differences to unite
Our vision is a world
where the differences
that make us unique
as individuals unite
as a people
us as a nation,
where our nation
a bridge to all.
Together we can
make a difference.
[AA]² Board of Directors
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of the Greater Long Island Community:
Long Island - beyond its political dividing lines of cities and counties -
stretching from Flushing to Flanders, from Sunset Park to Sag Harbor -
contains the largest Asian and Asian American population on the East Coast -
and it is a community that is starting to blossom. We are moving
beyond having cultural groups that represent only one ethnicity to realizing
that there are areas where we share more in common than we have differences
- that joining together makes sense.
In essence, we are becoming more fully American. Yet we are also proud to be
Asian, or part Asian, or married to an Asian, or have Asian children, and we
want all Americans to be able to learn about and participate
in Asian and Asian American cultural heritage and history.
As Asian/Americans, the areas of sharing across ethnic lines are both
positive and negative. Asian cultures emphasize learning and Asian American
children are the most highly educated immigrants and children of immigrants
this nation has ever had. But that comes at a price. Asian American girls
aged 15-24 have the highest rate of suicide in the nation as do Indian
American males. Suicides on
college campus' have
become so endemic that in 2003 Cornell University instituted a task force on
Asian/Americans to look into the "disproportionate number of suicides
by students of Asian descent."
The Asia Society's report, Asia in the School's: Preparing Young
Americans for Today's Interconnected World, documented how little is
taught and how important it is to change that for all Americans. Yet New
York K-12 teachers are not required to take even one course on Asia or Asian
America to get certification.
Like all American immigrants, many Asian immigrants live where speaking
English is not a 24-hour necessity. Just as Mott Street was once all
Italian and Yorkville on Manhattan's upper East side all German, now Brooklyn's
Brighton Beach is Russian and Chinatown is but one of many Asian enclaves.
It has been overtaken by Flushing and joined by Astoria, Sunset Park, and others in Long Island's
urban west end.
In suburban Long Island there are primarily two extremes. School districts
that are still 98% white where an Asian child can often be the only one in their
class, or even their school. On the other side, Asian/American
families with the economic means have moved into the best school
districts. Now some, like Nassau's Herrick's, have a majority pan-Asian
student population of primarily Chinese, Indians, and Koreans.
Stony Brook University, Long Island's largest University and one of four
SUNY Centers, was the recipient of a private donation of over $50 million for the largest center
in the country 'Celebrating Asian and Asian American Cultures.' That
donation came about in part because 30% of SBU's undergrads are of Asian
are 50% of its international grad students. But Stony Brook also has the
lowest family income of all the SUNY Centers - its bright students coming
from Bronx High School of Science and Stuy, not upper class districts like
Though we may not think of all of Long Island in terms of Asian/Americans,
in truth, they have made every part of it 'home' and been
involved in its modern development in ways that even recent history has
forgotten. For generations, a Chinese American owned farm out on Suffolk's
North Fork supplied the fresh Asian vegetables used in Chinatown's
restaurants. The most renowned architect in recent history, I.M. Pei, who
designed the glass pyramid entrance to the Louvre, early in his career also
designed Roosevelt Field, the first major shopping mall.
Affectionately called AA Squared, [AA]2 began as an informal
organization of students and alumni of Stony Brook University. Although SBU alumni initiated it, it was in response to their realization
that there needed to be a wider focus beyond simply SBU. As alumni
moved on with their lives they saw the same needs everywhere and had the
same desires to make changes in their own communities.
Thus [AA]2 was born. NY State and
NY State Education
Department approved (AA)2 as an official not-for-profit corporation, though
since the forms could not deal with superscripts, it is officially (AA)
'two' rather than (AA) 'squared'. That was to be followed with the massive
IRS paperwork but since we were all leading busy lives, it languished.
Then, the very
concept of why we had formed [AA]2 jolted us like a bolt of
lightening. On the night before her 25th birthday, a young alumna many
of us had known or worked with while she was a student, committed
suicide. It made the statistics real.
We applied for a grant from the Long Island Fund for Women & Girls to
do workshops on issues of importance to young Asian American
women. They said yes but the money must go to a 501(c)3. With that incentive we applied to the IRS, were approved, and LIFWG sent us
We did all the things we said we would with that first grant - workshops and
a full day conference on dealing with life's negatives like partner violence
protection - countered with life's positives like leadership skills and
mentoring. All put together by financially needy young college
students who became [AA]2 interns.
And more. Grants give legitimacy. An Asian American film series with
speakers at SBU blossomed into one at The New School University. But small
grants also force an organization to concentrate their limited resources
around the grant. Just as it is important to teach young women about partner
violence protection, young men need to be taught appropriate ways to handle
their emotions, but there is no funding.
Now we are turning to the community to continue what we have begun
but in a more concrete way - by building a base of financial support so that
what we do does not go from grant to grant and instead can be more all
[AA]2's Board includes Asians and non-Asians as its goals are to help Asian
Americans and to teach all Americans. It welcomes anyone to get
What we hope to accomplish is described on the Goals page but none can happen until many
are willing to make a commitment.
Please make that commitment. There are
a multitude of ways to help from financial donations to run the programs and pay interns
to materials to make the programs possible, and especially your time as a
Becoming a volunteer is as vital as a financial donation, especially for
those who have the time to make an ongoing commitment. All but one of [AA]2's
Board is a young professional just making their start in the world and
beginning to raise families. Time and money are not what they have in
abundance. College volunteers are wonderful but their academics, especially
for Asian American students, come first. There needs to be volunteer
stability that is not dependent on mid-terms, finals, and graduation.
Together we can help bring the blossoming Long Island / metro New York Asian/American community to full flower by providing the fertilizer to nourish
its growth. Will you please join us today and make a difference?
Sherry Ha, Sawanee Khongsawatwaja, Tuan Le, and Ja Young
Co-Chairs, [AA]2 Board of Directors, 2008