Last year, my friends and I started EMAC (“ee-mac”), or Empowering Marginalized Asian Communities, an organization aimed at uniting the disparate Asian–particularly Southeast Asian–communities to tackle our regional inadequacies in social services, mental health resources, legal aid, youth guidance, civic engagement, healing from war and trauma, and translation services in all of the above. There was no way to neatly address all of those at once, but they are 43 years overdue, so it was not a day too soon.
We check-in with each other before every meeting to set a safe and present space.
“Work’s been busy, but can’t complain, life’s good. With that, I’m in.”
“I’m so proud of what we’re doing. Just trying to get my mind right after the weekend, but I’m in.”
And so on.
Sunny checks-in with a story. He tells us about how he grew up looking up to his uncles and other Cambodian men in Stockton. He didn’t boast much about them, except maybe their gang affiliations and truancy. He hears of a Khmer doctor in his childhood, but learns that the individual moved back to serve in Cambodia since all of the doctors and intellectuals were killed in the Khmer Rouge. It wasn’t until college that Sunny met a guy who knew a guy who was a Khmer med student. He’s emotional as he informs us that he got into med school, and that privilege will take him back to Stockton when he’s done. He turns to Charles and says, “Do you remember the first time I met you? I had never met a Cambodian doctor in my life.”
“It was a good day,” Charles shakes his head, smiles, and gazes at what seems like the past projected on the floor.
Our agenda consists of developing our immigration clinic to keep families intact during this time of mass detention and deportation. The federal Administration would have us believing that deportation is only for Mexican immigrants, but more than 200 Southeast Asian immigrants were detained last year, with 200 people expected to be deported this year, for misdemeanors as minor as possession of drugs from decades past to countries they escaped with their persecuted parents as young as 2 or 3 years old. The Administration would have you believe that these are bad immigrants. That there is such a thing. That freedom should be deserved.
We discuss what materials we will provide at the next community event, our agitation strategies, and how deportation is not a solution, let alone an American virtue. We dispute the cry for national security and deafness to human rights. We’re commuters, tired, hungry, worked-up, and short-staffed. But we’re doing really good work and have big news we can’t yet share. We’re just full of hope.
It is a good day,