ASIAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY FELLOWSHIP REFLECTION: KRISTY PARK
ASIAN AMERICAN STUDIES COMMUNITY FELLOWSHIP REFLECTION
By Kristy Park
On Friday, June 24, 2022, after almost a month of anxious waiting, I received an email announcing the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and the constitutional right to abortion. With the devastating news, it was all hands on deck at the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), a national organization that focuses on expanding access to reproductive health and rights and fighting disparities that affect immigrant and low-income communities of color with a focus on Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women and girls.
This past summer, I had the opportunity to intern remotely with NAPAWF as the Summer Community Organizing Intern under the supervision of the National Campaign & Membership Director, Seri Lee. Prior to my internship, I was unfamiliar with organizing. I had read about organizing and mobilizing in some of my Asian American Studies courses, but I still couldn’t quite grasp what organizing was like. Organizing drew me in in part because I knew it would be a challenge personally and professionally, but I was eager to develop my understanding of advocacy, grassroots organizing, and policy.
My role as an intern varied, but I primarily worked with the Indiana and Minnesota chapters as well as with national campaigns and programs through digital organizing. For the first several weeks, in June, I attended onboarding and NAPAWF trainings. Throughout the summer I met weekly with my supervisor to check in, I attended biweekly field call meetings and other staff meetings, and regularly had one-on-one meetings with internal staff members to build relationships. As a primary point of contact for the Indiana and Minnesota chapters, I frequently communicated with chapter members and leaders. Every month, I conducted outreach and turnout members for chapter meetings and national organizing team programming, and I met with chapter leaders to support the creation of meeting agendas. I attended and took on a supportive role in chapter calls, supporting necessary follow-up communications and data entry. Follow-up communications included sending targeted emails to hundreds of people to provide chapter updates and to call for action regarding the state’s next steps and regarding advocacy for abortion access. I also created and posted social media content for meetings and events as well as updates, especially as the Indiana chapter was fighting against an abortion ban in July and August. In addition to capacity-building support, I had the chance to co-facilitate two training sessions in September with my supervisor Seri and the Chief Field Officer Kristina Doan.
In a world that seems to move so fast, organizing can be frustrating. We want to receive immediate feedback and want instant rewards for our hard work, but it is almost impossible to create the structural changes we want and need right away. As a small group of us worked to help protect Indiana from Senate Bill 1, the Senate and House were working even faster to pass the near-total abortion ban. Organizing has a lot of ups and downs: some days we are met with small victories, but other days we are met with devastating news that requires us to process and act fast at the same time. In early August, after weeks of fighting, I was heartbroken to hear that Indiana had become the first state to pass a near-total abortion ban, severely restricting the right to abortion. In the midst of the immense disappointment and anger, I felt so proud of all of the NAPAWF Indiana members who worked tirelessly to fight for our right to abortion. We came together as a community and expressed our sadness, our rage, and our motivation, and our promise to keep going.
While my summer internship with NAPAWF coincided with a SCOTUS decision that directly threatened our constitutional right to abortion, it made interning with NAPAWF an even more unforgettable experience. Not only did I have the chance to form relationships with amazing people, but I also had the chance to take a deep dive into organizing and personally experience the pressure and hard work that many organizers dedicate their lives to while also learning more about myself and where I belong in community organizing. I learned to lean into my growth edges and challenge myself to participate in activities that pushed me beyond my comfort zone. Constantly communicating with people in different positions and from different chapters through regular Zoom calls and phone banking, I had to push myself to put some anxieties aside and remind myself that I was not in the work to be liked.
Almost a month after my internship ended, I learned that a temporary block was placed on the abortion ban in Indiana, and I couldn’t even begin to express the joy and relief I felt. During my weekly check-ins with my supervisor, something Seri always said to me is that organizing is like building a house. Every interaction we have, every email we send, and every step we take is a building block. These building blocks stack up together to create the foundation of the house and eventually the full house. Building power and creating change when it seems like there are so many forces against you can be discouraging, but I learned to celebrate the small victories along the way, not just the larger structural changes, and to appreciate the hope I have. While my summer with NAPAWF has come to an end, there is still so much to learn and so much to do. This past summer opened the door to a new community for me, and I’m just getting started.