On June 18th, it was 110 degrees, my stomach was growling, and I was on a bus headed for Indio to spend three days with CAUSE Leadership Academy (CLA) Interns who I had just met an hour before at the beginning of CAUSE’s Leadership Academy Orientation Retreat. Just two days earlier, I graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo with my best friends by my side and my family cheering me on from the bleachers. The latter scenario was seemingly better than the former. It was comfortable. The weather was nice, I was surrounded by people I’ve spent the last four years getting to know, and my parents were with me the whole time. But for some reason, being in the dessert in the scorching heat with people whose names I was still trying to memorize felt like I was taking back a little piece of home that I had relinquished while I was in college.
For four years I studied Political Science at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. The campus was beautiful, the people were great, but good Asian food was hard to come by. The lack of Asian food was a nod to the lack of Asian culture represented and celebrated in the area. Despite meeting many politically active individuals and seeing an increase in the percentage of API students accepted at Cal Poly over the years, I never got the chance to experience the intersection between the two. The shared desire to support people of all different backgrounds, colors, and walks of life that existed in my hometown was not one shared by the majority of my campus. Consequently, with no known community to share this desire with, my own had been unintentionally put on the backburner.
In Indio where the CLA Orientation Retreat was held, I witnessed people from different schools, of different ethnicities, and with different dreams for the future, all come together for one shared goal: to make the API community heard. In just three days, through ice breakers, workshops, and conversations during our free time, I got to see how fourteen college students planned on advocating for the API community in such unique and integral ways. For Nina, it’s through creating accessible and intentional transportation. For Yanqing and Angela, it’s through storytelling and removing barriers that keep API stories from being heard. Some of us want to be lawyers and politicians and some want to be teachers. We have fifteen different paths, but one shared desire to use our experience, our education, and our resources to support a community that has shaped us in different ways and degrees.
On the last day of the retreat, one of the interns, Nina, shared a quote from Arundhati Roy that encapsulated our motivation to advocate for API rights and representation, “There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless’. There are only the deliberately silenced of the preferably unheard.” Although this was a reminder of the powerful structures put in place that have deliberately silenced the API community, our time as interns together this past week was a reminder that there are powerful people reshaping and removing those structures.
To be in the middle of Indio with fourteen people who have quickly become my friends and inspirations gave me back a piece of home. It is the piece where unique people with different perspectives band together in solidarity to support each other in supporting others. It is the piece of home that set my soul on fire to not only learn more, but to do more for the API community.