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White House Looks Beyond Model Minority Myth

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Byline: Preeti Kulkarni

In April, I was one of three Liberty Hill representatives to attend the first-ever National Philanthropic Briefing on the Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) Community at the White House. I was joined by my colleagues Kristin Aldana-Taday and Carol Lee (we're pictured above with Chris Lu, Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary & Co-Chair, White House Initiative for AAPIs and below with Seema Patel, Policy Advisor for Labor & Civil Rights, White House Initiative for AAPIs) .

It was an historic occasion. 

There is a dramatic imbalance between the amount of philanthropic dollars that go to the AAPI community (less than 1/2 of 1%) and our representation in the general population (6%). White House staff appear to understand how grave the situation is, and that the model minority myth helps perpetuate this disproportionate allocation of resources. We also discussed how the aggregation of AAPI population data results in overlooking urgent needs in our communities and the importance of sharing these problems with others in philanthropy.

We believe this is a critical time to make philanthropy more inclusive. Without strong AAPI leaders at the table, the needs in our communities will continue to be distorted and under resourced.

We were very proud to share Liberty Hill’s efforts to address communities in need.  Liberty Hill has not shied away from focusing on communities of color and our efforts include partnering with the Latino and African American communities. As Liberty Hill is L.A.’s House of Justice, we are founded in diverse communities. The AAPI community is a part of this. 539826_10150666630432982_19323467981_9509192_2047032459_n

Over the last three years, more than half a million dollars (between 10 and 15% of our annual grantmaking budget) has been invested in AAPI communities including urgently needed support for the Khmer population in Long Beach, the Korean population in Koreatown, and Pilipinos, South Asians and AAPI lesbian and gay individuals throughout L.A. County.

Few foundations in attendance could boast the commitment to AAPI issues that Liberty Hill has.

Our pride was only underscored when White House staff dimmed the lights for a video produced by one of our grantees, Khmer Girls in Action. The video is a powerful statement about the needs in the Khmer community. You can see it here.

New census data indicates that the AAPI poverty population is increasing. Between 2002 and 2010, the Asian American poverty population increased in real terms by 46 percent! Most of those AAPI families are living in a handful of metropolitan areas including Los Angeles. This alarming news only reinforced our commitment to strengthen the work Liberty Hill does to invest in local, low-income AAPI communities.

The meeting at the White House was just the first step in what promises to be an ongoing effort to address the needs within AAPI communities. You can be sure that we at Liberty Hill will be at the frontlines of that action.

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