AANHPI Learning Series Partner Post: Orange County Community Foundation

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The Orange County Community Foundation (OCCF) celebrates the rich diversity of our region’s Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander (AANHPI) community, deeply rooted in Orange County’s past and essential to the continued progress of our county.

Generations of immigrants have shaped Orange County from our earliest beginnings to our present standing as an international hub of entrepreneurship and innovation. Nearly 950,000 immigrants live in Orange County, making up almost one-third of our county’s population. Orange County’s immigrant communities come from every region of the world, and Asia accounts for the largest share at 45% of Orange County’s foreign-born population. The top five Asian countries of origin are Vietnam, China, Korea, the Philippines, and India. In fact, Orange County has the largest Vietnamese population outside of Vietnam.

In 2015, OCCF launched the OC Opportunity Initiative (OCOI) as a collaborative dedicated to ensuring that Orange County embraces the promise and potential of our immigrant communities to create a stronger future for our region. As part of a coalition of immigrant-serving organizations, OCOI partnered with Asian Pacific Islander (API) led and API serving nonprofits to provide outreach, education, and legal services to ensure Orange County’s API immigrants benefit from full participation in the economic and civic life of our community.

Our API nonprofit partners are advancing innovative cross-cultural and multi-racial work, building a coordinated infrastructure that both enhances their direct service capacity and provides a platform for collective action on shared goals. For example, VietRise and CHIRLA have been exploring the intersectional experiences of undocumented Vietnamese and Latinx communities in Orange County to analyze both the effects of anti-immigrant narratives and the opportunities for creating shared narratives around inclusion. VietRISE and NDLON conducted the Orange County Immigrant Rights Institute and a Bring Human Rights Home festival.

In these and other ways, our API partners are sparking cross-cultural discussions among nonprofits and funders on narrative change and the development of an inclusive advocacy agenda toward our collective vision of an Orange County where immigrant and refugee communities secure justice, solidarity, and a place of belonging in the socio-economic, cultural, political, and civic life of our region.

By supporting Orange County’s API communities, OCCF is working to ensure a vibrant and thriving region for all. To learn more about the broader AANHPI experience, and how to support organizations led by and serving the AANHPI community, please visit: https://www.ocgrantmakers.org/events/understanding-the-aapi-communities/

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Internship Reflection

By Avery Huffer As my time with the Orange County Grantmakers comes to a close, I’ve had the chance to really reflect on my experience

How do we build a compassionate and inclusive America in an age of distrust? WAJAHAT ALI knows from personal experience that when we come together to be the superheroes of our own stories, we can create honest social change. The beloved TED speaker has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and The Atlantic about our urgent issues—immigration, politics, parenthood—with boldness, hope, and humor. His memoir Go Back to Where You Came From, one of Amazon’s Best Books of the Year, follows his life as a Muslim Pakistani-American on a surprising, emotional, and challenging quest for the good life. Iconic journalist Katie Couric says that “we are all so fortunate to be on the receiving end of his intellect, his humanity, and his heart.”

Wajahat Ali

“With wit and charm, Ali delivers a masterful meditation on growing up brown in America...he gives us a clear-eyed affirmation of the country America could be.” — Mara Gay, New York Times

Wajahat Ali uses his platform to fight tirelessly for the social change we need in our country—and he isn’t afraid to get personal while doing it. The Daily Beast columnist and former New York Times writer, TED speaker, award-winning playwright, and Peabody-nominated producer of the documentary series The Secret Life of Muslims offers us his experiences of triumph over hardship as a beacon of hope and resilience in the face of life’s impossible situations. From his experiences of Islamophobia growing up as a Muslim Pakistani-American to his two-year-old daughter’s liver cancer diagnosis, Wajahat is living proof that when we share our authentic stories, we build the America we wish to live in.”

In his memoir Go Back to Where You Came From: And Other Helpful Recommendations on How to Become American, Wajahat teaches us how to create our own superhero origin story, invest in hope for the future of America, and enact real social change. The book was called “biting and funny and full of heart” by NPR. Representative Ilhan Omar called Wajahat’s work “hilarious” and “deeply moving”, and legendary writer Dave Eggers said it was the book he’d “been hoping Wajahat Ali would write for ten years—hilarious, stylistically fearless, deeply humane.”

Wajahat is also the author of The Domestic Crusaders—the first major play about Muslim-Americans in a post-9/11 world. He was the lead researcher and author for the Center for American Progress’s seminal report “Fear Inc., Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America,” and served as a national correspondent for Al Jazeera America, where he told stories about communities and individuals often marginalized or under-reported in mainstream media.

As Creative Director of Affinis Wajahat Labs, he worked to create social entrepreneurship initiatives to support and uplift marginalized communities. He also worked with the US State Department to design and implement the “Generation Change” leadership program to empower young social entrepreneurs. Wajahat initiated chapters in eight countries, including Pakistan and Singapore. For his work, he was honored as a “Generation Change Leader” by Sec. of State Clinton and recognized as an “Emerging Muslim American Artist” by the Muslim Public Affairs Council. 

He has given keynote speeches around the world such as TED, The Aspen Ideas Festival, Google, the United Nations, and The New Yorker Festival. His writing appears regularly in the New York TimesThe Atlantic, the Washington Post, and The Guardian. He’s a Senior Fellow at The Western States Center and Auburn Seminary and co-host of Al Jazeera’s The Stream.