When The White House Calls, You Answer

May 16, 2012

May is Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Month (APIAHM).  While there is much to celebrate in terms of accomplishments and advancement by the Asian Pacific Islander American community, this post highlights something different.

A few weeks ago I had the honor of attending the first-ever national philanthropic briefing on the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.  Hosted by The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI), the event brought together foundation colleagues, community experts, and high-level federal officials to strategize around our community’s serious needs.

It also highlighted surprising facts that often go unnoticed.  For example:

  • Only 13% of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders 25 years of age or older have at least a bachelor’s degree.
  • More than 26% of Hmong Americans, 22.5% of Bangladeshi Americans, and 17.4% of Micronesians live in poverty.
  • 35.5% of Korean Americans, 18.3% of Vietnamese Americans and 17.7% of Indian Americans 10 years and older lack health coverage.
  • AAPIs that become unemployed remain unemployed longer than any other ethnic group.
  • AAPI students are 20% more likely than other ethnic groups to be bullied in the classroom.
  • Almost 50% of AAPI students are enrolled in community colleges, not four-year private institutions.
  • AAPIs in Ohio must take a 12-hour bus ride to New York City to receive culturally and linguistically competent healthcare.

The White House briefing in April was a historic call for decision-makers in federal agencies, community groups and charitable organizations to support the President’s mandate to increase public-private sector collaboration to address unmet needs throughout the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.  The briefing resulted in an overwhelming response from the attendees, especially from those in philanthropy.

The Ford Foundation, Kellogg Foundation and Kresge Foundation, for example, immediately joined together to commit a $1 million so that a long-term, strategic planning process will result in a sustainable model for change in our communities.

We, the people in foundations, corporations and government, must all heed the call and take it to the next level.

Thanks for reading,

Leslie Ito is the Arts Program Officer for the California Community Foundation

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