Asian Pacific Islander Association Aims to Lift the Voices of API Staff

The Asian Pacific Islander Association is supporting the San Bernardino Community College District’s API employees, shining a spotlight on their accomplishments, endeavors, and dreams.

“We are a new association, so we are full of hope for what the future holds,” API Association President Bethany Tasaka, a mathematics instructor at San Bernardino Valley College, said. “We want to engage and connect API employees across the district so they know they are seen and supported.”

The SBVC API Association meet with staff and faculty over Zoom.

The API Association also intends to develop safe spaces “to share both positive and negative experiences,” Tasaka said. “We want to celebrate API excellence in the district by lifting the voices of our colleagues and bringing visibility to their accomplishments. Last, but certainly not least, we want to realize our hopes for our students.”

API employees and allies began meeting last August, and the API Association was officially recognized in December. The executive team consists of Tasaka, Chloe de los Reyes, Jimmy Grabow, and Soutsakhone Xayaphanthong, with the group currently meeting virtually the second and fourth Wednesday of the month from 1 to 2:30 p.m.

“Our goals right now focus on lifting the voices and stories of API employees across the district,” Tasaka said. “We also want to develop support systems for our API students. Asians and Pacific Islanders are a very diverse group, but we’re often addressed as a monolith. Our association wants to bring visibility to the diversity and excellence of API employees in the district. We also want to educate others about the richness and uniqueness of API cultures and experiences.”

That’s exactly what the organization plans to do during Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month. From April 17 to May 17, the group is hosting several events, based around the theme “Dispelling the Model Minority Myth.” On April 19, there will be a panel discussion featuring API employees and students from across the district. Other events include a screening of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, followed by a discussion on the importance of representation in pop culture, and conversations about the “bamboo ceiling” and Executive Order 9066 and Japanese internment.

Tasaka said the API Association is looking forward to working closely with organizations like the Black Faculty and Staff Association and Latino Faculty, Staff, and Administrators Association.

“We would not be here without the support of their presidents, Shalita Tillman and Ernest Guillen,” she added. “Allyship is vital for underrepresented groups.”

The API Association may be new, but the group has already made a name for itself.

“We are very proud of what our association accomplished in its short lifetime,” Tasaka said. “Everyone has worked so hard and has invested so much of their time and talents, and we are overwhelmed with the support we received.”

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, there has been an uptick in hate crimes against API individuals across the United States. The API Association is asking members of the community to check in on their API colleagues and students.

“As time passes, we tend to forget movements like #StopAsianHate, but these acts of violences are still happening regularly,” Tasaka said. “Please remember that this is still very real for API communities.”

The API Association is open to all. To receive a membership form, email Tasaka at btasaka@sbccd.cc.ca.us.

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Founded in 1926, San Bernardino Valley College (SBVC) is a comprehensive community college offering hundreds of degree programs, on campus and online.