Asian American Communities in the Capital District celebrated the Grand Opening of APAPA Albany Chapter (Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association) on September 10, 2016 at the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library. This is the second APAPA Chapter in New York State, and the 17th Chapter nationally.

Packed into a ballroom were descendants from all over Asia: Nepalese, Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Korean, and Pakistani, celebrating the collective determination to empower Asian Americans through education and civic engagement.

Alice Han, a student from Acadia Middle School, led the Pledge of Allegiance. A passionate rendition of the National Anthem was delivered by Paul Tan, a junior from Niskayuna High School.

In his opening remarks, HP Wang, chair of APAPA-ALC, stressed the fact that despite the increasing population of Asian Americans in New York State (Asian Americans now account for 9% of the  state population), they are underrepresented in NY State Legislature, with only ONE Asian American Assembly Member out of 213 seats. Similar disparities are also found in the judicial and executive branches of the New York State government. In order to increase Asian American representation in New York State public affairs, action must be taken to develop pipelines for qualified Asian American candidates at every layer of government, which APAPA has successfully done in California. This same sentiment was also shared by Ram Lalukota, President of the Tricity India Association, who is planning to work together on program development with APAPA-ALC. Dr. Swatantra Mitta, another Indian community leader, also proposed to connect the Indian American youth group to APAPA-ALC through the Internship Program. Mr. Ashok Sedhain, President of the Albany New York Nepalese Society, will invite Nepalese community members to join APAPA-ALC.

APAPA Founder CC Yin recounted how the idea of establishing a local chapter at Albany was conceived, and noted the tremendous space to grow in terms of civic participation by Asian communities in the Capital District of New York. Congressman Paul Tonko, citing his own Polish ancestry, stressed that Asian Americans not only contribute to society through hard work, but also by bringing unique culture and diversity that should be celebrated with pride in this immigrant-built country.

In her keynote speech, Congresswoman Grace Meng from New York District 6 used several incidents that affected Asian communities as examples to point out the importance of civic engagement by Asians Americans. These incidents include the conviction of Peter Liang in Brooklyn NY, the prosecution of Chinese American scientists, and the barring from reelection of Justice Doris Ling-Cohan, the first female Asian-American State Supreme Court justice in New York.  Grace Meng is the only female Asian American who to be elected for Congress on the East Coast.

David Wu, a former Congressman from Oregon, now a national leader of APAPA, was once a local resident of Latham in the 1960s. As a second generation immigrant, he shared his own journey in politics and encouraged local high school and college students who attended the APAPA grand opening to get involved in politics and public affairs. The Grand Opening was concluded with a seminar by Sandy Chau, a member of the APAPA National Governing Board, on entrepreneurship that intrigued the attendees, many of whom were engineers and scientists. “Now it is time to hit the ground running, as the voter registration deadline in New York State is a month away,” said HP Wang.

The last 20 years witnessed a large influx of Asian Americans into the Capital District of New York, mostly immigrants seeking integration and participation in local communities. APAPA-ALC will be focused on encouraging Asians Americans to be civically engaged.  It will raise funds to sponsor Asian American students in high schools and colleges who are committed to civic leadership, and provide mentoring programs, scholarship awards, and place young people in intern programs at all levels of government.