Submit your story of #AAPIpower

#AAPIpower Storytelling Project

Submit your story!

We are celebrating #AAPIpower - from community organizing to raising a family to surviving war/colonization, our people possess and manifest power in many ways. This project aims to share and honor your story.


Share your #AAPIpower story

#AAPIpower Storytelling

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2021

#AAPIpower Storytelling Project

We are celebrating #AAPIpower - from community organizing to raising a family to surviving war/colonization, our people possess and manifest power in many ways. This project aims to share and honor your story.

#AAPIpower is...

resistance. joy. community.

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. This month, we honor our heritage, which is rooted in #AAPIpower. AAPI power looks like:

  • Asian American laborers fighting against corporate greed to earn workers’ rights. 
  • Pacific Islander communities working in the forefront of movements against militarization and fighting for decolonization. 
  • AAPIs showing up in solidarity with Black lives and other oppressed peoples.
  • Immigrants and refugees daring to dream and envision a world beyond which they know. 
  • Elders refusing the erasure of their culture by passing down language and traditions.
  • AAPI youth imagining and working toward the creation of a world where we can all thrive.

Celebrate #AAPIpower with us by sharing your story.

Art by Eduardo Daza Taylor IV. (instagram)

storytelling toolkit

Developing your #AAPIpower story

What is the #AAPIpower Storytelling project?

This story collection project is led by AAPI FORCE-EF and centers narratives of #AAPIpower in light of APA Heritage Month. Due to the increase in physical violence against Asians, social media newsfeeds have been saturated with narratives of Asian American victimization. To counter these narratives and empower the community, this project will celebrate narratives of #AAPIpower – from community organizing to raising a family to surviving war/colonization, our people possess and manifest power in many ways. This project aims to share and honor your story. 


AAPI FORCE-EF (AAPIs for Civic Empowerment Education Fund) is an alliance of community organizations serving Asian American and Pacific Islanders across the state of California. We work on campaigns that center the needs of working-class Asian immigrant, refugee, and Pacific Islander families. We work together with organizations across the state to build the power necessary for positive change in our communities.

Who is eligible to participate in this storytelling project?

We welcome people who identify as Asian American and/or Pacific Islander to submit your story of #AAPIpower! Stories should center someone who identifies as Asian American or Pacific Islander. Your story can be about yourself, someone in your life, or a historical figure who inspires you! We welcome participants and stories of people from all ages and locations! If you have any questions about eligibility, feel free to contact!

How does the process work?

Fill out this google form with a 50-200 word story about someone who demonstrates #AAPIpower (it can be yourself!). Share photos and visuals to accompany your story, and we will share your story on social media to celebrate #AAPIpower! While we are thankful for all the stories submitted, we may not be able to share all the stories we receive due to volume. We encourage everyone to self publish your story and use #AAPIpower to celebrate your story!

What visuals should I include alongside my written story?

You can upload up to 5 images to accompany your story! Visuals can be a photo of the person you wrote about, a photo of yourself, a photo of an object that symbolizes what you talked about, or an illustration.

What is #AAPIpower?

AAPI power encompasses a variety of things – joy, resilience, culture, resistance. From a community organizer who fought against voter suppression or a parent/guardian who works tirelessly to care for their child, #AAPIpower is demonstrated in different ways.

We encourage you to celebrate everyday acts of #AAPIpower, such as an immigrant daring to dream and envision a world beyond which they know, or an elder passing down their language and traditions. 

Tips for storytelling:

  • Try to show, not tell. Help a reader step in your shoes by describing tapping into human senses (seeing, touching, hearing, feeling, smelling). 
  • Explain things that the reader might not understand. If this is a tradition in your culture, or if you reference a saying in another language, help us understand your story by breaking it down!


  • Who is someone in your life who inspires you?
  • Who has helped you get to where you are today?
  • Who/what makes you feel joy?
  • Who/what makes you feel loved?
  • What’s an example of something that you or someone else has overcome? How did they overcome it?

Sample Story

From Lan N.

#AAPIpower is my Vietnamese refugee parents working alongside their neighbors to keep each other fed and safe. While my parents and their neighbors have never heard of the term “mutual aid” or attended any webinars about building pods, they live and breathe the values of mutual aid and community care. My parents grow Vietnamese fruits in their garden, which they trade with a neighbor who grows vegetables. With this communal trading, my parents could go weeks without risking a trip to the grocery store. One of my parents’ neighbors is a young family who lives in the apartment complex behind my parents’ house. They often share meals and treats with each other. They exchange things so often that my parents built a pulley system with a basket attached to the fence behind their house so that the two families could exchange gifts without having to walk around the block. My parents and their neighbors’ love and care for each other is #AAPIpower.

Event May 14th: Journeys to Victory

Event: Journeys to Victory

Celebrating AAPI Organizers and Movement Builders

Happy Asian Pacific American Heritage Month! This APAHM, we are hosting a virtual celebration uplifting AAPI organizing and movement builders. On May 14th @ 5PM, AAPI FORCE-EF member and partner organizations will share their victories from political and community campaigns. We will also uplift community artists and cultural workers who breathe life into our movements

The first few months of 2021 brought us new yet familiar hardships. We’ve struggled through anti-Asian violence manifesting in both interpersonal and systemic forms; however, when we look at our AAPI history and heritage, we understand without a doubt that our people are resilient survivors, and continue to fight fearlessly for justice and equity every day!

Check out the organizations presenting:

  • South Bay Youth Changemakers

  • Chinese Progressive Association

  • Filipino Advocates for Justice

  • Pilipino Workers Center

  • Empowering Pacific Islander Communities

  • Khmer Girls in Action


  • DJ Rodel

  • TBD

We hope to explore some of the amazing on the ground work by AAPI organizers and artists to carry on our legacy of resistance, and center the fact that we have always been so much more than victims. We are fighters. We are empowered leaders. We are students, parents, grandparents, artists, activists, and we will continue to carry the torch forward in our struggle towards justice!

Journeys to Victory is a virtual celebration that will be hosted on Zoom, on May 14th from 5PM-7PM PST. Join us as we recenter ourselves in our AAPI identities and our powerful history, and continue our long journey towards victory. See you there!

Event: AAPIs 4 Environmental Justice

Event: AAPIs 4 Environmental Justice

Earth Day is just around the corner, which means it is once again time for mega-corporations to capitalize on “greenwashing” their image, while they continue to protect their profits over people and our planet.

Climate crisis is happening now. The recent extreme winter storm ravaged Texas, the Midwest, and Southeast, leaving hundreds of thousands of families without power, water, and heat for weeks. In California, we continue to face extreme heat waves, wildfires, and power outages year after year. None of these are “natural disasters” when we know climate change is a product of people’s actions driven by capitalism.


From Wallstreet to Big Oil to corporations that privatize public resources, pollute our air and land, and develop unsustainable models of business, low-income communities, communities of color, and indigenous peoples continue to bear the brunt of harm most intensely. Many Asian American and Pacific Islander communities have historically faced environmental destructions and injustices, struggled living near toxic sites and polluting power plants, and organized at the intersections of land, housing, workplace safety, etc.


Now more than ever, we feel the urgency to build towards an alternative and protect our future. What work can we do to promote environmental justice in our local communities? How do we hold corporations accountable in the larger fight against rapid climate change?


Join AAPI FORCE-EF, Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA), Independent Guåhan, and Pacific Climate Warriors for an expert panel of activists and organizers delving into AAPI organizing environmental justice issues, and learn how you can contribute concretely to progressive efforts and calls to action!


The panel will be hosted as a webinar on Zoom and broadcasted on Facebook live on April 13th at 5:30PM PT. We will also be hosting a 15 minute Q&A with the panelists that you won’t want to miss!

Co-sponsor: Project by Project San Francisco

RSVP to AAPIs 4 Environmental Justice:

Introducing our panelists:

My name is Ashley Phuthama, I am a youth leader at Asian Pacific Environmental Network. I’m in 10th grade, and was born and raised in Hercules, CA. My history with APEN started in 2019 when I attended their Youth Academy program. I come from a Laotian family, and I appreciate APEN’s background in Laotian immigrant and refugee organizing, this is why I’m excited to be a part of APEN’s youth leadership and give back to my community. 

Mabel Tsang – As Civic Engagement Program Manager for CEJA and CEJA Action, I work to build the political power, self-governance and self-determination of EJ communities and communities of color burdened by health, economic and environmental impacts. I build the bridges of accountability between California’s elected leaders and voters, manage ballot measure campaigns, and expand democratic participation for environmental, racial and social justice by centering and including members of our community who have been historically barred from voting. I’ve successfully led the campaign to beat down Proposition 70 which preserved critical public funds to fight climate change.

Michael Lujan Bevacqua, Ph.D. (Familian Kabesa yan Bittot) is the co-chair for the organization Independent Guåhan, which is dedicated to educating the Guam community about the need for decolonization and joining the world as an independent country. He hosts a weekly podcast on Facebook for the group called Fanachu! With his brother Jack, they run a creative collection called The Guam Bus that publishes Chamoru language books, comics and learning materials (  

Kevin Lionga Aipopo (all pronouns, Pacific Climate Warriors) is a community advocate, storyteller, and student leader based in traditional Kalupuya, Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, and Atfalati lands (Beaverton, Oregon). Their work centers around the intersections between their ethnic identity as a Black American and Samoan person and their gender fluidity. Kevin uses their platforms to interrogate systems of power, challenge normalcy, and uplift voices within their communities. Through interpersonal connection, community organizing, poetry, and education, they have found space as an emerging voice for Black, Indigenous, Queer, Trans, and Climate liberation

Statement: Asian Organizations Across the Bay Area Join Forces to Demand Action Against Violence

Statement: Asian Organizations Across the Bay Area Join Forces to Demand Action Against Violence

February 9, 2021

We, the undersigned organizations, denounce violence against members of Asian American communities in San Francisco, Oakland, and the greater Bay Area. We stand in solidarity with victims, survivors, and families who have suffered loss and pain.

These violent assaults have made the especially difficult circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic even more painful. From our Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese elders to our youth, our Asian American communities are traumatized, afraid, and outraged during a time when we are also experiencing disproportionate impacts of the pandemic. These include mass unemployment, safety risks to frontline workers, insecure housing, the shuttering of our local small businesses, and a surge in anti-Asian racism.

In the past year, we have seen an escalation of violence and other incidents against Asian American communities. The Stop AAPI Hate reporting center documented 2,808 hate incidents in 2020. Over 700 of these occurred in the Bay Area. And while we should not make any assumptions about the reasons behind these recent incidents — whether racially motivated or not — they have profound impacts on our Asian communities across the country and internationally. Our elderly community members, along with their families, are fearful of being in public alone, simply going for a walk, and living their daily lives. And survivors of interpersonal violence and their families have historically not received enough culturally-competent and language-accessible support across government systems.

We recognize that violence affects all of us and all of our communities. We must invest in long-term community-centered solutions that create spaces for cross-racial healing that address underlying causes and create ways for all to thrive. We believe that our strength is in unity, not division, and that our histories and our futures are intertwined. That is why we are committed to working with Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Pacific Islander communities for long-term shared vision and solutions to stop the violence in all our communities.

We also recognize that it is up to us to keep our communities accountable and to holistically respond to generational trauma and violence. It is up to us to imagine what real safety could look like for our people, and to build the future we want to see — one that is grounded in accountability, justice, and care for each other.

As the Lunar New Year approaches, we must all come together to protect the safety of our community members who are feeling vulnerable during what should be a celebratory time. The cities of San Francisco and Oakland leadership must immediately increase culturally-relevant and trauma-informed investments that:

  1. Ensure victims and survivors of all backgrounds and language abilities receive full supportive services so they can recover and heal.
  2. Expand intervention- and prevention-based programs and invest in basic needs and community-based infrastructure that we know will end the cycle of violence and keep all of us safer.
  3. Resource cross-community education and healing in Asian American and Black communities that humanizes all of us rather than demonizes or scapegoats any community of color.

As organizations with a long history of protecting and advancing the rights of communities of color, we know that an over-reliance on law enforcement approaches has largely been ineffective and has been disproportionately harmful to Black communities and other communities of color. We believe the solution to violence is to empower our communities with resources, support, and education — this is how we make all of our communities safe.

See below for a list of the 93 organizations that have signed our statement.

1990 Institute



AAPIs for Civic Empowerment Education Fund (AAPI FORCE-EF)

AAPI Women Lead

APA Family Support Services

APALA, Alameda County Chapter

APALA, Inland Empire Chapter

APALA, San Diego Chapter

APALA, San Francisco Chapter

APALA, Orange County Chapter

APAPA, San Francisco Chapter

API Equality – Northern California

Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus

Asian American Women Artists Association

Asian Health Services

Asian Immigrant Women Advocates

Asian Pacific American Democratic Caucus of Alameda County

Asian Pacific Islander Council of San Francisco (API Council)

Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center

API Equality Northern California (APIENC)

Arab Resource & Organizing Center (AROC)

Asian Immigrant Women Advocates

Asian Law Alliance

Asian Pacific Environmental Network

Asian Pacific Fund

Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach

Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council

Asian Refugees United

Asians 4 Black Lives

AYPAL: Building API Community Power

Bay Rising

Cal-Nev Philippine Solidarity Task Force (UMC)

Center for Empowering Refugees and Immigrants (CERI)

Chinatown Community Development Center (CCDC)

Chinese for Affirmative Action

Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco

Chinese Health Initiative San Mateo County

Chinese Progressive Association

Communities as One

Community Youth Center

CSU East Bay Ethnic Studies Department

Donors of Color Network

East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE)

East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC)

Family Bridges

Filipino Advocates for Justice

Filipino Americans in Science Technology Engineering Arts and Mathematics (FASTER)

Filipino Community Center

Hella Heart Oakland

Hmong Innovating Politics

Japanese American Citizens’ League (JACL), Berkeley Chapter

Japanese American Citizens’ League (JACL), Contra Costa County

Japanese American Citizens’ League (JACL), Eden Township

Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), NorCal-W. Nevada-Pacific District

Japanese American Citizens’ League (JACL), Sacramento Chapter

Japanese American Citizens’ League (JACL), San Francisco Chapter

Japanese Americans For Justice

Inner Eye Arts

Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity

Korean American Community Foundation of San Francisco

Korean Community Center of East Bay

Legal Assistance to the Elderly

The Lunar Project

Malaya Movement SF

Mujeres Unidas y Activas


New Breath Foundation

NICOS Chinese Health Coalition

Nihonmachi Outreach Committee

North East Medical Services (NEMS)

Oakland Asian Cultural Center

Oakland Rising

Parent Voices Oakland

Pin@y Educational Partnerships

Pine United Methodist Church – San Francisco

Prism Foundation

Project by Project

Rose Pak Democratic Club

Rotary Club of San Francisco Chinatown

San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines

San Francisco Rising

Santa Clara County Asian Law Alliance

SFSU: Department of Asian American Studies

Silicon Valley Rising

SOMA Pilipinas: Filipino Cultural Heritage District

South Bay Youth Changemakers

Southeast Asian Development Center (SEADC)

Stop AAPI Hate

Tuff Love Self-defense

Urgent Action Fund

West Coast Children’s Clinic

Reclaiming the California Dream – Episode 8: Where Do We Go From Here?

Reclaiming the California Dream

Episode 8 -Where Do We Go From Here?

Episode 8:

Ray and Lan return to close out the series, discussing the result on Prop 15 in the California Ballot Elections as well as share a message of hope for California.


Raymond (00:00):

Hey everyone. It’s been a while since we’ve done this. Welcome back to the Reclaiming The California Dream Podcast. This is going to be our debrief and final episode…could be final. Who knows. That doesn’t mean that the work stops here, but definitely the purpose of this podcast, which was focusing on Schools and Communities First, i.e. Proposition 15 in the California ballot elections. Really, to recap, we wanted to highlight stories of community members, teachers, students, researchers, those who really benefit from public services and public funding. And our goal was to hopefully change some hearts and minds of California voters, which is a lot of people, but we were hoping to kind of educate people in terms of why it’s so important that we pass Proposition 15. By now, Lan, we know that Proposition 15, unfortunately did not pass. So California voters voted no for Proposition 15. So as I mentioned, I’m here with Lan and she is the communications manager for AAPI FORCE and I’m Raymond Luu, I’m the producer, and also program manager for Project by Project San Francisco. So Lan, first thing I want to ask you is since the start of our little episode here, our little show here and I listened back to the first episode in terms of why we are here. When you think back at that time, what are your thoughts? What are your feeling? What are you, what’s your just gut reaction?

Lan (01:58):

So I will share about when I learned that Proposition 15 did not pass and what was going on in my mind at that time. So on election night, I’m sure a lot of folks had a lot of things going on. We had a big presidential election top of the ticket. So there was a lot to worry about top of the ticket and all the way down throughout California, there were a lot of really important things on the ballot. We were looking at what would happen with the House of Representatives and the Senate on the national level. So there was a, it was a stressful time on election night, but I think within our coalition, we expected Proposition 15 to lean towards no, at the beginning. So on election night when it was leaning no, that’s what we had expected because … Due to what was going on with the presidential election and the rhetoric around vote by mail ballots, we had expected that a majority of Republican voters would want no on 15.

Raymond (03:00):

Right, cause they were voting in person at polling places.

Lan (03:04):

So with the results that were coming in earlier, those would be skewing towards Republican which would align with no on 15. And then over time, our expectation was that the vote by mail ballots, which would lean more Democratic would be yes on 15. So we kind of expected that on election night it would lean towards no, and kind of hoping that throughout the next coming days, it would lean closer towards yes. And even, you know, cross over for yes on 15.

Raymond (03:30):

Right. There would be a surge of support fly in. Even then I think if I recall it was about a day after election night, on top of me checking the presidential election, I kept Googling California ballot elections. And, you know, the, the Associated Press was showing the results there. And my first reaction was like, oh boy. But I had reached out to you to say, “hey, it’s not looking good.” And to your credit, you still gave good hope. And you said, it’s still not over yet. Ballots are still being counted and we can somewhat see how the mail-in votes may change that. For me, I think it was a little conflicted for me in the sense of I couldn’t help, but kind of be somewhat joyous of Joe Biden winning the election, at the same time, the reality hit that, you know, Joe Biden, isn’t going to all of a sudden produce and create money and fund our schools and public school systems. It was digesting that and really coming to grips to say, what does this mean? And these are questions that I still have not answered to this day. What does this mean? What can be done? But before we actually get into all of that, do you want to touch upon just your experience connecting with folks and campaigning for Schools and Communities First?

Lan (04:49):

So before I dive into my experience working on this campaign, I want to speak a little bit about my personal connection to Schools and Communities First. As I was listening to all the podcast episodes, I really enjoyed hearing from all of these different community members sharing what the proposition meant to them. And I wanted to share a little bit about what it means to me outside of my work as communications manager for AAPI FORCE. So throughout my life I’ve always been very interested in education. I’ve had a lot of different jobs roles as an educator, teacher. And at some point in my career, I do plan on transitioning to being a full-time teacher. And I was thinking like how perfect this role was for me being the communications manager of AAPI FORCE during this time when we’re passing Prop15. And I was just thinking about this future where you know, this beautiful future, where I would start teaching and I wouldn’t have to buy my own classroom supplies and my students would have access to laptops and everything that they need to strive. And just knowing that the work that I did for Prop 15 led to that future.

Lan (05:55):

And so when I learned that Prop 15 didn’t pass, I was very heartbroken. Heartbroken for the students, throughout California, specifically, these students of color, the students in rural communities, the students in farm worker communities, and the teachers who are oftentimes coming from marginalized backgrounds themselves. Definitely feeling very heartbroken, but throughout the experience campaigning for Prop 15, I also have a lot of hope for the future.

Lan (06:23):

So I hopped on a couple of phone baking sessions, myself as a volunteer. And one of the memories that really stands out to me was speaking to a community member in the South Bay of California. I remember looking at the city and it was like a city, sort of a wealthier city. And I was a little worried. I was like, Oh, maybe he won’t support Prop 15, he’s from a wealthier area. And in talking to him, I had these assumptions that I would need to convince him that it wouldn’t impact him, if he was wealthy. I don’t know what his status was. So I had my spiel ready. I was like, this is why Prop 15 won’t impact you. You should vote yes. And he said, “hey, even if it does impact me, even if I do get taxed more, that’s okay with me, I’m still going to vote yes because I believe in this issue and I believe in funding our broader community.” And that just brought me so much hope that this person was willing to, you know, even though Prop 15 would not have impacted that person, it brought me hope that this person was willing to make a sacrifice if needed for the greater good. And I believe that there are more people like him out there than there are people who are, you know, the selfish billionaires.

Raymond (07:31):

Right. That’s a really powerful experience. And, you know, as a society and as a community, it’s really our collective responsibility to ensure that future generations are allowed the same access, especially for marginalized communities. You know, from my experience, you know, when I got connected with your guys’s organization and the campaign it made sense to me personally, it was just like, yeah, of course. But that’s also because I’m a somewhat progressive liberal. So what really kind of turned the page for me in terms of allowing me to grow a little bit as a person was hearing, and then also speaking with some folks who are on the episode, people like Eunice and people like Kathee and people like Huanvy and people, you know, hearing your conversation with EJ who brought in just a world of knowledge and just completely opened my eyes.

Raymond (08:30):

And I went down this, to EJ’s credit, I went down this rabbit hole of looking at the California tax revolt. I looked at what his, his research cohort did, the Roots Race & Place. It digs deep into the racialized institutional dispossession in the Bay Area. And that’s just in the Bay Area. So a lot of people think like, Oh, you know, we’re pretty progressive, we’re pretty liberal over here, right. But there are a lot of institutionalized policies that were set back in the, you know, from 1920s to like all the way up until 1978 when it was kind of memorialized, which was by way of Proposition 13. And a lot of people don’t realize the Bay Area wasn’t progressive, hasn’t always been progressive, right. There was a point in time when over here where a lot of white people were here wanted to, to protect their assets and their homes. And so they made sure that the influx of Chinese Americans coming in, who are the oldest communities of color that kind of settled here in the Bay Area, they made sure that they, they were separated and segregated. So learning about all of that, but also hearing the personal stories in terms of Eunice’s, you know, day to day and some of her struggles to create curriculum in the midst of a pandemic, but also thinking like, where’s my funding gonna come from and why is my funding going with to get cut? And if it is going to get cut, how do I kind of work a way around that while providing a positive environment for our students? So all of that allowed me to not allow me, but really forced me to take a personal hit when Proposition 15 did not pass.

Lan (10:10):

Yeah. I want to talk a little bit about what you said earlier regarding California being this progressive like haven. After the election, I saw a lot of, a lot of opinionated tweets on Twitter posting about how California is this horrible place with racist people who don’t care about working class people. And I think I kind of agree with both sides. I think that oftentimes we give the state of California too much credit, when, you know, given what happened in the seventies, we had the Tax Revolt, which impacted people of color. We had the governor, Jerry Brown saying that he didn’t want Southeast Asian refugees coming to California. So our state does have a history of racism, but I also want to acknowledge that what happened during this election, isn’t fully the fault of Californians and of the Californian people. I truly believe that Californians would want higher taxes either for themselves or only for billionaires, if it meant a brighter future for everyone.

Lan (11:11):

And I think what went wrong was that people were disinformed. There were a lot of people of color who were homeowners. And just because you’re a homeowner does not mean you’re a billionaire, right? We have middle-class homeowners. We even have like upper low income people who manage to own homes and like squeeze in a lot of families under one house. So we have people of all different backgrounds who are homeowners, people of color, who are homeowners, who believed that Prop 15 would hurt them and would hurt people of color by raising residential property taxes, which Prop 15 would not do. So because of the disinformation that was spread by the opposition, which outspent us by at least 20 million, we’re not sure how much yet. But who outspent us to spread these lies via, you know, mailing pamphlets, advertisements, etc.

Lan (12:02):

And the advertisements weren’t saying, you know, like we love billionaires, let’s protect billionaires. The advertisements were saying, we want to protect low income people of color. So I believe that Californians weren’t voting no on 15 to protect billionaires, but they were doing so because a lot of them thought that Yes on 15 would harm people of color. So one thing that our coalition is really trying to bring awareness of is that the greatest threat to our democracy are these corporate billionaires. And we saw that with theYes on 22 campaign as well. So the Yes on 22 campaign was to make Uber drivers, Lyft drivers, DoorDash drivers, keep them as independent contractors rather than employees. And yes, on 22 would take away the right of drivers to unionize and also harm them in a variety of other ways. And people voted Yes on 22, I think it was like 70% of voters voted Yes on 22 because the campaign spent $200 million to say that Yes on 22 would help people of color and people genuinely voted because they thought that that would help low income people of color. So I think that the results of this election isn’t necessarily that Californians are bad people who love billionaires, but I think what happened was billionaires have the power to sway voters, to spread disinformation and to lie to voters. And I think that what this tells us is that we need to pass more stringent laws to prevent this from happening and making sure that our democracy is not being led by corporate billionaires.

Raymond (13:41):

Yeah. That’s a good point. And I felt that was where it was a lot of misinformation. I think I, you know, I took advantage of directly working on his campaign with you and your organization and with Project by Project, I took the time to read through the entire ballot, not every single clause I actually read through in terms of like, this is what it’s trying to do, and this is how the funds would be allocated. And also the estimates in terms of how much tax revenue would be put towards I think it was like 40% towards K through 12 and community schools, I guess one silver lining or our small glimmer of hope is that I read on CalMatters that in certain counties and local areas voters voted yes to, you know, increase education bonding, also read Arizona and Oregon just passed a similar bill in terms of taxing wealthier people, I don’t know the details of it, and putting it towards school funding. Again, these are Oregon, you can kind of like, okay, but Arizona you’re like, Oh, wow, that’s typically a red state now blue, but you know, definitely there’s blueprints out there that I think California voters just will need to continue educating folks. One question I would want to ask for you is that one of the common criticisms that I heard from other voters was, you know, in terms of oversight, one argument was how do we ensure and hold our state legislators or state budget and allocation to do those education systems and to those schools, because a lot of people were concerned, those funds may be mishandled or that money mismanaged.

Lan (15:23):

That’s a really great question. I definitely empathize with that person. I understand where they’re coming from, but I also want to contextualize this notion of, you know, how, how do we know if our tax dollars are being properly managed? Because that rhetoric comes from the neoliberal tax revolt that was started in California in the 1970s and later popularized by Ronald Reagan on a national level. And today continues to be pushed by Donald Trump, as we see with like his defunding of the United States Postal Service. So it’s this rhetoric that is pushed by conservatives to justify cutting public spending to spread fear that we shouldn’t tax people. And we shouldn’t spend that taxation on services that will benefit low income black and Brown people because it’s not going to benefit black and Brown people. It’s just going to pay supervisors more money. I believe that there’s not a lot of truth behind it. And it’s spread by conservative folks to, as a way to hold on to their money rather than be taxed.

Lan (16:26):

So this happens with a lot of policies where it’s like, we’re going to get money and it’s going to go to the community, but that is so vague. So I think what, what that shows us is that elections are not perfect. You can’t just organize and vote for propositions every two years, every four years, but it is an everyday thing. And I think the beauty of what our community organizations do is that they not only mobilize around elections, but they mobilize year round at city council meetings at County supervisor meetings. And that’s where these budgets get voted on. So you have to organize, you have to bring the community to these budget hearings. You have to protest, you have to write letters, you have to make public comments and say, “Hey, this is where my priorities are. I want money towards schools. I want money towards public health services. I don’t want money towards, you know, these things that we don’t like,” and it is a year round thing. And I think that I hope what people walk away with from this election is that we can’t just do this every two years. We have to be doing this every day and paying attention on local levels, which happens every day, every week, and get involved.

Raymond (17:33):

So I want to ask, where do we go from here? Loaded question, give us at least me some statement of hope.

Lan (17:43):

So I’ll talk a little bit about the pandemic. I think if Prop 15 had passed the time we would have, by the time we would have gotten the revenue from that, the pandemic would have been over. Hopefully.

Raymond (17:56):

That’s true. Actually at this point. Yeah. Who knows.

Lan (18:00):

Hopefully that there would be a vaccine by then fingers crossed. But that doesn’t mean that the ramifications from the pandemic would be over. Like the economy across the country and across the world and in state and local communities are tanking right now because businesses aren’t able to function. People aren’t working, they’re unemployed and that’s going to have impact for decades. So we believe that Prop 15 was a way to help recover from the pandemic by putting money into education, by putting money into public services, to increase our public transit, to increase public programs like mental health programs, et cetera, et cetera, like that would impact that would have a marvelous impact on the economy and help us recover.

Lan (18:46):

But without Proposition 15, we’re going to have to find ways to generate that revenue. So just because Prop 15 did not pass, that doesn’t mean that, you know, we’re never going to have any money again, we’re all gonna, you know, have another great depression, but it just means we have to be more creative and keep working on generating revenue. And what that looks like is, you know, holding our elected officials accountable, making sure that they are instating bold and courageous leadership to find ways to generate new revenue, whether that looks like defunding the police and, and taking the money that would go to the police and putting that into our education or putting that into our public health system, or raising income taxes, you know, like Prop 15 was only for property taxes. And it was only for a certain property; it would only impact certain properties. And there were a lot of exclusions. Hence why Mark Zuckerberg played a very large role in funding our campaign was because Facebook would not be impacted. There were many, there are many other ways to generate revenue, like raising income taxes on billionaires, et cetera, et cetera. There are many ways to generate revenue that we need to explore. And I believe that Californians are ready for that. We showed that with the slim margin that we had for Prop 15. We had, as of today, I just checked today. We had about 17 million votes cast for prop 15. And we lost by a 600,000 vote margin. That is a very, very slim margin. And that shows that Californians are ready for change. Like people believed that prop 13, which was the proposition that Prop 15 was trying to reform, people believe that prop 13 was untouchable.

Lan (20:29):

It was seen as California’s like favorite proposition. It would never be changed. We were wasting our time and wasting money on this campaign, but we got really close. And I think that that’s a, that’s an accomplishment and that’s a celebration and that, yeah. And that’s a good sign that we’re ready. We were ready to go from here. We took, we spent a lot of time calling voters, you know, making this podcast sharing stories that show people what it looks like when budgets are not, you know, funded when, when public services are not funded. Oftentimes that seems really abstract to people. This idea of like budgets just mean that supervisors get paid more. I think that we did a really fantastic job of changing that narrative and showing that when communities don’t have revenue, these are the people who suffer. And this is why we have to change that. And that work that we did, didn’t just go away because we didn’t win this proposition. We built a foundation that will allow us to have future victories and make these changes to generate revenue and close these inequities for our communities..

Raymond (21:32):

And hopefully we’ll change their minds and hearts to be able to say, now I understand the importance of public funding. And again, it’s continuing education and moving in this direction of having commercial properties or big businesses pay their fair share. And who knows like folks who we’re seeing now a lot of more people of color participating in their public service, running for office. And those folks can really make an impact on our communities in our state communities, in our local communities. And let’s hope that the work continues. I know for me, it’s continuing to listen and to produce stories and, and hopefully convince some people, but also holding myself accountable and making sure that I pay attention to stuff that are happening around my immediate area area and seeing if there’s ballot initiatives that are going to help communities of color and marginalized communities. For me, it definitely showed. And from the numbers that you shared, the power of network and the power of community is real. It may not have gotten us over the hump for now, but I think it’s a momentum that is really building for the future.

Lan (22:48):

And that momentum will very much be needed. What we’re seeing right now, we’re recording this in November. So the pandemic is spiking once again, with cases with deaths and, you know, we’re entering a very scary and a very dark time and we’re gonna need to recover from that. So there’s going to be a lot of battles that we have to fight to make sure that folks have food to eat, to make sure that they have money for rent and make sure that they have employment to make sure that small businesses don’t go out of business. So there’s, there’s a lot to be done. And I want to thank everyone for being a part of this movement. Like thank you to everyone who has shared your story on this podcast. Thank you to everyone who has listened to this story and shared our work on social media. Thank you that everyone who volunteered for us and phone banked and thank you to just like the random people who answered the phone and said, “This is a cool proposition,I’ll totally vote yes.” I believe that you know we have challenges ahead of us, but I believe in the power of California. And I believe that Californians know how to look out for each other and that, you know, in the future, we’re going to, we’re going to take care of each other and we’re going to be okay.

Raymond (23:58):

Lovely. I will, let’s end it on that happy note. And that hopeful message that you shared with us again, thank you, Lan for all the work that you do and giving me an opportunity to connect with the community. And I really want to thank you and your organization on behalf of Project by Project San Francisco. I think you’ve educated a lot of our members and they, you know, the conversations that we’ve had have been really proud of the work that we’ve done, not the result that we wanted, but again, it does not invalidate the work. I think initially in the, in the first joint call that we had, I was a little bit more visceral and I was like, there’s no moral victories. I was a little bit still saddened by it. But after, after having some time to reflect, I was like, okay, I shouldn’t, I shouldn’t discount all the stuff, all the good things that has happened. So thank you again, Lan. So if folks listening on this episode want to stay connected and follow the work that we’re doing, you can follow us on Instagram. That’s @pbpsf we also have an LA and New York chapter, and you can also find us on Facebook. That’s and Lan please share how people can stay connected with AAPI FORCE.

Lan (25:14):

Yes. Check us out on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @aapiforceef. That is our handle across all social media outlets. And our website is

Raymond (25:31):

Awesome. Thank you everyone.


Reclaiming the California Dream – Episode 7: Envisioning a Better Future

Reclaiming the California Dream

Episode 7 - Envisioning a Better Future

Reclaiming the California Dream is a limited podcast series featuring amazing stories from deeply rooted California community members and what their community means to them. By working together to pass the Schools and Communities First Act, we can sustain our culture, provide stability for our families and build a future where all Californians have access to quality health care and education we deserve.

Reclaiming the California Dream is brought to you by AAPIs for Civic Empowerment Education Fund ( and Project by Project San Francisco (

Produced by Raymond Luu. 


Episode 7:

Joanna, a junior at Lowell High School in San Francisco, and Sarah, an incoming Freshman at Cal Poly SLO, talk about the need to invest in our youth by funding safe-place services. They also advocate for equal access to resources, better teacher salaries, and racial justice curriculum. 


Raymond (00:10):

Hey everyone. Welcome to our limited podcast series, Reclaiming the California Dream. We will be hearing stories from some amazing individuals and how much their community means to them. The Schools and Communities First Act, also known as Proposition 15, will restore $12 billion a year in funding for our roads, parks and libraries, health clinics and trauma centers, local schools and colleges. By working together to pass the Schools and Communities First Act, we can sustain our culture, find stability for our families, and build a future where all Californians have access to quality healthcare and the education we deserve. In our final episode, Angela talks with Joanna and Sarah. Joanna is a junior at Lowell High School in San Francisco, and Sarah is an incoming freshman at Cal Poly SLO. They talk about how investing in our youth will breed the next generation of leaders, why they are advocating for better teacher salaries and racial justice curriculum, and most importantly, the magic of libraries. Enjoy.

Angela (01:13):

Why don’t we start with introductions. Say your name, what school or schools you’ve gone to and go to, your grade, where you live, and however else you want to identify.

Sarah (01:27):

Alright who wants to go first? Okay, I guess I’ll go first. So my name is Sarah, my pronouns are she/her/hers, and I’m a graduate of Burton High School, and I’m currently an incoming freshmen for Cal Poly SLO. And wait, what else?

Angela (01:44):

Where do you live and how do you identify?

Sarah (01:48):

So I was born and raised in the Bayview community of San Francisco and I identify as an Asian American.

Joanna (01:56):

Hi, my name is Joanna and I almost said incoming, but I’m no longer incoming. I’m a junior at Lowell High School. I am in the 11th—that’s what a junior is anyways. I’m like trying to go through the—oh my pronouns are she/her/hers. And I live in D11 in San Francisco.

Angela (02:17):

Cool. And how did y’all meet? How did we three meet? Let the people know.

Sarah (02:22):

So it was back in the summer—so it was back in summer during this program called Aamplify where it was about Asian American advocacy and also for like civic engagement. And that’s where I met my mentor, Angela and also another peer and friend Joanna.

Angela (02:40):


Sarah (02:42):

Go ahead.

Joanna (02:43):

Do you want me to go? I don’t think there’s much to elaborate on there. (laughter) She hit the nail on the head.

Angela (02:50):

Nice job, Sarah. Okay, so we’re talking today about Prop 15, Schools and Communities First initiative. And so I wanted to ask you about some of your early memories growing up in this city. What do you remember about your neighborhood or your community, however you wanna identify your community, and what are some resources that you accessed that helped you during your early years, or helped your family growing up?

Joanna (03:19):

Well, I think one big thing about growing up in San Francisco is access to libraries. Especially me being in D11 I have access to multiple libraries around my house. So I’ve always felt really privileged because of that. Ever since I was really little, I want to say maybe two or three years old, my mom signed me up for a library card, and I would always like every year sign up for the summer reading program at the libraries. That was like a huge memory. It is a huge memory in my childhood, right? Like every year, reading 20 something hours. Additionally, I think growing up in D11, but going to school in the Sunset District made my experience really different because I didn’t experience school in D11 so I can’t really vouch for that. But going to school in the Sunset District, most of my peers being Asian American or white, and then going to middle school also in the Sunset District, and then being hit in high school with people from all over the city was really like a culture shock for me. Cause I didn’t realize that, you know, people growing up in different places in the city had different experiences and different access to resources like libraries, for example, or even just like leadership opportunities, things like Aamplify, right. I’ve noticed that when I applied to these things, a lot of applicants that are a lot like me, they come from the big three schools, either Lowell, Lincoln, or Washington. And we don’t see a lot of underrepresented schools, like for example, John O’Connell or Thurgood or even Burton. But yeah, that’s kind of what my takeaway from growing up in San Francisco has been.

Angela (05:02):

Joanna. Can you describe D11 in case some folks don’t know, like aren’t familiar with the area?

Joanna (05:07):

Yeah, for sure. D11—and I’m trying not to get this wrong—but kind of stretches from, I want to say City College all the way up to like Missions Street area. And facts about D11, it has the highest immigrant population in San Francisco. It’s, it’s a very interesting part of the city. And I don’t think any other place in the city is like that it’s really unique.

Angela (05:31):

I didn’t know that it had the highest immigrant population. Yeah, that’s really interesting. And I also have so many hours of fond memories at libraries, like the library was my child’s care growing up.

Joanna (05:43):

Absolutely, I agree with that. 100%.

Angela (05:47):

Cause I didn’t grow up in the city. I grew up in the peninsula and so like taking the bus wasn’t as easy of a thing to do. Cause everything is just more spread out. And so when I’d be like after school waiting to get a ride home, you just go to the library and like chill and mess around with my friends and also do homework and also get like tons of young adult books. Sarah, what about you? What are some early memories about your neighborhood or community? However you want to define it, and what are some resources that you or your family used.

Sarah (06:16):

For me growing up in Bayview, it’s kind of like, it almost stretches into Hunters Point, but not really. You can consider it one of the most impoverished areas of San Francisco, but like I just have to say because like, what it allowed for was like this very close knitted community for like underrepresented people to like basically have a place to empower themselves because we have things like a community garden and I didn’t even know about it until like I actually had to go there for a field trip. So that was like really like eye opening to me. And what’s even more fascinating was the fact that it was just so close to my house. But I never even realized that I had access to a place like that. So it was just like really nice to see and appreciate that it had to exist for the community there and just like Joanna, libraries are also like a necessary good that I didn’t utilize because I don’t like reading a lot, but if I do, it has to be that like it’s graphic novels and stuff. But definitely like the Summer Reading programs, like I’ll take advantage of the fact that there’s like always a lot of books that I could be using to like educate myself on stuff.

Angela (07:33):

Yeah, it seems like the library is like a big source of support across the board. So you both—well Sarah graduated high school during shelter in place and had to do remote learning, now is going into college with remote learning. And then Joanna is also restarting remote learning in high school. How has that experience been? How has school for you changed during the pandemic with things having to move online?

Sarah (08:01):

So for my school specifically, like I’ve been in contact with like staff and like students that would basically necessitate the need for having a digital access for everybody because you know, it’s going to be online learning. And there’s no way they’re going to like, you know, impose the thought of physical school because like it’s just irresponsible. So for me, like having to go through online school prior to graduation was like in a sense like me being left carefree because I was going to end up graduating regardless of how I finished my education. But then like now moving on into college, I realized that it plays a bigger role in that you need to like have the facilities to like be able to teach yourself because online school isn’t going to be like the most accessible for everybody.

Angela (08:51):

Joanna, did you want to add anything about your experience.

Joanna (08:54):

For our school in particular, towards the end of the school year last year, no one really knew what to do. And like you couldn’t really blame teachers for not knowing what to put out there and how to teach. And everyone was just in this state of like adaptation, but since then, it’s, I’d say it’s gotten better in some ways. I know students are still complaining based on the schedule or you know, certain learning activities and things like that. But overall I think they’ve definitely improved. I do know that shelter in place has been particularly tumultuous for my school community because a lot of issues came up during shelter in place that, you know, our administration needs to address and things like that. But it’s just, in some ways it’s bringing us closer, in some ways it’s pushed us further apart. And I think that plays a huge role in how we go about online learning as well.

Angela (09:48):

Yeah. In light of all that transition and that there’s a lot of like heavy things that students are dealing with in and out of school. And then they’re having to access school in a completely different way. And like a lot of people weren’t like set up to switch to all online school or weren’t prepared for it. What would the impact be of more resources for school to improve a school experience, like both during the pandemic. And then if you wanted to add things that you’ve noticed that would have been helpful, like prior to the pandemic even.

Sarah (10:20):

I definitely think that like teachers are like undercut during like this time, especially because like, you know, prior to even like physically dealing with students, they now have to think about like how all the students are going to interact with their digital activities and what they need to facilitate in order to have like a learning environment for students in the first place. So I definitely think that like with student advocacy, like there’s like a whole need for change and if not reform, for like everything that the students like need to like facilitate a good space to be learning in.

Angela (10:54):

Yeah. Sarah, do you think that like specific things for teachers would help? Are you thinking like better pay for teachers or are there like services that would help teachers like help you have a better experience?

Sarah (11:08):

Just like giving a lot of people who work in the school institution, like a good break from how much they have to deal with, like in and outside of the administration. And also having to constantly think about how students will like react to what their changes are and facilities. Being able to provide like a safe space for everybody’s going to be like especially difficult in an online era. Definitely teacher salaries are undisputably like among like the top priorities.

Angela (11:39):

Joanna, how about for you? What resources do you think would be helpful either during the pandemic or outside of the pandemic?

Joanna (11:47):

I agree with Sarah, teacher pay. Like if anything, all the parents that are like homeschooling right now can definitely agree that teachers are wizards. They’re amazing at what they do. And they deserve to be paid more. If we get more funding for the school system, spending more money on digital learning libraries, devices, you know, databases, things like that might help students out a little bit more in content wise. Also just making sure that every student gets a laptop or a wifi router of some sort, making sure that they have access to learn online. And then outside of the pandemic, I think, especially now with the movement for racial justice, making sure that teachers are adequately trained and they go through like equity training. If we have more funds, I’m sure that the district can spend more money in that department and make sure that that’s a thing that happens. What else? I mean, developing schools and their libraries too. Making sure that money—again, we’re bringing up the magic of libraries, but that’s really where the magic happens, right. You need to make sure that your students have access to educational resources like books and things. And making sure that every school in San Francisco gets a well-developed library. Or heck, even a well-developed yard for kids to play on. So school renovations, teacher salary, equity training, online databases, the whole shebang.

Angela (13:11):

Yes. I love that so much. And I’m also just curious, are people being provided like wifi hotspots and Chromebooks, if they don’t have computers to take to log onto class on, or if like their Internet’s not set up? Do you know what the situation is there?

Joanna (13:27):

You can request for technology.

Angela (13:31):

And have you heard that everyone’s been getting them?

Sarah (13:34):

So far as of my school, yes. But it’s also due on the students part to actually even ask for them.

Angela (13:42):

Joanna, you mentioned like teacher trainings on racial equity and how to, I think I was getting that it was like, you know, training on anti-racist teaching. And do you know, like, do teachers get anything right now in the district on that?

Joanna (13:56):

I know that there’s like writing that says that they should be getting it. I don’t know if they are getting it in this time of digital learning.

Angela (14:06):


Joanna (14:06):

I know the district has made it a priority of some sort or they’ve written it down somewhere.

Angela (14:13):

They’ve written it down. (Laughter)

Joanna (14:13):

That’s the best way to put it. I don’t remember if it’s a resume.

Angela (14:17):

No no no no, I’m not surprised if it’s literally like written down in an agenda of a meeting or something like that.

Sarah (14:21):

They just put it on a post and be like, forget this. (laughter)

Joanna (14:26):

There’s a student push for this for sure. I know some of my friends are pushing for it. There’s a bunch of people pushing for it. So I don’t think the district can just write it down an agenda, right. Leave it there. It’s going to be something that we’re going to keep knocking on their doors for.

Angela (14:43):

If you could close your eyes and envision your ideal community, where everyone has the resources they need to live and learn in a safe environment, what would that ideal community look like to you? Like what resources, services, cultural norms would people your age have, if they had all the resources they need to, you know, have the best learning environment.

Sarah (15:07):

I know I can only speak for myself in saying that for me, a socialist ideal to have everybody have equal access to resources and just provide an equitable playing field because you can’t have equality in this current period, but you can give everybody like something to like level themselves to like be like not advantageous over each other, but more just so like everybody is at the same start in a sense.

Angela (15:34):

What about you Joanna?

Joanna (15:36):

Yeah. I mean, it’s really hard to imagine because we’ve obviously never experienced this utopia, but in my experience at my school, which is—we have like a very extremely competitive culture and everyone is, you know, kind of fighting for these opportunities, trying to look out for themselves to make sure that they get ahead. But I feel like if everyone got equal access to these resources, there wouldn’t be so much competition or toxic competition. Competition is good. Just not the toxic kind of where you are backstabbing people, betraying people for this thing that you believe is going to set you so far ahead. Right. I also think that we would have a really, really enriched youth, like a next generation of amazing leaders, doctors, lawyers, artists, all these people, educators, right. And they grow up in this world where they don’t have to worry about paying for medical bills. They don’t have to worry about working to support their family while in school. Like I know I have friends that are working jobs to support their families, right. They don’t have to worry about being late to the Zoom meetings if that’s a thing in the future. And they can just play safely on streets and not have to worry about people coming in and doing bad things or dangerous objects in a playground or something like that. I think overall, obviously everyone would be much happier. It would overall be a much better world and one without a lot of worry and one with a huge and overwhelming sense of community.

Angela (17:11):

Your comments really make me think about if students had all the resources they need to live safely and learn safely, and have high-quality education. How do you think that would impact parents?

Sarah (17:24):

For me? I think it would relieve them of a lot of stress about having to dote on their child for doing well in their education when they’re having access to all those resources that would even help the parents themselves too. So I think like the parents would be really grateful to have that opportunity given to them.

Angela (17:43):

I completely agree. Anything you want to add Joanna?

Joanna (17:46):

It will relieve a lot of stress. I think, especially for parents of students that learn differently or have had trouble previously in school learning, having access to all the resources they need will definitely relieve a lot of stress.

Angela (18:01):

I want to ask you one more question and then I’ll ask if there’s anything else you wanted to add. But the golden question, if someone asked you why should they support Prop 15, what would you tell them? If you had to give them like a short 30 second spiel.

Joanna (18:16):

You should support Prop 15, I’m getting the number, right? Because people like him. My older brother that just walked in and my little cousins and everyone’s little cousins, little brothers, little siblings will be the leaders of the next generation. They’ll be taking care of you. They’ll be the ones leading and creating this world. And by voting yes, on Prop 15, you are ensuring that they have a quality education and they have the means to do so.

Angela (18:44):

Yeah, snaps! (Snaps) Love the cameo. Sarah, why should I support Prop 15? Why should I care?

Sarah (18:53):

You should be supporting Prop 15 because your tax money will finally go to something that, you know, people are finally fighting for, which is a quality equitable education that people deserve and not just something like—like school wouldn’t be just like a jail cell for children, basically.

Angela (19:10):

Nice. (laughter) That was Steve.

Joanna (19:13):

Hey bro.

Angela (19:15):

I know. Is there anything else that we didn’t talk about that you’d like to add?

Joanna (19:21):

I’ll hop in to further profess my love of libraries, if that’s going to help anyone vote yes on Prop 15. I mean, for those that don’t know, there’s this thing called The Mix at the main library downtown. And when I discovered it as a teenager, you know, who just figured out public transportation and realized that I could go downtown, it was like magic. It’s this like safe haven for teens where you can go in there and play video games. You can create art. They have like a bunch of art supplies and you can go crazy in there. And they, you know, they offer lunches for students that need it. They offer like fresh fruit and things like that. And just a place to just be a kid and just have fun and do whatever you want to explore what you like. I think that if we can get another place like The Mix on maybe this end of town, it will create yet another safe haven for all the youth on this side of town that maybe cannot go and make the commute all the way downtown to experience that.

Angela (20:21):

I’m going to send that directly to SF Library, public library and the board of supervisors. Is there anything you wanted to add?

Sarah (20:30):

For me, I know this might sound like a little bit harsh and radicalized, but just like policing that occurs within like high schools is in a sense so alarming because like, you know, you have like actual adults having to go after kids like literal children in schools. So it was just like in a sense messed up for me at least to like have other people witness that, especially like other children, like you become so easily desensitized to something like policing schools. So I think they’re also like what Joanna said. Like there needs to be like diversity, like inclusion and also like reform on how policies will affect the underlying communities and schools.

Angela (21:18):

Mm. Now also sending that directly to the mayor and the board of supervisors.

Joanna (21:22):

That was great. And I’m going to further go down that train. Like we talked about the school-to-prison pipeline in Aamplify. I think that we can make sure we have restorative justice training and also restorative justice, like peer circles at every school and really developing that area to make sure that students stay out of trouble and they, they heal, you know, like people that, you know, go out and get punished. They shouldn’t really get punished because they’re children, they should go through reformative justice and sit around and talk and heal and actually get to the root of the issues instead of throwing them in detention, throwing them later on in jail, things like that.

Sarah (22:09):

Yeah, definitely. And just like adding onto that too, like putting in that money to like, have more like better resources, even in like their wellness centers that schools have, or like just even implementing like a wellness center in the schools that don’t have it. Because like students at that time in Asia are going to be like put into like a lot of stress, just thinking about not their academic spots or their parents livelihood and their family life and just like the future that would affect them, which is ultimately college and also having your [indiscernible] to be able to deal with that.

Angela (22:41):

Well, thank you so much. I don’t have any more questions, but thanks so much for all of your responses and sharing some of your experiences and being willing to allow others to listen to them. Thank you both for your incredible advocacy and for your honesty. So thank you.

Raymond (22:59):

Reclaiming the California Dream is brought to you by AAPIs for Civic Empowerment Education Fund and Project by Project San Francisco. If you’d like to learn more about us, visit our website at and Thanks for listening. Ad paid for by Chinese Progressive Association, Nonprofit 501(c)3. Committee major funding by Chinese Progressive Association, the San Francisco Foundation.


Join Our Movement

Join Our Movement

What's at stake:

With this election, our lives, health, and rights to determine our future are on the line. 

Will you do your part and join us in mobilizing voters for what may be the most important election of our generation?

Here are THREE ways you can get involved:

1. Attend our Voter Forum

A vertical flyer featuring an image of a group of youth holding up signs that promote voting, superimposed on an orange gradient background. Text reads: “CA AAPI Progressives’ Voter Forum. Tuesday September 9th, 5:30-7:30pm. With this election, our lives, health, and rights to determine our future are on the line. Join our coalition of progressive AAPI organizations to discuss how civic engagement strategy can complement grassroots organizing and learn about the racial and economic justice initiatives that are on the California ballot this year.” Image includes organizational logos of Khmer Girls in Action, Chinese Progressive Association, Filipino Advocates for Justice, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, AAPIs for Civic Empowerment Education Fund, API Equality-LA, Empowering Pacific Islander Communities, Pilipino WOrkers Center, South Bay Youth Change Makers

This November, we have the chance to win some major structural and systemic changes through electoral work. As we’re living through a global pandemic, our communities are facing unsafe working conditions as essential workers, the threat of eviction, food insecurity, and so much more. We must vote to shape our future.

We’re teaming up with progressive AAPI organizations across the state to discuss how civic engagement strategy can complement grassroots organizing and to learn about the racial and economic justice initiatives that are on the California ballot this year. Some of the propositions on the ballot this year are historic opportunities to transform our state, built upon battles that our groups have been fighting for decades!

Tune in on Tuesday, September 29th, 5:30-7:30pm to learn more about these statewide initiatives, discuss local city + county initiatives in localized breakout rooms, and get plugged into opportunities to help our AAPI communities get out the vote!


2. Write postcards to infrequent AAPI voters

postcard that says "from: volunteer, to: infrequent AAPI Voter". Yellow banner reads: "Sign up to write postcards to infrequent AAPI voters!".

In November 2018, 36% of registered voters in California did not cast a vote. Every election, millions of registered voters opt out of the election for a variety of reasons. Although who or what you vote for is confidential, WHETHER OR NOT you vote is public record. We need YOUR help to contact registered voters who haven’t voted in a while and share why their vote matters.


Sign up to write to infrequent voters, and we’ll give you:

  • A list of registered voters who haven’t voted and their contact information
  • An invitation to a training and collective writing session to build community with other volunteers on October 5th, 6-7pm PST.
  • Postcards and envelopes to mail to your recipients (you’ll need to purchase your own stamps)
  • A few extra postcards with original artwork for you to keep for yourself or send to your loved ones
  • A chance to inspire voters!


Special thanks to Amplifier for providing the artwork featured on the postcards!

3. Call AAPI voters

Out of all the racial groups, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are the LEAST LIKELY to be contacted about elections. Will you do your part in helping us change that?

We’re calling voters to educate them on Prop 15 (Schools and Communities First), a historic ballot initiative that will restore $12 billion to our schools and community programs by closing corporate property tax loopholes.

Join us and make calls to shape our future!

Podcast: Reclaiming the California Dream

Podcast: Reclaiming the California dream


Reclaiming the California Dream is a limited podcast series featuring amazing stories from deeply rooted California community members and what their community means to them. By working together to pass the Schools and Communities First Act, we can sustain our culture, provide stability for our families and build a future where all Californians have access to quality health care and education we deserve.

Reclaiming the California Dream is brought to you by AAPIs for Civic Empowerment Education Fund ( and Project by Project San Francisco (

Produced by Raymond Luu. 

Listen to the podcast trailer:


To stay up to date on our episode releases, follow Reclaiming the California Dream on Spotify here.

Reclaiming the California Dream – Episode 6: Mental Health Without Wealth

Reclaiming the California Dream

Episode 6 - Mental Health Without Wealth

Reclaiming the California Dream is a limited podcast series featuring amazing stories from deeply rooted California community members and what their community means to them. By working together to pass the Schools and Communities First Act, we can sustain our culture, provide stability for our families and build a future where all Californians have access to quality health care and education we deserve.

Reclaiming the California Dream is brought to you by AAPIs for Civic Empowerment Education Fund ( and Project by Project San Francisco (

Produced by Raymond Luu. 



Episode 5:

Sherwin Shabdar, a mental health researcher and a current medical student, discusses disparities in the mental health and medical field, and envisions a better future.


Raymond (00:09):

Hi, everyone. Welcome to our limited podcast series, Reclaiming the California Dream. We’ll be hearing stories from some amazing individuals, and how much their community means to them. The Schools and Communities First Act, also known as Proposition 15, will restore $12 billion a year in funding for our roads, parks, and libraries; health clinics and trauma centers; local schools and colleges. By working together to pass the Schools and Communities First Act, we can sustain our culture, find stability for our families, and build a future where all Californians have access to quality healthcare and the education we deserve. Today, I’ll be talking with Huanvy who sat down with a medical student, who shares some of the issues they faced based on the research that they’ve done. Enjoy.

Raymond (01:03):

Just gonna record… You might get a message on your end saying (in high-pitched voice) “You’re being recorded!” Hey Huanvy. So thanks for taking this call with me today. So you spoke with medical student Sherwin and they definitely gave a unique perspective when it comes to health services and its relation to the community. So could you just start with just your relationship with Sherwin?

Huanvy (01:27):

So Sherwin is my partner, so it was pretty convenient when for my internship they wanted a podcast with someone who worked in the healthcare industry.

Huanvy (01:39):

So I guess just to start off, can you introduce yourself with like name, pronouns if you want, and the work that you’ve done in the past in the general field of healthcare, and what you’re up to now?

Sherwin (01:55):

Hi, my name is Sherwin. My pronouns are they/them. I’m 24 years old and in undergrad did some mental health advocacy and like the undergrads here doing you know, campus events, things like that. And then after undergrad, I got a job for a couple of years doing schizophrenia research at Stanford with Dr. Jong Yoon, great guy, great medical school. So to say what we were doing we were looking at the mechanism of schizophrenia because although it’s a really debilitating, widespread mental illness, it’s responsible for something like 1-2% of—up to like 10% of hospital bedtime, despite being like 1-2% of the population at most. But we have no idea what causes it. And so our research was trying to figure out what does cause it, there could be like eight or nine different, good theories that seem plausible about what causes schizophrenia and our lab was looking into two of them. And my research focused on one of them.

Huanvy (02:47):

Can you also share a bit about your experience with mental health advocacy too?

Sherwin (02:55):

Yeah. The primary goal of the organization I worked with—this was at Pomona College in SoCal. It was called Mental Health Alliance, its original name when it was founded 10 years before I got there, it was just called We Should Talk About This. Because at the time, that was the problem was that no one was talking about mental health, and so the organization, our primary thing is we put on events. Our big one was called Student Speak where we have a panel of five students from different walks of life, different backgrounds, different races, ethnicities, gender, and sexualities, and so on. And they just tell their story in 10 minutes or so to tell the story of mental health and mental illness. And then eventually people would take questions, but we both saw it as a platform for people to like really share their story and own it. And also as a way to build awareness and community that, you know, someone who like is a good friend of yours, just someone you may not even know that well, but you see around, maybe have dealt with psychosis or dealt with, you know, something really difficult and they’re human. They’re just like you, they’re not someone who should be stigmatizing or looking down upon. And I really enjoyed those. Our other thing was advocating to the administration for changes to support students’ mental health, things like modifying hospitalization policies or improving resources at the school. That was harder and definitely less successful there because we’ve got a lot of administrative pushback. If we didn’t get all of the changes we made that we wanted, we at least, I think, inspired the next generation of students to keep up the fight and hopefully succeed where we failed.

Raymond (04:18):

So Huanvy, Sherwin talks about folks nowadays having a platform to share their stories about mental health. We often think about awareness being the prerequisite or precursor to change. And it seems like a lot of Sherwin’s work so far has brought about a lot of awareness, yet they mentioned that when it comes to hard-coded structural change, that’s when it seems to get exponentially harder.

Huanvy (04:45):

It’s a lot easier to talk about things and just to like raise awareness and then when it comes to actually implementing policy or like fighting for really tangible change, that’s when it gets really hard because you get a lot of that institutional pushback. And it’s because like actually implementing change requires things like funding and all the stakeholders to agree on like all the policy decisions. So I think I’m very lucky where I’ve been able to hear a lot about Sherwin’s experience with activism and mental health advocacy in undergrad.

Sherwin (05:20):

So college mental health is a really interesting thing because my observation of it was that a lot of college students have just made it to college by clamping down on whatever is going on with them. With that like “I just got to get to college, just got to get to college.” So just like pushing down whatever, like depression or anxiety, or like darker things that are troubling them. And they arrived at college and suddenly like you lose all of your, most of your support networks, you have to make new friends, your parents aren’t around. If that was a positive or a negative thing, everything in your life that told you this is who I am is pretty much gone. And it’s a time for a lot of reinvention and growth, but it’s also a time when there’s a lot of risk for mental health and mental illness, especially with things like college being difficult and it can be induced depression, lots of deadlines can induce anxiety, et cetera, et cetera. Dining halls are a fun trigger for eating disorders and so on and so forth.

Huanvy (06:13):

And I think that a lot of the times too, teenagers get dismissed when they’re trying to tell their parents or tell authority figures in their life about mental illness. I remember struggling a lot with depression since I was, I think middle school was when it started really becoming an issue for me. And I remember trying to tell my parents that, you know, there’s something going on and like, I literally feel like I don’t want to be alive. Can you share about what drew you to this field of healthcare?

Sherwin (06:48):

Yeah, this is difficult because part of the things that drew me to mental health, I didn’t know until a good like four years after the fact, but the main thing is my father and my mother both are immigrants to the United States. They both immigrated in like the late seventies after the revolution in Iran and the trauma of that immigration impacted them both in really deep and difficult ways. My father suffers from PTSD and my mother is also grappling with the trauma and the difficulty of being cut off from her family, thrust into a new country and trying to survive. And so I very much grew up in the shadow and being effected by mental illnesses, and their struggles and likewise other people close to me like my brother, at times myself, I’ve struggled with depression, have dealt with, you know, these difficult patterns of thought. And especially in early college, one really close friend of mine who I got to know pretty well for our first three months was like dealing with something that I didn’t fully know. And they eventually disclosed to me that they were had a pretty severe eating disorder. And we became really close. But I just like really wanted, they were a dear friend, I wanted them to live in a world and go to a school that was a good and a safe place for them and not a place that was harming them. And you know, the roommate was talking to them and so on and so forth. And yeah, and I saw how even little changes like they got a dog and that was the first emotional support animal on campus. And it really did have a huge effect on their mental health, even little changes like that really spirit, a huge change in quality of life. And I just thought like, this is what I would want to do. I wanted to help people to share their stories and help people understand themselves. I want to help them get access to resources and like put a very short—people who are harmed the most by societal systems have one of the least access to mental healthcare to alleviate the harm of the systems. And that to me is enormous injustice and something that I wanted to work to alleviate.

Huanvy (08:43):

Yeah. I think I would love to hear you talk more about that, about like these injustices that you see in the medical field, the ways that you’ve seen the system fail people, especially people of marginalized identities, coming from marginalized communities and like ways that you would like to see this field improve.

Sherwin (09:04):

Yeah. A few things come to mind. One was from college and one was from my work experience. So in college I had a friend who, they were the first in their family to go to college and they were, they were Latinx, most all of the therapists we had available were white therapists. You could go into town and find a therapist that cost a lot of money and your parents would see your insurance building. So a lot of students who couldn’t afford otherwise would go to the school therapists. And the issue people kept running into, including my friend was that a lot of mental health symptoms manifest differently by culture. I don’t want to go too much into my friends, like specific symptoms just for privacy sake, but basically they were dealing with a very, you know, common readily diagnosable mental illness. But the problem was that the particular manifestation of it was deeply tied to their cultural experience. And so the intrusive thoughts, they were getting to not match up with what the therapist was looking for. And so the therapist was just like, “Oh, you’re just, you know, you’re just having a bad time, but this isn’t a mental illness when it very much was.

Sherwin (10:03):

Second experience was, so there is a person who we’re working with relatively young, and their mother was an immigrant to the States in our schizophrenia study. And they participated in the study. They were a good participant. We were having to work with them, but they also asked for our help, they were making a little bit too much to qualify for Medicaid, but they weren’t making enough money to afford good healthcare because schizophrenia requires often very expensive drugs. And so they asked us for help and they ended up, you know, my boss was like, yeah, go for it. I spent some time researching, calling around trying to find, you know, a treatment option that was accessible to them. What I got was just like, every psychiatrist is full. There are like, no one is really free. There’s a county line that can get you to a psychiatrist, but it’s understaffed and difficult to reach. And so it was frustrating that after all this time and research, the best I could say was like, here’s the phone number that you’ve probably already called for the county hospital. They don’t have enough psychiatrists. They don’t have enough social workers. Here’s a phone number, I hope it helps. But that was the reality of it.

Sherwin (11:04):

It was schizophrenia, you know, it’s just, it’s a very difficult condition. It’s very hard to take care of yourself living with schizophrenia. I know people who have done it. We had patients who did, were living good, well adjusted lives, but to get there almost always, you need really strong support. You need a sibling or a parent or a friend who’s going to be really there for you. We had stories of patients who were out on the streets for months at a time, and their parents found them, you know, unable to take care of themselves and able to feed themselves properly.

Sherwin (11:36):

We had stories of friends doing the same thing. It’s just like, if it wasn’t there I’d always wonder what would have happened to this person. There was no other social safety net. The county is already overstretched. They don’t have the money. They don’t have the funding to really take care of these folks who really, really need that care. In the first case, an immigrant mother who doesn’t know the U.S. healthcare system very well. In other cases, low-income folks who can’t afford medications or can’t afford good health insurance are the ones who are harmed the most by schizophrenia. And I think the same is true of most other severe mental illnesses, and even like non-severe mental illnesses. It was something that really, really impacted me. And I really just felt was a deep injustice of it. And we did our best to help. You know, we’re, we’re a small lab. We don’t have a lot of funding. We still tried to get people to resources.

Raymond (12:19):

Huanvy, what was your reaction when you heard about the case of the immigrant mother?

Huanvy (12:22):

It was so heartbreaking because there was literally like this group of medical researchers at Sherwin’s lab, trying to find resources like, you know, people who know the right words to look up and know the right resources to turn to. And they still couldn’t find accessible healthcare for this person.

Sherwin (12:42):

In research, maybe the tragedy of it is like, if you discover a really cool drug, you discover a really powerful treatment or, you know, a new way of thinking about the thing. You really, really need to hope it’s cheap because if it’s 300, 400, 500 dollars a treatment and they need a treatment every month, most people with schizophrenia, unless they have like very rich family members that are willing to pay for this, the reality is they can’t afford that. Most people with schizophrenia have difficulty maintaining an income, have difficulty like attaining employment until they’re stable, and to be stable, you need medication and you see the problem here alright, I’m sure. You don’t need medication, but it definitely helps. And more than just medication, having access to a psychiatrist who will work with you, we’ll try different medications, we’ll modify your doses. And that requires good healthcare. And so it’s this awful little trap of who gets harmed the most by schizophrenia.

Huanvy (13:34):

Yeah, definitely. What, like what do you see as the biggest needs of like the healthcare industry? Like especially the mental healthcare industry, and what would it mean to have those needs be met? Like what would that world look like?

Sherwin (13:53):

Yeah. I (laughs) am going to go with the regular answer and then I’m going to go into a somewhat spicier answer. So the regular answer is like with mental healthcare, especially on a societal level, we really need to stop criminalizing and harming and start caring about people who are suffering from mental illness. Cause right now, if you have schizophrenia, oftentimes, unless you’re very lucky your best hope of getting like a good warm place to sleep is to be thrown into jail. And the police are horrifically under equipped. They’re just not the right sort of people you want dealing with some of the severe mental illness, their tools are gun and nothing else. And what you’d really want to see is some kind of dedicated mental health first responder program. An example, when I was living at my house in the Bay, you know, it’s the San Francisco Bay, it’s one of the most resourced wealthy places in the country.

Sherwin (14:46):

And I was living in my house and outside my house, there was someone who was clearly having a mental health crisis. They were screaming, they were loud, they were clearly distressed. And we’re like, what do we do? Well, if you call the cops, that’ll make things worse. If we could—and our only other option, this is the best we had was a suicide hotline because that’s the only mental health resource easily accessible we could get. And that is not what someone like that needed. What they needed was the equivalent of a firefighter. You want to train first responders, someone who’s got a toolkit. Someone who has done this a lot. Someone who is employed by the city, who comes to them, who knows how to deal with these situations, calms them down, you know, helps them find a quiet place, you know, checks in with medications, checks if they’re dehydrated, see what things are exacerbating their condition, finds family members or loved ones who can help take care of them and resolves that situation.

Sherwin (15:35):

And you want it to be as easy as calling 911 saying, “911 What’s your emergency?” There’s someone having a psychiatric crisis, can you send someone to help right away?

Raymond (15:42):

So there’s definitely been a lot of talks across the country about police not being the best at handling every situation, especially when it comes to those who may be having an episode in public or some sort. So, you know, let’s say that there is a mental health first responder hotline. Wouldn’t that put the onus on the general public though, to be able to assess and call correctly the 311 number, let’s say if it was 311. Cause you know, I guess my concern would be that there would be mistakenly called 311 calls when maybe the person having an episode doesn’t want to be helped.

Huanvy (16:22):

I think that’s definitely a possibility and I think that’s something that would happen. But I think the difference is that, you know, these people don’t have guns on them. They’re not like trigger happy, like they’re not on like trigger happy power trips. Ideally these first responders would be trained in deescalation tactics because like deescalation is significantly more effective than a gun. And the consequences of mistakenly calling 311 on someone are significantly lower than mistakenly calling the cops on someone I think. And I think that’s the key difference.

Sherwin (16:57):

I think a shift in the attitude towards mental health care, from a stigma, from a harm-based thing to more trust and more care put in these patients. I was listening to a psychiatrist doc, about why they do their job and what they do. And they say a psychiatrist job is to go into a room with someone experiencing mental health crisis and be present with them. That’s the most important thing you can do is be present with someone. You’ve listened to them when no one else has listened to them. You care for them when no one else is caring for them. Everything else, the medications, the treatments, the diagnoses, that’s all extra. And that I think is really impactful.

Sherwin (17:30):

And now for the broader U.S. healthcare system, this is a similar space that you take. The U.S. spends a lot of money on healthcare, which is not a secret to anybody in the U.S. healthcare system. Yet we cannot really treat people the way they need treatments. The first thing is just that a lot of people do not have consistent access to health insurance or preventative healthcare. And so they put off treating things until they get really bad. And then they have to go to the emergency department. They have to have difficult procedures, they have to have surgeries. And if you had a regular access to a primary care physician to say like, “Hey, you know, your blood pressure is a little high.” Maybe it would be good to, you know, change up your diet a bit or, you know, put you on a blood pressure medication or even just change your work life so that you’re not working somewhere that stresses you out all the time. That would be really effective instead of, you know, going hundreds of thousands of dollars into med debt on post heart attack. And you know, the easiest way to do this is just to make healthcare free or affordable. And their efforts to do that in California has Medi-Cal, which is lovely. There’s, you know, statewide Medicare and Medicaid, there’s proposals to dramatically expand or even universalize Medicare and Medicaid. And a lot of policy wonks who are much smarter than me have been talking about how to—am I allowed to endorse political candidates on this podcast? (laughing)

Huanvy (18:52):

You know, I’m not sure? You can say whatever you want.

Sherwin (18:55):

I’ll just say then that there’s a taskforce of the folks from the Bernie Sanders campaign and the Joe Biden campaign, who have been working on trying to create a universal healthcare proposal that is cost effective, that doesn’t cause dramatic shock and damage to people who are currently on insurance, but the transitions to the U.S. towards a single payer system, or at least a public option, such that everyone has access to quality affordable healthcare.

Sherwin (19:21):

And now for the second, slightly spicier take. Americans don’t know how to die. Most money we spend on healthcare is something like 50% of the money we’ll spend in a lifetime. That’s just, it could be wrong, it could be higher, honestly. It’s spent in the last year or last two years of life, it’s spent on treatments that do not have very high efficacy because family members don’t want to be the one who pulled the plug on their grandparents, where people are lunging for these miracle cures. They’re like, it’s got a 10% chance to save me. It’ll cost 300 hundred thousand dollars, screw it, let’s do it. And I think it’s in large part because doctors don’t know how to talk to their patients about death. Again, there are much better proposals here than I can really throw at you. And end of life care is a huge, huge, hot button issue in medical care right now in the industry. But one of these big things is just helping patients accept that they’re dying so that they don’t spend tons and tons of money and take up tons and tons of physician time and hospital time on these low efficacy treatments that will provide you with very little in the way of quality of life anyways,

Raymond (20:25):

You know, when I heard Sherwin’s spicy take of Americans not knowing how to die, I really couldn’t help but think about how it’s sort of ingrained in American culture to live as long as possible. Right?

Huanvy (20:39):

Yeah. And yeah, I think it’s like very much a cultural thing. Like the way we treat death is very final. You know, it’s like this person’s gone forever. And I can think of a lot, a lot of other cultures where there is a lot of beliefs that address that, whether it’s like reincarnation or an afterlife or something. I think that there’s definitely shifts that can be made like some combination of like a cultural shift and making preventative healthcare more accessible. And I think people would be more okay with dying. If they had more access to preventable health, to preventative healthcare throughout their life.

Sherwin (21:15):

The first proposal, the broader access to healthcare is the more important one. And, you know, please fund more psychiatry things. We need the money, but I think the second thing is important to, so I’m saying it,.

Huanvy (21:29):

Thanks for saying that. That is definitely spicy, and—

Sherwin (21:32):

I would say it’s not that spicy in the medical community. It’s just something that, isn’t something that is really easy. Like it’s hard to tell the general public that, “Hey, you suck at dying. Please get better at that.” Like that’s not, no one is campaigning on that message.

Huanvy (21:47):


Sherwin (21:47):

Americans are so scared of the concept of death. There is no way that’s happening.

Huanvy (21:52):

But thank you for sharing that. I think that is a very important point to make. You know, if you imagine, and you touched on this already, too with when you were giving the example of that experience with the person near your old house who was having the, like going through a mental health crisis. And like also just as a side note, like I remember that, and I remember being there, and this was especially at the peak of when everyone on social media was sharing resources to like things to do other than call 911 during a mental health crisis or like alternatives to police. And people were posting a lot of local resources and this was like at the height of that. And even with all of that research, I remember spending like at least 30 minutes to an hour, trying to find just a hotline we could call. And there was not a single hotline we could call that was both relevant to the situation and like appropriate for the situation, and also did not involve police. And you talked about like what the ideal situation would have happened there, if there was a dedicated emergency crisis, like mental health crisis team that could respond. And I’d love to just hear more expanded version of that. Like, you know, if we had all the funding and the resources that we needed, and we weren’t grappling with all of this scarcity, like what would an ideal world look like?

Sherwin (23:30):

So when I was at Stanford, we had some medical students or like psychiatrists, psychiatric trainees come through, some psychologist trainees. And one of them was talking about, this is an MD-PhD, brilliant woman. And she was talking about the state of mental healthcare in California prisons. And as I’m sure you can guess, it’s not good. They do not have nearly the amount of resources they need. The primary emphasis of push on them is to sedate people rather than to heal people. The goal of the prison is just make sure they’re not wilding out or causing disturbances other than how do we help this person get better. Prisons are also a terrible place for people’s mental health in general with all this isolation. There’s lack of freedom. There’s all these, you know, there’s all of the, it’s really just a pressure cooker for making a mental illness worse.

Sherwin (24:20):

It’s very, very difficult. And so if I had unlimited resources, I would want more dedicated psychiatrists. I mean, really, I would want to change the entire prison system and get rid of it and replace it with something that was more functional. But if we’re sticking to medium sized goals, more psychiatrists and psychologists and therapists who work with people who are incarcerated, who give them access to treatments, who give them access to socialization and give them access to things like, you know, acting or art or music or sports or things that they can make their lives a bit better, because these are things that are preventative against mental illness. And then second would be, and this would hopefully avoid so many people who are just, who are mentally ill getting thrown into prison in the first place, would be that kind of mental health field responder program, where you have a dedicated system to help people who due to mental illness or having difficulty in some aspect of life, whether they’re like houseless or whether they’re just really having a rough time and, or someone’s in psychiatric crisis.

Sherwin (25:18):

I, something that was actually kind of wild to me leaving the research world was just that most people don’t know how to deal with someone who is in psychiatric crisis at all. And I’m currently at the age, you know, 22 to 23, 24, when psychiatric crisis, psychotic breaks are really common among young folks. In the last year, I’ve had maybe three or four different people ask me like, “Hey, someone I know is having a psychiatric, a psychotic break, do you know what to do?” And I’d be like, I actually do, but that really, we shouldn’t be reliant on, you know, two years out of college research assistants do the reservoirs of that knowledge and the public. We should have dedicated resources, trained first responders whose primary work is dealing with these kinds of situations, because this kind of work and this kind of resource—putting money there helps with keeping people out of prisons. It helps with keeping people from being stuck in a cycle of houselessness, and it makes the community a better place to live where people know that when things are hard for you, there are people that are there to care for you. You’re not going to be pushed down. You’re not going to be hurt.

Raymond (26:25):

So Huanvy, I think I certainly understand the benefits of these services that you and Sherwin mentioned when it comes to having the resources and funding to provide it. However, I guess I’m wondering on the, “How” Part of it, like walk me through, on some of the changes that would need to be made.

Huanvy (26:43):

I think it’s like at every level, you know, it’s like you got to build the literal infrastructure, like the building of where the clinic’s going to be housed, and then you can hire more people. And with that, you can have more people working more hours, because without being like totally overstretched and with more capacity, it means more access. Maybe then people won’t have to wait seven months just to get a diagnosis.

Sherwin (27:10):

On a societal level. That’s such an important thing to be able to say, this is a community that cares after people who are hurting. This is a community that cares for people who are at their lowest points.

Huanvy (27:20):

Wow. I think that was a really beautiful way to like wrap this all up. And I don’t know, I’m like a little bit speechless at how well you put that.

Sherwin (27:31):

Aw, thank you so much. That’s very flattering.

Huanvy (27:31):

But I am in complete agreement with all of it. And also you are so incredibly well-spoken and probably more well-spoken than someone two years out of college should have to be about these issues.

Sherwin (27:46):

That’s very kind of you to say.

Huanvy (27:47):

Yeah. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. I’m gonna stop the recording now.

Raymond (27:54):

Reclaiming the California Dream is brought to you by AAPIs for Civic Empowerment Education Fund and Project by Project San Francisco. If you’d like to learn more about us, visit our website at and Thanks for listening. Ad paid for by Chinese Progressive Association, nonprofit 501(c)(3). Committee Major Funding by Chinese Progressive Association, San Francisco Foundation.