The Asian Pacific Islander Political Alliance’s (API PA) mission is to build long-term power for APIs in Pennsylvania, by coordinating political, electoral, and legislative work to hold our elected officials accountable, engaging in culturally competent and linguistically accessible direct voter contact with our communities, and building solidarity with other aligned communities of color across the state. They operate primarily in South Asian, Korean, Chinese, and Vietnamese communities, and are the first and only political organization directly advocating for the needs of Asian and Pacific Islanders in Pennsylvania.
The 2020 election was API PA’s first election cycle since its inception in mid-2020. But that doesn’t mean they started small – far from it! Instead, they ended up running the largest API voter contact program in American history. With 1,400 volunteers and 71 staff, they made 1.3 million calls in English and 55,000 in a variety of Asian languages to reach people who are rarely—if ever—contacted by political organizations or politicians.
Alongside all of the phone calls and text messages, API PA grew a Relational Organizing program to bolster its traditional voter contact program. Volunteers in the Relational voter program built their networks, then tapped into them on a variety of actions throughout the cycle. They recruited volunteers, contacted their representatives to fight anti-democratic legislation, and made sure their folks knew how, when, and where to vote, and which candidates would be the best bet for them and their communities.
A few events/strategies that proved especially effective:
Calls to action in Mandarin and Vietnamese – allowed volunteers to more easily reach out to older family/friends, in the language they were most comfortable with;
Virtual watch party for the first presidential debate – channeling our anger and frustration into action by “friendbanking”;
Joint events with Planned Parenthood Votes and the Conservation Voters of PA and Clean Water Action PA to discuss API communities’ involvement in reproductive right and environmental justice movements;
Paper signup lists posted in Vietnamese restaurants/cafés around Philadelphia, along with Viet voter guides, informed voters and created social pressure around voting by mail/for Biden;
Community friendbank for Philly Indonesian community – called fellow community members in Bahasa Indonesia to discuss important issues, presidential candidates, and voting plans.
By election day, API PA had 65 volunteer leaders hailing from 11 states, some even as far away as Hawaii. Since September, they had talked to 810 contacts through 14 different calls to action!
But the November 3rd election was just the beginning. In 2021 and beyond, API PA plans to expand it’s Relational Organizing reach even further, to bring together API Pennsylvanians of diverse geographies and identities. Whether fighting to pass legislation to protect our communities, or electing candidates who best serve and represent us, Relational Organizing will remain a key element of API PA’s strategy going forward.
Learn more about API PA and get involved at apipennsylvania.org.