Down by the Bay

Dear Friend,

Hello. I’m sitting in a coffee shop in downtown Oakland right now. It’s a nice place. They have horchata lattes here :). These next few days I’ll be at the Othering and Belonging Conference at the Oakland Convention Center. It’s my last week here in the Bay Area. I’m leaving in four days. It feels a little bittersweet to be honest. I think I’ve been really enjoying this last month. Someone said to me before I started this journey that one of the hardest feelings will be making friends and finding a community and then having to leave them soon after. It kind of feels like that.

I feel like I’ve both met and reunited with a lot of people here in the bay area. This is definitely the place where I’ve known the most people. I have three aunts here, cousins, and a number of friends. It felt really easy to get acquainted here. It was nice to able to hang out with and see friends I haven’t seen in a long time. And of course, my family, who have been taking care of me as they always do so well. I’ve been able to exercise frequently. In some ways, it feels like I’ve even began to settle a bit here just as I now have to leave. It’s kinda weird. Also kind of a complete 180 from last time I talked to you I think when I was really struggling with the direction of my fellowship.

I think going to Atlanta for the Advancing Justice Conference really helped to give me the boost of energy that I needed. Going there felt like a mini family reunion. I saw so many AAPI movement folks I hadn’t see in so long. It felt nice to reunite with and meet new people from NQAPIA. Being with other queer AAPIs will always feel like home for me. I got a crush on a boy there. I saw old friends. I saw other MN friends. I saw people I met from other places that I’ve been visiting around the country. I met some people that I had been wanting to meet. It sort of felt like the fruits of all my work in a way and that felt nice. It also provided me with many new people to meet while back in the bay area and in the future.

It’s interesting how far SOY has brought me and still continues to bring me today. I met so many of these folks because of SOY. I continued to meet people during my fellowship (at the conference and beyond) because of SOY. People still get excited when I tell them I was with SOY. I never would have imagined this. I also think I underestimated the level of recognition SOY had across the country. It makes me feel bit sad and disappointed when I see how much recognition we had and what’s now gone. At the same time, I think back to our times at SOY. We may have had external recognition and visibility, but I’m sure most of these folks couldn’t tell you what we did or what we were about. We presented a good public image but internally, we were…you know. I think the absence of SOY has allowed for other individuals and groups to start projects, take initiative and leadership in ways that they may not have before. Idk. But maybe it was still important.

I also feel like I have a better understanding and landscape of the movement work. The different pieces of the puzzle. What we need. I think overall, my assessment has still been correct – hyperlocal, low funding, lack of coordinated strategy nationally, etc. But it does seem like there’s more work happening on the ground to try and change it than I knew about. People are trying. There is movement. Something that was really prevalent to me was just how little control over our own narrative we actually have. Like, the model minority myth is so dominant and prevalent. Asian Americans are solidly progressives and support progressive issues, yet that’s not the narrative about who we are. Instead, the narrative is dominated by the Chinese right wing who are fighting against data disaggregation and affirmative action. How do we control our narratives about who we are? We have a silent majority. Our people care. Our people have money. How do we better harness this to build our power? The right wing is such a tiny fraction of who we are, but they are getting all the attention – is this happening because of there’s a void in our work that allows this to happen or because it’s just more attractive to the media?

I came back to SF feeling reenergized – I went to events, met with organizational and movement leaders, hung out with friends, etc etc. San Francisco is a very interesting place. Obviously tech has really had a big impact on the city and you can see and feel and hear it. People are moving here from all over the word to work in the tech industry. More and more tech companies are going public. New millionaires are popping out like babies. Living costs – housing particularly – is skyrocketing. Property values are going up. Homelessness is increasing. Residents who have lived in the city for ages are being displaced. Low-income people can no longer afford it. Developers are buying as much as they can to build new buildings. I think SF and other cities in the bay are trying different things – rent control, rent increase approvals, owner move-in laws, just cause eviction laws. I think these laws are important. I just feel like they are band-aide approaches. Sometimes they don’t even make sense. Like, I was looking at a house that was for sale. It said only low-income people could qualify to purchase it it. Well, in that area the maximum annual salary to qualify as low-income was $90,000! I’m like, wut? Lol.

The questions I keep asking myself is – what kind of city does San Francisco want to be? And for who? How do we move beyond the band-aid/reactionary approaches like rent control (which are important but don’t address the root cause)? How do we dream bigger, dream differently, dream collectively about who and what we want to be? Is it even possible to create a city that is liveable for everyone? Do markets/capitalism essentially dictate to us that wealthy areas are inaccessible for poor people? Does human nature do this? To be honest, I don’t know. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot.

Beautiful Bay Area sunset

So I’m headed to Seattle on Friday for the New American Leaders training. I’m excited to see what I will learn/discover about myself at this training.

Hope you are well. ❤

nick

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