It is already week 5 of the CAUSE Leadership Academy! Time sure flew by quickly. On Monday June 11, the Leadership Academy interns had the honor and privilege of speaking to leaders in the Filipino American community and witnessing the burning passion that each individual possessed.
The dialogue throughout the day had a common theme: know your history to understand your future. Each speaker addressed that concept to a certain extent, and I believe that as future leaders, it is important to understand the history and backgrounds of all individuals to bring them towards a united future.
Our day began in Historic Filipinotown with a panel hosted by Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA), a non-profit organization that aims to uplift the Filipino American community by providing counseling and other services.
The panel included distinguished speakers such as: Stephanie Uy, Boardmember of SIPA, the Honorable Judge Casimiro U. Tolentino, Board member of Fil-Am Arts, his wife Jennifer Tolentino, a recognized community leader in her own right, Christine Gonong, President of Philippine American Bar Association (PABA), Hildy Aguinaldo, Board Chair of PABA, and Emilyn Vallega, Communications and Resource Development Staff of Pilipino Workers Center. Each panelist had a diverse range of professional experience, yet each emphasized the importance of learning about the history of one’s own community.
Hildy Aguinaldo reiterated this when she said, “as curious young people, your job is not only to look at what is written, but also what is not written” in the history books and typical historical discourse.
This is especially important, because as the panelists pointed out, Filipinos have been in America since the 16th century, and yet to this day they can still be deemed as “foreigners.” By highlighting the unjust discrimination and exclusion Filipino Americans have faced, the panelists spoke to the larger APA community by calling for historical and cultural understandings as a means towards unity.
After the SIPA panel, the Honorable Mark Pulido, Councilmember of the City of Cerritos and Commissioner Joel Jacinto, the Commissioner for the Department of Public Works, City of Los Angeles joined us for an insightful lunchtime discussion.
Commissioner Jacinto emphasized the importance of understanding a community’s history and identity by saying, “The Filipino American identity informs us on what to do and how to act.” Councilmember Pulido mentioned that one can find their own mission in life by examining one’s parent’s or grandparent’s lives, and that looking back on history is an important way to prevent future mistakes from occurring.
Finally, Commissioner Jacinto called for more leadership in today’s youth by arguing that young people have responsibilities towards their ancestors and the rest of their community to live productive and impactful lives.
As an aspiring leader, the dialogue from Monday’s Civic Leadership Workshop Session pushed me to be more inclusive in my efforts to understand other communities. By understanding the power that history and inclusion can have on empowerment, I was also challenged to view history from the perspectives of the excluded or mistreated, because their story is often different from the stories of the ones who actually wrote history.
Overall, it was a pleasure to witness the refreshing commitment the community leaders possessed towards uniting the Filipino American community and the APA community in general!