making a gift to us to ensure we have the necessary funding to continue our vital services into the future.
I hope you and your loved ones had a healthy and joyful holiday season while we forge ahead to learn, listen, heal, and celebrate each other in this new year.
With the greatest gratitude and appreciation,
While yesterday’s events at our nation’s capital were upsetting and heartbreaking, I also feel more motivated than ever to advance the vital work we tackle each day.
As Dr. Val states “we [at VISIONS] work to develop on-going relationships over time to address the structures that create lack of equitable contact in concert with creating corrective experiences."
Equitable. Relationships. Corrective experiences. This is the tangible work we do alongside our community and partners. And, it’s never been more important.
Yesterday was a shocking and yet not entirely surprising, day for democracy. The scenes at the nation’s capitol were terribly upsetting and saddening. The assault on our electoral process cuts to the core of our shared democratic principles and ideals, and highlights the division in this country. As each one of us comes to terms with what took place and what it means, we invite you to be a part of the VISIONS community; a community that is guided by the values of respect, equity, and inclusivity, and grounded in our mission to work through, accept, and overcome our differences.
We may not be as far along as we would like. We may feel overwhelmed and discouraged today. We may be impatient. Let’s remember that our team is well-poised to create awareness and highlight emotionally-impacting experiences, which will lead to the lasting change our country so desperately needs. So, we process yesterday’s events. We show grace to ourselves and others, and then we get back to work.
The work we do to educate and build awareness as an organization and in partnership with clients continues to be vital. Emotionally impacting experiences are what lead to the lasting change our country so desperately needs.
And finally, these traumatic events will impact each of us differently, so please remember to take care of yourselves and those around you.
VISIONS Executive Director
VISIONS wishes to congratulate Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the projected winners of the 2020 Presidential Election, with more people in the US than ever voting at this election than ever before. We also recognize the significance of Kamala Harris as VP Elect, who will become the first Black woman and the first Asian American woman to assume this important role, and already is an important role model for countless children and young people. The VISIONS community looks forward to being a part of the efforts to heal our country, and to bring all of us across the divide to connect to one another in a meaningful way.
Our country is in the process of allowing all voices to be heard and that is something to celebrate. The U.S. is also clearly in dire need for conciliation, as we face an accounting for centuries and generations of racism and oppression.
Who is better equipped than VISIONS to bridge gaps, to bring people together in a shared dream for a more inclusive and equitable future and have courageous conversations, and to create the possibility of a better world, if not at least a better country? We know the work has to be done from the bottom-up, relationships need to be built, and connections need to be made, so that empathy can be developed. At the same time, we know that within the four levels (personal, interpersonal, institutional, cultural), we need to work on impacting from the top-down, as well.
No matter for whom people may have voted, there is pain for some in the outcome - and as we continue doing the work we do, we will help individuals and communities heal, while also making cultural and institutional impacts. We have an opportunity to rethink and refine some of the work we do to meet the needs of our clients, and meet them where they are.
I encourage each of you to use your power, your intuition, and your creativity: find ways to make yourself heard in promoting our highest civic values of participation and community. Find ways to amplify the message of resolve, celebrating all that is going right while remaining vigilant during this contentious period.
This is the time to turn up the support of each other. I look forward to us standing as a community in this historic moment, as we continue to do the work together on this long road ahead.
So, let's all take time to celebrate, and let's also continue to do the amazing work you already do.
Hello everyone, this is Elika Dadsetan-Foley. I hope this newsletter finds everyone healthy and remaining inspired and hopeful. I want to first acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which I work and live, and recognize their continuing connection to land, water and community. I would also like to acknowledge that I am recording this on the traditional lands of the Wampanoag. I pay respects to the elders past, present, and emerging.
Fall is here, and in the spirit of starting a new season, I am taking this opportunity to deliver my "From Elika's Desk" at Elika's desk - in a new format. First, I want to acknowledge the continued difficulties we are all facing. The severity of various pandemics in our contry continues to increase, all while leading up to a contentious election.
Polls are showing White support for BLM is slipping, and I implore all of you to continue acting on, and recognizing, the need to do the work to affect lasting change. The work is not near being complete, and as we know, it's a long distance run, and it truly is a journey. We must continue to have difficult conversations, show up, stand up, vote.
And in the spirit of doing the work, I'd be remiss not to call attention to the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and navigating complicated emotions about this and about what comes next.
Of course, despite all of RBG's accomplishments, she was still on her journey of growing and understanding. And aside from all she did accomplish in her professional life to try and promote equality, we can honor RBG and carry out VISIONS' mission of creating and maintaining spaces where differences are recognized, appreciated, and understood, by continuing to do the work.
A Brenee Brown podcast from earlier this summer with Austen Channing Brown had a line where Brenee Brown said, her mantra is, "I'm here to get it right, not be right." To listen, and learn. And Austen Channing Brown responded that she sees the work as becoming a better human to other humans. We have a capacity to do better. And its difficult. This is a journey. It's life-long learning. And I aim to keep getting closer to getting it right in the last moment.
As for VISIONS and some updates from us that you're not reading in the newsletter: at VISIONS, we've been busier than ever. We're seeing more clients; we've heard from 410 clients since June 1st, which is over 300% increase from the same period of time last year.
We're forming more partnerships, such as our new and exciting partnership with Mediators Beyond Borders International, and we're finding ways to engage with the community, despite being virtual - or in light of being virtual.
Our Programs Advisory Council, consisting of staff, board members, and of course, our consultants, is making some exciting updates to our curriculum. Our strategic plan is also finally complete after a lot of effort by our VISIONS community for the past year. We’ve identified a few areas as program priorities, including furthering our work with youth, law enforcement/justice system, and finally, creating a Learning Institute. The already-busy team is additionally busy with brainstorming where we can make the most impact in this regard.
Our webinar series is kicking off this month, too. We’ll be addressing topics including law enforcement, the elections, and youth activism. You can see above in newsletter for dates and how to register.
We are also excited to announce that our November webinar will be a space to celebrate our 35th anniversary and will also serve as a fundraiser - we look forward to your support around this event!
This is an important month - with Hispanic Heritage Month closing out in the middle of this month, Indigenous People’s Day approaching next week, and November is Native American Heritage Month: I invite you to definitely read Ana Perez’s article in the newsletter. It's beautifully written.
And while Thanksgiving is a very complicated holiday that we need to look at with greater sensitivity, I’d like to use this moment in time to express my gratitude for the accomplishments we’ve made as an organization these past months and for all the hard work our staff, consultants, and board members put into this important work - and all of you for your continuous support.
So, to conclude: when talking about RBG earlier, I mentioned the concerns about what comes next. While there’s so much uncertainty, I feel hopeful. If there’s one thing we know, it’s that a more diverse world is a more innovative world, and with innovation, comes growth and change. I believe in the power of achieving more together - we have the power to do so, and I hope to see this as we exercise our power in November.
So, on that note - stay safe, stay healthy, engage in self-care, and please, please VOTE. Thank you.
Posters were part of an art campaign called We the People by Ernesto Yerena Montajana Jessica Sabogal and Shepard Fairey Nov. 2016
Indigenous Peoples' Day is a holiday that celebrates and honors Native American peoples and commemorates their histories and cultures. It is celebrated across the United States on the second Monday in October, in opposition to the celebration of Columbus Day.
By Ana Cecilia Perez
We, time travelers, shapeshifters, protectors of human dignity, and faithful warriors, birthing a new world that centers respect for all living beings on the planet: we must not get distracted by the noise and dust that 45 is stirring up. While the US democratic experiment needs some fixing, the unrealized ideals of the pursuit of justice, of a government of the people by the people, the system of checks and balances, a free press, and the right to peaceful protest, are tools/openings that we have used to win justice. And we have been turning the tide, we have been winning!
Evidence that our collective power is changing the narratives that have held us back are everywhere – Black Lives Matter has become a rallying cry of multiracial masses in cities large and small in our country and internationally. We even won, with a conservative-majority Supreme Court, when they recognized that the eastern portion of the state of Oklahoma remains Native American land. More women of color have been elected to government at the local, state, and national levels than ever. And our beloved Squad continues to turn up the fire and plant seeds that, when mature, will get us closer to full transformation – the proposed Green New Deal and Ayanna Pressley’s clarity about “We don’t need black faces that don’t want to be a black voice” are two good examples.
In the next 30 days, we will face an onslaught of attacks aimed at taking away our power by paralyzing us with fear. Let’s not be fooled. What they are after is taking our spirit and eroding our deep faith and belief that our best days are ahead of us! Let’s not give them that. Now is the time to ground into our spiritual practices and to remember the medicine we learned from our grandmothers. We need to drop into our relationships and build intentional communities of care – expanding the unnatural and oppressive idea of the nuclear family and creating ever expanding circles of community. We need to organize!
It is also time to believe and invest in the structures of our imperfect democracy. We must understand and pressure those responsible for securing the vehicles that feed our democratic process and make sure they are doing their jobs. For example, pressure the debate commission to shut the microphones off or to grant a full hour to the candidate that honors the debate rules. Get involved to assure the electorates from your state are not tampered with. Use your power and privilege to provide safety for vulnerable voters.
But most importantly, we need to remember that we are the descendants of people who have lived through the worst moments. We are resilient and we will not give away our faith in a better tomorrow. We need to remember all that we have won and what we stand to win - a just, sustainable and compassionate country. So as we prepare to care for ourselves and our loved ones with clarity about the threats we face, we must continue to feed ourselves with hope and inspire others with hope. We cannot let them defeat us, by letting them drive us back into hiding and silence. We must speak of the world we have been building with excitement. We need to make the vision for our future irresistible!
As one of our patron saints, Harriet Tubman, said, “If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If there is shouting after you, keep going. Don’t ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.”
Ana Cecilia Perez is the former Executive Director of the Central American Resource Center in San Francisco and is currently an independent consultant. She has long been involved in struggles for human and immigrant rights and economic justice in Latin America and the United States. Upon completing her graduate work at UC Berkeley, She led the Cuba and Latin America Program at Global Exchange. She is on the steering committee of National Alliance for Latin American and Caribbean Communities and the Salvadoran American National Network. These are her opinions and may not reflect VISIONS' positions.