KaYing Yang, Executive Director of SEARAC, considers community building and bridge-building preconditions for progress in economic and social justice.
Yet, cultural conditions pose "a conflict between mainstream American and traditional Hmong conceptions of leadership," she
The communities also face difficult barriers to civic and political participation.
As refugees, Southeast Asians are "expected to be grateful for the generosity of the American government," Yang
For these reasons, traditional methods of expressing one's opinion - and less conventional approaches such as rallies and public protests - are unlikely.
Seeds of commitment
credits several mentors for helping her
think in new ways, inspiring her
, guiding her
, supporting her
and at times redirecting her
"Through the examples they set, visionary women of color in the women's movement, race relations, and civil rights continue to spark my motivation to new levels of activism," she
But KaYing Yang
, new Executive Director, believed that her
community's needs went far beyond basic resettlement.
mission after the board of directors shifted SEARAC's
focus from one centered on refugees and international events, to one centered on developing community empowerment in the United States through advocacy and organizing.
To further this goal, she
created the Southeast Asian American Advocacy Initiative together more than twenty Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese American community based organizations
known as "mutual assistance associations" to bridge local and national advocacy efforts.
has repeatedly testified before federal agencies in coordination with the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
work bridges boundaries in a way that would not have been possible in Southeast Asia, moving people from isolation and exclusion to connection and inclusion.
More about KaYing Yang
has the uncanny knack for bridging traditional ways of looking at leadership and utilizing these skills in a non traditional way... For Hmong women, roles have been limited, but she
has utilized her
experiences in a way that is providing an interesting leadership style.
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center
1628 16th St., NW
Washington, DC 20009