As Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA) heritage month comes to an end, we want to honor the Asian Solidarity Collective (ASC), a local organization that is doing work for our APIA community in San Diego. This organization works to uplift the Asian American community and activate a social justice consciousness through community building events, political education and outreach, and collective action. With a goal of collective liberation for all communities, the collective does not only work with the Asian American community, but stands in solidarity with other oppressed communities. Asian American experiences and histories are relational to, and not in competition with other oppressed communities. Recently, we were able to sit down with the collectives Organizer and Co-founder, DJ Kuttin Kandi, a legendary womxn DJ, a well-known public speaker of diversity, and a dedicated community organizer for social justice.
Do you celebrate APIA Heritage Month? If so, what are the ways your organization/community celebrate it?
Before Covid-19 struck, we usually center our annual fundraiser around this time of the year by lifting up the Black-Asian solidarity, and celebrate Malcolm X’s and Yuri Kochiyama’s birthdays. We lift up the work of our ancestral organizers like Yuri and Grace Lee Boggs and acknowledge that the need for solidarity is important; we can’t just talk about our own struggles, but also our cross-racial solidarity. Throughout the year, we work with our community on the daily educating our community and working with our community on racial solidarity and our hxstory.
Do you think it’s important to celebrate APIA Heritage Month? If so, can you share with us your thoughts on why recognizing APIAs is important?
My favorite subject is history - when I was picking a major, there weren’t many Filipinx historians. I am particularly inspired by the work of Filipinx historian Dr. Dawn Bohulano Mabalon who documented the work of Filipinx farmworkers; I want to lift up her legacy and she reminded us that Filipinx heritage month is not just heritage month - but Filipinx history month. We need an APIA history month (year, etc.) to focus on how do we reclaim our stories radically - this is how we celebrate our heritage by reclaiming our stories and histories.
If we want to highlight any unsung APIA heroes, can you name anyone of Asian and Pacific Islander descent who have contributed to communities here locally?
I only moved here to San Diego in 2006. My friend Virgil who died 3 years ago, was a community leader, committed to the arts, young people, Filipinx community, and the movement. He was so committed to our community that often forgot himself to put his community first. When I was sick, and had heart surgery, and almost died - he came to see me in the hospital even though he didn’t know me - we had things in common. He got a lot of love after he died, and he deserved that when he was living. It’s often when people die that we lift them up, but so important to keep lifting them up. Other folks in our community and organization know more in our community who are our ancestral organizers.
Have you or anyone you know experienced racism and anti-Asian sentiment during COVID-19?
From the work we’re doing, yes - we do know folks. The San Diego Asian Pacific Islander Coalition which recently formed here in San Diego, that Asian Solidarity Collective is also part of has been supporting and addressing anti-Asian racism and hatred through multi-strategizing
and making public statements to denounce all kinds of racism and xenophobia. Asian Solidarity Collective specifically is making a call for our communities to look at alternative models of a culture of accountability. And holding our govt leaders & organizational leaders accountable and making sure they’re emphasizing addressing oppression of any kind in our communities. The San Diego Asian Pacific Islander Coalition is in conversation with A3PCON (Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council) about this issue as well; and we’re all noticing the rise of anti-Asian hate in San Diego across the United States and globally.
What are some ways you think we can tackle the hatred rhetoric against APIAs?
What Covid19 has brought to light is people’s existing biases against the Asian-American communities. The issue is not Covid19, but the ways in which our communities are policed, invisibilized and forgotten due to things like the model minority myth. We’re often used as either as tokens or as a racial wedge to further divide our communities. And this is being showcased at this time in SD too. We see people wanting to put together a human relations commission - but we were an after thought - conversations this big shouldn’t be only with a selected few people. But it should include a team that brings together a diverse group of people. This system is designed to do what it’s doing; but how do we break away from a system that constantly gives us handouts and doesn’t really give us freedom. To be liberated from any kind of hate rhetoric is to move towards an abolitionist world. We must think of the work of abolitionist work of Black activists and organizers. We have to lift up the work of Black and Indigenous organizers who have been fighting for liberation. We have to dig into our own biases, internalized racism, and how we’re also oppressive towards other communities of color, and then do the cross-solidarity work to build across races to bring liberation to all. How do we show up for people with disabilities, for queer folks, for people of all ages? We must look at how all forms of oppression are connected and how we do that as Asians is super important.
The end of APIA heritage month may be coming near, but that is no reason to stop celebrating organizations that seek justice for oppressed communities. The work done at these organizations is year round. We want to thank DJ Kuttin Kandi for all of her work done in the community, and for sharing with us some of her incredible insight on being a social justice advocate.