In mid-July, I attended my first OCA national conference and as it so happened, this year marked OCA National's 50th-year anniversary. Along with our VP of Communications Eileen Lundquist and devoted OCA member Woon-Wah Siu, we attended town halls, workshops, panelist talks, and even lobbied at state congressional offices.
During the 5-day conference, I felt humbled by OCA's accomplishments over the last five decades. I learned that many of their youth interns who started at OCA in the 1990s have become national leaders in their own right. Among them, Christine Chen who founded APIA Vote, and Julie Su, the current U.S. Department of Labor secretary, both of whom spoke during the event. The countless competent young interns, fellows, members, and leaders in attendance gave me confidence that OCA continues to invest and prepare its future leaders with the utmost care and commitment. Journalist Richard Lui, anchor for MSNBC and NBC News and actress Tamilyn Tomita best known for her roles in Joy Luck Club and Karate Kid II also participated in the conference as esteemed panelists and keynote speakers among dozen others who all inspired us with their stories of both personal struggle as well as incredible accomplishments and leadership.
The legendary activist Helen Zia who started the national grassroots movement to protest the brutal killing of Vincent Chin in 1982 also graced us with her presence at the conference. In one of our town halls, Ms. Zia spoke briefly about the ostracization she experienced among Asian American activists because she was gay and how she felt pressured to deny her identity. I was thinking about San Diego QAPIMEDA at Pride Week happening back home that same time and how far we have come in 40 years, but also how much work still lies ahead.
On Day 2 of the conference, we had over 20 groups, three full bus loads of people; young and old, from interns to longtime members to chapter presidents all making our way up to Capitol Hill. We were all there to lobby with Congressional state senators about three legislative measures that address the needs of the API community on a national level. They were about anti-Asian hate, understanding mental health stigmas, and mandating AANIPI studies in K-12 public education. I tagged along with two amazing leaders from the Detroit chapter to meet with legislative aids at the offices of Michigan Senators Stabenow and Peters. Eileen, Woon-Wah and their group lobbied in the office of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from the State of California. I was truly inspired by the comaraderie and energy that surrounded me.
Lastly, I'd like to share some opportunities for our San Diego youth. Check out https://www.ocanational.org/ to learn about OCA internships and scholarships. Also, check out APAICs Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies has fellowships, internships, academies, and more. OCA's state and national presence is an asset to our shared causes and we hope to grow our San Diego chapter to strengthen that connection. To reach out, please write to us at email@example.com or fill out our online form. And better yet, please consider joining as a member to support API advocacy both locally in San Diego up to our nation's capital.