Just wanted to let you all know that I now write a monthly column for
AsianWeek.com dealing with Black-Asian unity. The latest column
just posted below is reprinted below for your convenience. Please post in
the comment box if you feel so compelled. Thanks again for supporting
my work; wondering if you have any opinion on it so far . . .
Black-Asian Coalition Fights Poverty
By: Sam Cacas, May 12, 2008
Tags: Beyond Borders, Opinion |
Asian Neighborhood Design Practices What It Preaches
On the eve of its 35th anniversary, Asian Neighborhood Design (AND) continues to build bridges between communities of color in San Francisco. AND provides multicultural, low-income communities with housing and employment services in housing development, architecture, family support, job training and furniture manufacturing programs.
AND’s nationally renowned employment training program stands out because 50 percent of its clients are African American, 30 percent Latino, and 10 percent Asian American — a fact that may lead some to question why the group keeps the Asian part of its name.
Interim executive director Steve Suzuki says the group has not changed its name because “Asian” speaks to a history of working with Asian as well as non-Asian communities, including Blacks and Latinos. “Because many Asian American community groups began under the arms of the civil rights movement started by black people, it is politically justifiable that Asian groups like AND continue to work with everyone in the community, including blacks,” Suzuki explains. “After all, we’re living in a multicultural society, and partnerships with non-Asian communities are important to our mission of lifting people out of poverty.”
AND considers applicants for its programs according to how many barriers to employment they face, such as low income, high school completion, English proficiency, single parenting, and the juvenile justice system — barriers that Suzuki notes “disproportionately affect communities of color.”
Graduates of AND programs attest to its social consciousness as more than mere rhetoric. Dumas Bell, who graduated from the job-training program three years ago, learned of AND from a caseworker after getting out of jail for a narcotics charge. “I wanted to get out of that lifestyle,” says Bell, who obtained a job after graduating from the program.
Jamela Crayton, on probation from a drug charge when she started the program, graduated in 2004. “It felt good to know you’re doing something that’s gonna be better for you in the long run,” Crayton shares. “Hustling doesn’t do anything. Either you’re dead, or you go to jail.”
AND started in 1973 with an all-Asian staff. Today, it is more diverse: The organization’s site manager, web master, and family youth service advocate, for example, are African American.
“We have always sought to reflect the communities we serve,” Suzuki says. “And we have never stopped innovating methods for accomplishing this.”
Asian Neighborhood Design celebrates its 35th anniversary May 21 at 465 California St. Visit andnet.org for details. Sam Cacas is the author of “BlAsian Exchanges, a novel