Junior Claros

MAY 2019 | JUNIOR CLAROS

Image description: Junior is indoors smiling at the camera. Behind him is a golden wall decoration and a red wall.

Image description: Junior is indoors smiling at the camera. Behind him is a golden wall decoration and a red wall.

Junior (he/him) is a Capricorn Ox who identifies as an immigrant, trans, and Filipinx. He was raised in a close-knit immigrant family that gave him a strong sense of family and community. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area as a working class person of color and having to face and navigate the daily challenges of classism and racism have also given him a deep appreciation for the many core values of APIENC, including abundance, interdependence, and self-determination. Away from APIENC, Junior works as an Information Technology manager.

Junior has been volunteering with APIENC since 2016 and is currently in APIENC’s Core and Trans Justice Committees. In his own words:

Volunteering with APIENC is fun and fulfilling. It allows me to deepen and broaden my friendships and community among other QTAPI folks. It also provides opportunities for me to support APIENC’s work in uplifting TGNC voices and visibility, developing QTAPI leaders, and increasing the visibility of our communities. Over the years of being involved in the QTAPI community, I’ve gained so much, and I’d like to give back to others in the community.

His most memorable moment with APIENC was joining APIENC’s Trans March contingent for the first time in 2016. He was immediately struck and inspired by the number of API TGNC folks and allies who showed up. APIENC was a large, powerful presence holding their own and leading the way with drumming, chanting, and singing. Not only was the contingent visible, but it also had a voice that was impacting and inspiring others!

Junior hopes that we continue to build stronger ties among the many sectors of our diverse Queer Trans API community, including across gender, age, ethnicity, culture, and identity, and that APIENC continues to play a strong role in bringing us together, amplifying our voices, and increasing our impact in the spaces we occupy. He also volunteers with Asian Pacific Islander Queer Women and Transgender Community (APIQWTC) as the Scholarship Committee chair and is involved with Red Envelope Giving Circle.

A New Organizer Has Joined APIENC! 💛#PowerUPGiveOUT

Image Description: In the style of Super Smash Bro. when a new character is unlocked, text in light colors against gradient blue background reads, "Yuan Joins Team APIENC", overlapping circular photo of Yuan smiling at the beach.

Image Description: In the style of Super Smash Bro. when a new character is unlocked, text in light colors against gradient blue background reads, “Yuan Joins Team APIENC”, overlapping circular photo of Yuan smiling at the beach.

My name is Yuan Wang; I’m writing to you as the new Community Organizer at APIENC! As a trans/genderqueer second-generation Chinese-American person, I first joined APIENC in the summer of 2018 as a summer organizer. Now, I’m so excited to join the team as a staff-person, supporting our trans justice work! Today, I want to write to you about what interdependence means to me. When I joined APIENC as a Summer Organizer a year ago, I showed up to a warehouse in West Oakland, full of nervousness & wonder. Inside, I was met by Sammie, who led me and other new organizers through a workshop on “radical welcome.” Our first afternoon together, our role was to help folks know they were entering into a space committed to their safety, access, and belonging. At the time, I couldn’t have known how my few months working at APIENC would be a challenging, joyful practice in giving and receiving radical welcome.

When I started the current leg of my gender journey, I needed radical welcome, and I needed APIENC. Each day, I woke up feeling frightened, unsafe, and unsure. I felt I needed to reimagine the most basic things about myself, from my name, to my pronouns, to the ways I held my body each day. So many people around me responded with confusion and anger—It felt so hard to imagine a place for myself in this world. Through the hardest moments, it was my connections with others that sustained me. On a particularly painful day, when everything felt too scary for me to leave my bed, a roommate left a string of notes outside my door. The notes said that they loved me, that I mattered, and that they would do their best to keep me safe. Years later, I met a community of queer, trans, & GNC Asians and Pacific Islanders (that’s you, that’s you!) at APIENC who all held me with the same care. You all help me breathe in my body with love, lean into building genuine trust, and understand how the ways we treat each other must reflect the liberation we seek. Together, we fight hard while grounding our struggle in our relationships and in ourselves.


In the spirit of community care, I want to ask for your help with one of my first jobs as Community Organizer: fundraising for GiveOUT Day 2019, the only national day of giving to LGBTQ+ organizations. This year, APIENC, led by members like you, will stretch & grow; we’ll train our 10th Summer Organizer cohort (ahh!); host a Leadership Exchange for local API leaders; organize a large needs assessment of the TGNC API community in the Bay Area; deepen the intergenerational care connections in our Dragon Fruit Network; and so much more. To do all of this, we rely on each other, and we rely on YOU.

[image description: a wide graphic that looks like a retro video game. the background is a blue sky, the ground is brown blocks, and in the foreground are different video game elements like ?-boxes, and a green pipe. a yellow character gets a powerup in the shape of a dragon fruit. text reads: "Power Up, Give OUT!" with the 'o' as the APIENC logo. The goal flag reads "$15,000"]

[image description: a wide graphic that looks like a retro video game. the background is a blue sky, the ground is brown blocks, and in the foreground are different video game elements like ?-boxes, and a green pipe. a yellow character gets a powerup in the shape of a dragon fruit. text reads: “Power Up, Give OUT!” with the ‘o’ as the APIENC logo. The goal flag reads “$15,000”]

To ensure our work can continue, APIENC is asking our community to help us “Power Up & Give OUT!” by raising $15,000 from 300 donors. We have 10 more days until GiveOUT Day ends on April 18th at 9pm PST. Can you donate $30 to help take us to the next level?

Any amount counts, and there are so many ways to support. Here’s even more ways you can join us:

  • Send this email to your friends and support networks, and be sure to include bit.ly/APIENCgiveout
  • Share on social media about how you’re taking APIENC to the next level, and hashtag #PowerUpGiveOut
  • Become a volunteer fundraiser to activate your communities to learn about APIENC!
  • Join us on GiveOUT Day, we’ll be live streaming on 4/18 from 12pm-1pm and 6:30pm-8pm!

As I transition into this role, I feel a lot of nervousness! But I also feel so grounded in my intention to grow genuine and care-full relationships with you. I hold a deep gratitude for every person who I’ve met through APIENC; in so many small moments, I feel joy and possibility in just our existing together. In the next year (and after!), please always feel free to reach out if you have any questions, or if there are any ways I, and APIENC, can hold you in your journey.

With love and care,
Yuan

Sustain Our Work: For The Sake Of…

Image description: Graphic shows colorful flowers blooming in a field. Text reads: Sustain Our Work: For The Sake Of / March 19 - March 26. Donate: apienc.org/sustain / #sustainAPIENC, with APIENC logo in the bottom corner

Image description: Graphic shows colorful flowers blooming in a field. Text reads: Sustain Our Work: For The Sake Of / March 19 – March 26. Donate: apienc.org/sustain / #sustainAPIENC, with APIENC logo in the bottom corner

What is an APIENC monthly sustainer? An APIENC monthly sustainer is someone who gives every month to APIENC through a recurring donation – a sustainer joins our work by committing a monthly donation of $10 or more! With our current sustainer base, we are able to strengthen APIENC’s overall impact with the understanding that our members guide our priorities and directions.

One of APIENC’s core values is interdependence, the value that we need each other in order to move towards our full selves and the social change we want to see. This year, APIENC’s Fundraising Committee seeks to deepen our relationships with recurring APIENC sustainers so we can mobilize more individuals to support APIENC’s mission to empower queer and trans API community members.

Starting March 19th, APIENC is launching a monthly sustainer campaign “Sustain Our Work: For The Sake Of…” to ask the question: “What’s at stake for the work we do?” For example, we train leaders to be grounded in our QTAPI histories for the sake of our community’s collective empowerment and future dreams. In one week, our goal is to welcome 20 individuals into our sustainer family! Will you join us?

Check out the following 5 APIENC Actions our sustainers currently support:

  1. For The Sake Of Understanding Our Hxstories: In summer 2018, we debuted our first ever Dragon Fruit Walking Tour through San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. An all-volunteer working group led 2 walking tours for the National Queer Asian and Pacific Islander Alliance Conference, sharing moments of pivotal queer and trans API hxstory with over 75 tour participants.
  2. For The Sake Of Growing our Ability to be Interdependent: Our volunteer base is over 200 people in total. Through marches, workshops on healthy communication, leadership trainings, potlucks, and more, we challenge our members to identify places of healing, come together in community, and transform our values and political realities.
  3. For The Sake Of Building Trans and Gender Non-Conforming API Power: We’re launching the largest needs assessment of trans and gender nonconforming API people in the Bay Area in order to better understand our community resources and outstanding needs. This critical information will help us develop strategic goals for the years to come.
  4. For The Sake Of Empowering Young QTAPI Leaders: In the summer of 2019, we will be hosting our second People Over Pride (POP!) Camp to train, support, and sustain QTAPI high school youth organizers from across the country.
  5. For The Sake Of Activating A Network of Multi-Issue QTAPI Organizers: This year, we will be hosting our 10th Annual Summer Organizer Program, one of few leadership development programs in the country specifically activating and training QTAPI organizers in values-based organizing skills for intersectional and multi-issue social justice movements.

Join us on Mon. March 25th, 6:30-8PM for a deep discussion about money and making strong asks. We will also be training volunteers on connecting with current and potential sustainers via phonebanking! This event will take place at the APIENC office (17 Walter U Lum Pl, SF, CA 94108). The office is wheelchair accessible, has gender neutral bathrooms, low-scent, and BART accessible (15 minute walk from Montgomery Station). RSVP here to volunteer.

Are you a current sustainer? We want to learn from YOU on how we can improve and grow our sustainer engagement efforts in 2019. Stay tuned for a survey!

Mika Hernandez

Mika sits indoors, smiling toward the camera. Behind her is a wall with big flowers prints.

Image description: Mika sits indoors, smiling toward the camera. Behind her is a wall with big flowers prints.

MAR 2019 | MIKA HERNANDEZ

Mika (she/they) is a mixed queer non binary artist, community organizer, cook, and healer. Mika was born, raised and currently lives on occupied Chochenyo Ohlone land. Mika is yonsei, chicana, and 4th generation corean american.On this land, Mika began organizing young which allowed her to start dreaming, finding and creating her values and community. Mika went to the east coast for college, where she developed a stronger queer identity, but spending time away from the Bay only allowed Mika to appreciate the Bay’s rich and deep history of organizing.

Mika continues to cultivate her roots here where she organizes around environmental, racial and queer/trans justice here in the Bay.

Reflecting on being given the opportunity to cook for the APIENC Core Committee and at the Fall Volunteer Appreciation Brunch last year she said, “I felt seen by my friends at APIENC who knew that food was important to me; I felt honored to be asked to nourish my friends in this way.” Another one of Mika’s favorite experiences at APIENC was preparing for Trans March in 2018 where Mika was able to help provide political education with and for our community. At APIENC, Mika throws down because she loves celebrating and affirming our community.

My biggest hope for our community is that we have the space and freedom to be our full selves.

In addition to APIENC, Mika does this work with Asians 4 Black Lives and the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective. Above all else, Mika seeks to nourish our communities through art and food. According to Mika, cooking with and for people and being an artist that’s visibilizing queer and trans API experiences are both important ways to build community and manifesting the world we hope to live in.

Fun Fact: Mika’s favorite ice cream flavor is cardamom, rose, pistachio!

Ethan Li

Image description: Ethan stands indoors, smiling at the camera and holding a small whiteboard that reads: "I dream of resilient, safe, and interdependent queer & trans Asian & Pacific Islander communities everywhere."

Image description: Ethan stands indoors, smiling at the camera and holding a small whiteboard that reads: “I dream of resilient, safe, and interdependent queer & trans Asian & Pacific Islander communities everywhere.”

JAN 2019 | ETHAN LI

Ethan is a queer and nonbinary Chinese+Taiwanese American who grew up in the Midwest. They are a graduate student working on bioengineering research at Stanford while also building queer community:

Transitioning into my program while I’m still early in the process of navigating my relationship with gender has been challenging, but I’m gradually finding other non-binary grad students in engineering with similar struggles. I hope we can work together to make more space for each other, and for future students, so that everyone can bring our complete selves into these spaces more fully.

With APIENC, Ethan has been a dedicated volunteer on the Dragon Fruit Project Committee. They focus on proofreading and publishing the Dragon Fruit Project’s oral history interviews to the online Digital Portal. They also maintain and develop the Digital Portal to help make these oral histories more accessible to everyone. “It’s been rewarding to continue the years of community effort which have gone into this project, and I’m excited as we continue fulfilling the visions for the project,” shares Ethan.

Ethan grew up in the suburbs of the Metro Detroit Area in Michigan, where there was a lack of access to queer Asian role models, narratives, or community. This made it difficult to imagine a future they belonged in. When they came to the Bay Area for undergrad at Stanford, they got involved in student groups focusing separately on queer liberation & trans justice, Asian American issues, and queer Asian community building. Ethan describes how these experiences politicized them and brought them to volunteer with APIENC:

These experiences politicized me and pushed me to do a lot of learning and growth, but I also engaged with them by pushing and stretching myself in an unsustainable way. After some personal crises, I realized how far I was past my limits and how important it is to learn to practice personal and collective care. I also had started volunteering with APIENC at their Dragon Fruit Project Working Days to transcribe the oral history interviews they had recorded. Because of this, I got to hear queer Asians and Pacific Islanders from previous generations talk about how they had navigated their identities and built communities from the ground up. Hearing these histories helped me to recognize our ties to the legacies of folks who’ve come before us and made our lives and communities more possible, and the legacies we’re building for the people who will come after us. And as I’ve started getting more involved with APIENC, I’m grateful for the ways we hold each other as people and practice interdependence, vulnerability, and growth.

One of their favorite moments with APIENC was at a Dragon Fruit Project Committee meeting. Before the meeting, everyone cooked and ate lunch together by improvising from the ingredients they had on hand.

Ethan hopes that one day there will be resilient, interdependent, and accountable LGBTQ API communities everywhere, and that all of our communities will be in coalition and interwoven with other communities across differences.

Sharing our Learnings: APIENC’s Transformation with the Wildfire Project

Mioi Hanaoka (she/they) has been a long-time supporter and member of APIENC. She is currently part of APIENC’s Communications and Core Committees. As a member of Core, Mioi took part in APIENC’s set of retreats with the Wildfire Project over the course of 2018. Here is her reflection about the process.

Image description: APIENC Core, staff and Wildfire Facilitators (17 people total), pose in a group photo indoors, in front of big windows, smiling at the camera.

Image description: APIENC Core, staff and Wildfire Facilitators (17 people total), pose in a group photo indoors, in front of big windows, smiling at the camera.

Over the course of 2018, APIENC worked with the Wildfire Project—a team of social movement facilitators who fully committed themselves to helping APIENC grow and transform into being a stronger and more sustainable organization. Wildfire Project does more than just training and facilitation; they focus on supporting social movements to thrive and navigate rapidly changing external conditions. As part of the process we held three retreats, each spanning three days (Friday-Sunday), where the three Wildfire facilitators, APIENC staff and APIENC Core members engaged in tough questions and began new practices in order to create cultural shifts within the organization.

Some people might not be familiar with APIENC’s structure. In addition to the two full-time staff people (Sammie and Jasmin), the Core Committee is a collective of individuals rooted in the impact of our initiatives, and who are involved with the day-to-day work of the organization. Staff and Core co-create APIENC’s long-term direction and programs.

Image description: 4 members of APIENC Core stand facing the camera in the CAA community room presenting a flipchart with the heading "Responsibility"

Image description: 4 members of APIENC Core stand facing the camera in the CAA community room presenting a flipchart with the heading “Responsibility”

During the first retreat, we connected with our ancestors. We collectively reflected on our values and worked on an APIENC timeline, identifying key moments of change, both internally and externally. All of this helped ground us in the hard work that was ahead of us. Through this work at the first retreat, I witnessed a very important pivot. So many of us went into the year without an understanding of the purpose of Core. When we asked ourselves what our purpose was, we realized how much disconnect there was between Core and staff. We weren’t standing on common ground and we didn’t have a shared understanding of APIENC’s goal.

During this retreat, we witnessed a candid discussion between MLin and Sammie, the two staff at the time. Through their sharing and tears, I began to understand the weight of everything they were holding. It was extremely hard and emotional to see. MLin and Sammie reached their limit and were getting burnt out, not necessarily in the amount of work but in the weight of the work and responsibility of the entire community on their shoulders. If nothing changed, APIENC’s future was at stake.

In order to actualize our long term vision of liberation, we realized our work and structures have to be more sustainable in the ways that Core takes on ownership, responsibility and exercises collective agency. We had to distribute the actual work involved. Over the course of the first retreat, we collectively came to the understanding that every decision we make should bring us closer to our goal of liberation. We called it keeping our “eye on the prize.”

By the second retreat, we had established some new shared practices and further worked on what the structure of Core looked like. We reflected on this prompt: “Because APIENC is trying to _____, the purpose of Core is ____. Core members’ role in that is _____. Staff members’ role in that is ______.” Each Core member committed to our own individual practices, and Core as a group committed to shared practices. For example, we would be responsible for organizing and facilitating the quarterly potlucks. We started running meetings, as Core, on a monthly basis to discuss and assess APIENC’s work within each subcommittee and how they connect to the larger goal’s of APIENC. We started taking ownership over the challenges, successes, and goals of the organization. Rather than the weight being on two staff people, we eased the load by collectively holding it together.

Image description: 6 people with their backs to the camera are looking at a wall of flipcharts and post-it notes during the 3rd Wildfire Retreat.

Image description: 6 people with their backs to the camera are looking at a wall of flipcharts and post-it notes during the 3rd Wildfire Retreat.

The third and last retreat took place at the magical Occidental Arts & Ecology Center. One of the goals of this retreat was to solidify APIENC’s goals for 2019. The Wildfire facilitators guided us through an exercise that allowed us to think about where APIENC should focus our work, especially when taking into account external (political, economic) conditions. We asked ourselves hard questions about strategy: What are real solutions? What are false solutions? What is politically realistic? This exercise helped us understand where APIENC should be in the larger context of movement work. We also asked ourselves hard questions about accountability: What does it mean to be rigorous in the work? How do we hold each other as people, beyond our productivity? What does it mean to feel held in belonging?

Reflecting on the retreats, it wasn’t all logistics and structural conversations. I can assure you that the retreats were exhausting. They were only effective if we brought all of ourselves and all of our energy into the space. There was laughter, moments of introspection, moments of doubt and inspiration, moments of tears, and moments where we questioned if there was enough trust among ourselves to do the work. Core is comprised of 12 individuals (plus staff). We are all in different places, lead our own separate lives, and have varying levels of capacity. So sometimes it is challenging to remain focused and dedicated to our new shared practices as a group.

I’m still sitting with the uncomfortable fact that Core’s structure is still a work in progress. There are still questions left unanswered, but at least we know what the goal is. At least we know what is at stake and at least we remain focused on “the prize.”

It is bittersweet that our work with the Wildfire Project has ended. However, we will always remain connected with them and their network of social movement organizations. Our work with the Wildfire Project has left us with the necessary tools to ensure that APIENC continues to grow and transform in a sustainable way. We now know what healthy accountability looks like. We know the importance of grounding ourselves in APIENC’s core values. We know what it takes to achieve our collective goal of liberation. And we now know that in order to achieve this goal, we need to share our learnings with the rest of our community so that we can create meaningful change together, with a sense of purpose and agency.

It is a new year, and I want the APIENC community to think about a prompt that was given to Core members during the 3rd retreat. Fill it out and share it with one other person.

What we really need is _________. What we are protecting our people from is _________. What we believe is possible is ___________. (We = QTAPI people in the Bay Area)

JoJo Ty

Image description: JoJo is leaning against a wall, head tilted slightly and looking at the camera.

Image description: JoJo is leaning against a wall, head tilted slightly and looking at the camera.

JoJo (they/he) is an active APIENC volunteer and community leader. Jojo has brought their expertise on community walking tours to the Dragon Fruit Project Walking Tour and our Trans Justice Committee. More recently, they have helped create the graphics for our GROW Fundraising campaign!

Outside of APIENC, JoJo, who identifies as queer, trans, and Filipinx, is a student at City College of San Francisco and works as a Community Health Worker. JoJo’s own life experiences of navigating personal and institutional challenges have led to who they are today and have influenced their community work. Before APIENC, they were heavily involved in other LGBTQ spaces throughout San Francisco. They learned what resiliency looked like and the power of community by engaging with people of diverse identities and experiences. Those experiences helped JoJo gain a deeper understanding of themself and what it meant to have pride as a queer and trans person of color. JoJo started volunteering with APIENC because they wanted to build community with other QTAPI folx.

JoJo wants to see the LGBTQ API community uplifted through self-empowerment and liberation, especially in a world and in a time that attacks us with hate. Every interaction that JoJo has had, from meeting someone new to getting to know them better, has been memorable since they became involved with APIENC. Through the organization, they have gotten to know many leaders who do awesome work in the community and built meaningful relationships with them.