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News & Updates

Great Streets director discusses Los Angeles transportation, draws comparisons to New York

The following post was written by intern Maggie Su as part of a series of profiles of API members of the community.

Naomi Iwasaki, a Los Angeles native, is a self-proclaimed transportation nerd.

“You know how people talk about an acting bug? You act and you just get bit by this bug and you love it and you want to be an actor? I think that there’s a transportation nerd bug also, and that some people just love maps and love buses and love the way that people circulate throughout a city. I’m one of those nerds,” Iwasaki said.

As such, she is well-suited for her job as director of neighborhood services and Great Streets at the office of LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, where she works with city departments such as the Department of Transportation (DOT) to oversee projects designed to improve street safety, design and development.

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Bike to China alum discusses Chinatown park access

The following post was written by intern Maggie Su as part of a series of profiles of API members of the community.

Kevin Liao may one day be your orthodontist. But today, he’s a biology student at California State University, Los Angeles. His ultimate goal is to open multiple dentistry practices, some of which would serve as community centers providing orthodontic services at low costs, if not for free, depending on the client’s need.

“The government says braces are not a necessity, more of a privilege,” Liao said. “But I know how some individuals, if they don’t have a perfect smile, it kind of impacts them. They may not want to smile.”

The community dentistry centers Liao hopes to one day open are his way of giving back to the community — a continuation of the work he already does with Para Los Niños, a nonprofit that provides social services and education opportunities to Los Angeles youth. Liao, who is based in Lincoln Heights, has worked with the organization for the past four years. He is involved with programs such as the Men of Action Initiative and the Escalera Program, both of which are in partnership with the National Council of La Raza (NCLR).

Liao has also been instrumental in much of APIFM’s work. He recently collaborated with Program Director Scott Chan to form Chinatown Fit Club — a weekly gathering of runners and walkers at LA State Historic Park. Their goal in forming the club, Liao said, was to encourage people to utilize the recently reopened recreational space while bringing residents of neighboring communities together.

LA State Historic Park is a 32-acre space — by far the largest park in the area. Despite this, there are only 1.6 acres of park land per 1,000 residents in LA Central City North compared to the county average of 3.3 acres per 1,000. This relative lack of park space makes it critical that residents fully utilize LA State Historic Park. Alpine Recreation Center, the second largest park space in the area, is 1.94 acres, but is often overused due to Chinatown’s high population density.

Although the turnout for Chinatown Fit Club has improved since its first meeting at the end of April, attracting the elderly population of Chinatown continues to be a challenge. Many of the elderly Chinese residents choose instead to frequent the Alpine Recreation Center, where they have been doing 6:45 a.m. tai chi for years.

“It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks,” Liao said. “They’re just so accustomed to their way of life, their habit.”

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Local leaders discuss Cambodian heritage, police profiling and park access in Long Beach

The following post was written by intern Maggie Su as the first in a series of profiles of API members of the community.

Ladine Chan and Patrick Duong are not your typical father-son duo. In fact, they aren’t related at all. But, judging from their good-natured banter, one might assume otherwise. Chan, Program Coordinator for Educated Men with Meaningful Messages (EM3) — a youth program under Families in Good Health at Dignity Health St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach — works with primarily Cambodian youth, aged 14 to 19. He himself was once a youth in the program over a decade ago. Duong, who just completed his first year at Long Beach City College, is a recent graduate of the program. He credits EM3 with helping him finish high school.

As residents of Long Beach, Chan and Duong have limited access to safe parks. Most are poorly maintained and rife with gang activity. Furthermore, Long Beach residents must also contend with a lack of access to healthy foods. In a neighborhood where the most readily available groceries are from corner stores or liquor stories, many families have to travel at least three or four miles in order to purchase nutritious goods.

Despite the area’s lack of resources, programs such as EM3 exist to help residents combat the odds they face. The EM3 youth attend workshops every Friday on subjects ranging from life skills to violence in the community to healthy relationships. The program also teaches youth about their own cultural heritage, given that the majority of their parents are refugees of the Cambodian genocide under the Khmer Rouge regime.

“It gets very emotional to talk about what happened during the genocide, very traumatizing,” Chan said. “That’s why some of the youth get lost in it.”

Many members of the Cambodian community in Long Beach, which Chan estimates comprises 30 to 40 percent of the total population in the area — the largest Cambodian population anywhere outside of Phnom Penh — suffer from untreated PTSD. This makes it difficult for parents, unwilling to bring up the past, to discuss their background with their children. The result is that Cambodian youth know little about what the previous generation experienced.

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HEAL Community Fest

The following post was written by intern Maggie Su to update APIFM supporters on current initiatives.

At Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA) Saturday morning, APIFM hosted a Healthy Eating and Active Living (HEAL) Community Festival, sponsored by Champions for Change and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Co-sponsors included SIPA, Pilipino Workers’ Center (PWC), Para Los Niños, the office of Mitch O’Farrell, Mother and Vision Zero.

Attendees started off by participating in a Zumba class led by Pamela Price, laughing as they danced to upbeat pop music. Afterward, they headed indoors to sample refreshing fruit smoothies. Ivy Daulo demonstrated how attendees could prepare the smoothies at home while Esther Lee answered questions about nutrition and healthy eating. They learned about the Rethink Your Drink campaign, which focuses on how we can choose healthier drinks such as water and beverages without added sugar. Finally, Ivy did a demo for mango black bean salad, which attendees also got to sample.

To conclude the morning, raffle tickets were drawn; a lucky few received reusable bags containing Champions for Change t-shirts, aprons, cutting boards, among other goodies. Those who were still up for it did a little extra Zumba on their way out.

All in all, it was a fun and productive morning. Thank you to everyone who attended.

If you missed out, Ivy leads weekly HEAL workshops at PWC on Thursdays at 6 p.m. All are welcome!

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Healthy Korean Food!

The following post was written by intern Maggie Su to update APIFM supporters on current initiatives.

On Tuesday evening, I got to watch a group of Korean women test a handful of traditional recipes. They prepared dishes such as chapchae (stir-fried noodles) and bibimbap (a spicy mixed rice bowl), both of which were delicious. Health Education Coordinator Esther Lee was present to translate, while Monica Bhagwan, program manager for Leah’s Pantry, observed and asked questions about the cooking process.

This session was part of an effort to develop Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese recipes for Eatfresh.org, one of multiple databases of healthy recipes for low-income individuals and families eligible for CalFresh/SNAP. In the past, these databases have not included many culturally relevant dishes; APIFM in partnership with Leah’s Pantry hopes to change that one recipe at a time, gradually increasing the number of recipes from Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander cultures.

APIFM staff enlisted the help of community members to brainstorm recipes and prepare the dishes in collaboration with Leah’s Pantry staff. The recipes were developed to align with dietary guidelines suggesting low sodium, low sugar and less fat. For example, the chapchae was prepared with less soy sauce.

The Korean recipe development group was comprised of participants from APIFM’s Healthy Eating & Active Living (HEAL) workshop series at Koreatown Youth and Community Center (KYCC)‘s affordable housing, the Menlo Family Apartments in Koreatown.

The Koreatown HEAL participants will also be offering a free class, How to Make Kimchi, 4:30 p.m. June 17 at Doulos Mission Church, so come by and learn from the experts!

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Celebrating Our History in the Movement

By Ailene Q. Ignacio

Growing up in Los Angeles, you are ingrained at an early age with the monumental value of the warrior, Cesar Chavez. You know him not only as the Mexican-American father of the United Farm Workers (UFW), but as the fearless leader and activist who birthed the Delano Grape Strike of 1965-1970.

However, while Chavez did indeed pivot the past and current movement for farm worker rights in California and all over the country, many of us are still unaware of the fact that Chavez did not actually conceptualize and activate the strike initially.

Rather, the Delano Grape Strike was initiated by a humble, yet militant man by the name of Larry Dulay Itliong. A native of the Republika ng Pilipinas (more commonly known as the Philippines), Itliong led numerous unionization and labor justice movements as early as 1940s.

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We are Champions for Change!

We’re so excited to launch our Healthy Eating & Active Living (HEAL) project, funded by the Department of Public Health’s Champions for Change Initiative. Our HEAL project includes workshops on healthy eating, exercise, and cooking in Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Historic Filipinotown, and Koreatown. Big shout out to our amazing organization partners–Little Tokyo Service Center, Pilipino Workers’ Center, and Koreatown Youth and Community Center! Stay tuned for updates about upcoming HEAL classes and activities. Interested in helping out? Let us know! We’re looking for health educators, nutritionists, chefs, exercise instructors (Tai Chi, zumba, etc.), interpreters, and general volunteers. Email Linda Huynh (lindahuynh@apifm.org) for more info!

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APIOPA becomes API Forward Movement

Dear friends and supporters,

As many of you know, APIOPA (Asian and Pacific Islander Obesity Prevention Alliance) was started in the early 2000s by fierce advocates for our communities. Our founders were fired up by the need to include APIs in work to address the obesity epidemic, which is why our organization’s name centered obesity prevention. This explicit emphasis was an important tool for pushing public health conversations to include the real health needs and cultural specificities of our communities, which had been left out of the discussion.

Since then, APIOPA’s work has broadened and flexed to ensure APIs are not only represented within, but also leading efforts to address a range of health and environmental justice issues. Many of you know us for this work, whether it’s our food justice activism through our CSA and collaboration with local Asian American farmers, or our environmental justice work with youth leaders in San Gabriel Valley. And many of you have participated in or supported our active living programs, like Bike to Japan and our monthly hikes. More recently, we have also been working on transportation and parks, to ensure that discussions on these key issues include our faces, our voices, our cultures, and our languages. Our team is constantly working to ensure that API voices always have a seat at the table, and leadership in our communities.

It’s this passion for amplifying the needs of our communities and moving our leadership forward that motivates us. To honor these core motivations, we are officially changing our name.

Effective today, APIOPA becomes Asian Pacific Islander Forward Movement (APIFM). *insert mic drop*

For short, we’ll go by Forward Movement! (Also, here’s our new social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube )

Forward: With the current state of our country and the new administration, we are faced with leadership that wants to move us backward–to roll back the rights and access we have fought so hard for in the name of racial, social, economic, and health justice. We are challenging this affront with a clear emphasis on pushing forward. Pushing forward to protect the basic rights of our diverse, immigrant families and beloved communities. Pushing forward to expand those rights and enhance access to the resources we all need to live healthy, vibrant lives in empowered communities. We want to be forward in our approach to advocacy and justice, and to support everyone in looking forward, with hope, to a better tomorrow.

Movement: Localized, grassroots organizing in our Southern California API communities is the foundation for our work because we are committed to building movements for healthy change. We want to continue fusing advocacy, education, and leadership development, so that the people who are directly impacted are the people driving not only the conversation, but also the change. And for us, as a health justice group, movement means getting both physically and politically active. When we hike, bike, walk or roll together, we aren’t just exercising–we are also actively facilitating one another’s growth to become local health activists who are part of a larger movement for healthier communities.

Our new mission is clear: Forward Movement is here to cultivate, healthy, long-lasting, and vibrant Asian and Pacific Islander communities through grassroots organizing. This identity honors the work we have already been doing–working with API community members throughout Los Angeles County, Orange County, and beyond to increase access to healthy foods and healthy environments–and conveys our ongoing commitment to tackling, as organizers, the root causes and systemic issues that inform our ability to live healthy lives.

Thank you for being part of the APIOPA family up to this point, and we can’t wait to keep building together as API Forward Movement.

In solidarity,
The Forward Movement Team

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