Week 3: Standing Up For Ourselves

2019 CAUSE Leadership Academy interns in Sacramento, California

The Capitol Summit was an amazing experience. Being able to see those who look like me in positions to make a difference in the Asian community was really inspiring. I met leaders like Annie V. Lam, Bill Wong, Andi Liebenbaum, Robert Abelon and everyone in the legislature, all of whom strengthened my will to make a difference in my community. 

I have lived with my family in Los Angeles’ Chinatown for nearly 6 years. During this time, I found a part-time job selling souvenirs in my neighborhood to assist my family financially and improve my English. Unfortunately, I learned the difficulties of working as a new immigrant. During my eight-hour standing shift, the only break I had was a ten minute lunch break. I was also looked down on for my limited English skills from my boss, who was also a Chinese immigrant that came to the United States ten years ago. Along with my boss, many people in my neighborhood who had been in the United States longer looked down on new immigrants, rather than support them. This concept confused me greatly, as even my mother had difficulty acquiring a babysitting job because no employer in our community was willing to hire her, a new immigrant who didn’t speak English and had limited skills.

Yangqing Lei of the 2019 CAUSE Leadership Academy being interviewed

That being said, many new immigrants in my community get looked down upon by others, and sometimes even by their own family who have been in the United States for a longer period of time. For me, the most heartbreaking thing I have experienced was not the language barrier or the adaptation to the new environment, but the feeling of worthlessness. But change starts with our generation. I hope future immigrants will never experience the feeling that they are being a burden to others. I want to create a welcoming and warm space for them all to adapt to their new environment. Like Political Director Bill Wong said, “We open doors for those behind us.” The API leaders in legislature are paving the road for us, so that we may smoothly transition to being part of the process and making the change we want to see in our API community. Following in the footsteps of the API leaders, I also want to make a difference in my neighborhood by creating more resource centers. These support centers will provide English classes, job searching, food stamp applications, low-income electric and gas bills, citizenship applications, and more. As a result, new immigrants will have a more stabilized life and continue helping other incoming immigrants understand the impact of support centers. Eventually, we will begin to uplift others as we climb. 

Annie Lam speaking to the 2019 CAUSE Leadership Academy interns

I will never forget the conversation I had with Annie Lam during the luncheon. She told me that opportunity does not come knocking on our door: when it arrives, we need to be ready to take it. She mentioned that she lacked in the writing department, so she took it upon herself to take various writing classes after work to advance her writing skills. To Annie, there is no limit to learning, and only room for self-improvement. Before speaking with Annie, I felt a great deal of self-doubt, especially when I didn’t know what was coming before me. Upon speaking with her, I’ve learned that it is okay to not feel confident in yourself, as there are ways to seek improvement. Once we learn to advance that skill, we are ready for any future opportunity thrown at us and are prepared to take full advantage of it.