Members of the education discussion group talk about issues pertaining to the AAPI communities during the Denver Asian Pacific American Commission town hall on March 18 at the Holme Roberts & Owen offices. (Joe Nguyen/AsiaXpress.com)
Language barriers, awareness concern local AAPI leaders
Denver Asian Pacific American Commission town hall gathers issues pertaining to AAPI communities
By Joe Nguyen, AsiaXpress.com
March 20, 2009
Chris Wanifuchi, left, and Lynda Sipanya participate in a discussion about health and mental health issues in the AAPI communities during the Denver Asian Pacific American Commission town hall on March 18 at the Holme Roberts & Owen offices.
DENVER – Language barriers and a lack of awareness about services were among the concerns brought up by local AAPI leaders during the Denver Asian Pacific American Commission town hall on March 18 at the Holme Roberts & Owen offices.
More than 70 community members gathered to discuss issues about education, health, immigration and economic development concerning the metro area’s AAPI communities. The purpose of the event was to collect information about these topics from leaders in these communities.
“They’re overarching issues to all our Asian-American communities,” DAPAC member Mary Lee Chin said. “Many in our community lack awareness and access to the services in each of these areas. They have to fight discrimination and stereotype to access those services.”
Language barriers, deficiency of cultural awareness and a lack of attention to school issues within homes and the community were topics brought up by the education discussion group.
With language, there were questions if there were enough services available to help with the multitude of dialects found within the AAPI communities. Along the same topic, a lack of awareness of these different cultures from educators concerned the group.
“We can identify major cultural ethnicities within the APA community, but there’s no awareness about where we came from, what our stories are, what the different segments of our communities look like and what our community might think about other communities,” DAPAC member Whei Wong said. “We’re all thrown together because we’re Asian.”
The group also expressed concern about the lack of support within homes and the community to target educational issues.
“We have this perception of the model minority and we don’t have any issues, especially in education, so we don’t really talk amongst ourselves to see if there are any issues,” Wong said.
DJ Ida, right, listens to a discussion about health and mental health issues in the AAPI communities during the Denver Asian Pacific American Commission town hall on March 18 at the Holme Roberts & Owen offices.
Making sure community members receive proper health care was at the top of a list of topics brought up by the health and mental health group.
“(There is a) stigma of getting proper health care and mental health care, especially mental health care within our community,” DAPAC member Fran Campbell said. “It’s cultural that there are certain things we don’t want to discuss with our doctors.”
The group raised questions about the struggles to garner support for issues pertaining to the AAPI community.
“The Asian population here in Colorado has too small of a voice,” Campbell said. “It’s hard to advocate for health and mental health issues in the Asian community.”
They also discussed care for the communities’ elderly population, substance abuse with AAPI youth and touched on the pros and cons of cultural folk remedies.
Language barriers and the pressure for immigrants to assimilate into American society were the concerns raised by the immigration and cultural advocacy group.
The children of immigrants often become the voices for their parents, DAPAC member Jerico Javier said, so there needs to be more outreach to the younger generation to help them know what services are available for their families. But to help ease the pressure of assimilating, the group decided that the proper information should be provided for the families.
“In the need to understand what’s going on and the need to understand how things in America work, sometimes the cultural aspect gets lost,” Javier said, “and it’s important in whatever we provide to the immigrant communities that (we tell them) there are organizations out there that are cultural based as well.”
The South Federal Boulevard neighborhood home to many Asian-American businesses was the hot-topic issue for the economic development group.
“That area is now prone to crime, graffiti, broken windows, trespassing, loitering, all of those kinds of issues that make it difficult for somebody to stay in business,” DAPAC Chair Ron Abo said. “A lot of the second-generation businesses are disappearing.”
To address this, the group came up with ideas to enlist the city’s help in putting more resources to clean up the neighborhood, such as having more police patrols and substations.
“This is a cultural resource for the city,” Abo said. “The city should want to keep that Asian business district there intact.”
The DAPAC serves as a liaison between the AAPI communities in Denver, the Agency for Human Rights and Community Relations and the office of the Mayor of Denver. According to its website, it is the commission’s objective to act as catalyst, educator, collective voice and respond to issues and/or advocate based on community assessment of need, and create awareness and visibility of APA community to the community at large. For more information about the DAPAC, go to www.denvergov.org/asianpacificamerican.