In 2017, a small group of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community leaders came together and planted the seed for our AAPI Creative Placemaking Learning Circle. In larger community development spaces, discussions were often generalized and did not address how strategies should be culturally-aligned and tailored for our neighborhood culture and residents.
Our hope was to create a space where we could talk about the unique context of our work, and find support in one another as practitioners of color. A few discussions later, and with support from a National Endowment for the Arts Our Town Award in 2019, the Learning Circle was officially launched. The Learning Circle has grown from just a handful of organizations to a collective of almost 20 community development and arts organizations that are committed to the equitable development and preservation of AAPI communities across the country.
AAPI community development organizations like ours have long practiced looking at our community through our physical and cultural treasures long before ‘creative placemaking’ was even a term. Our approaches engage arts and cultural traditions as vehicles for cultivating community cohesion, advocating for social change and policies, driving economic growth, and solving challenges in our AAPI places. We believe that our neighborhoods and our ‘places’ hold social, spiritual, cultural, political, and economic importance to our nation. Over the course of our work, our organizations have experienced significant challenges— commodification of culture, gentrification, and displacement—as well as realized tremendous opportunity—revitalizing traditional practices. We offer a unique perspective that is centered on AAPI people, our cultures, our histories, and hope for our future generations. We are creating a sense of belonging for our communities that have long been disenfranchised by institutionalized racism and colonization. Our vision, values, and practice articulate why and how we will sustain and grow our inclusive and equitable communities.
This online space is only one way in which we are coming together in community. We began our learning journey together in October 2019 in Hilo, Hawai’i, where we explored examples of cultural resilience. In March 2020, our Learning Circle came together again in San Francisco’s Chinatown to discuss neighborhood stabilization in response to threats of gentrification. A third convening is planned for Fall 2021 where we will learn from the economic development work led by our colleagues in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota.
The opportunity for learning together is limitless. If you are interested in joining us, or supporting our work as an ally, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The AAPI Creative Placemaking Learning Circle is an initiative of the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (CAPACD), developed in partnership with our members and funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, NeighborWorks America, and The Kresge Foundation. In-kind support was provided by Local Initiatives Support Corporation, PolicyLink and ArtPlace America.