NO-COAST TO WEST COAST: SEEING THE WEST COAST FILIPINO-AMERICAN COMMUNITY THROUGH A MIDWESTERN LENS
Over 500 members. Across 10+ States. Within 3 chapters.
All united for progress.
Hi everyone! It’s Cat here, your MAFA president for the 2016-2017 year. About a month ago I was lucky enough to get to attend the UniPro Summit 2016: Reach. After attending this conference and having had my last FACT a little over two weeks ago, I started reflecting upon my observations and experiences between the two national conferences.
Regarding Summit, the highlights that I wanted to cover include the following: UniPro’s mission, the culture of West Coast Filipino-American organizations and the Summit’s theme: “Reach”.
One of the biggest problems I had as a officer and sometimes even as MAFA president is that I get so caught up in cranking events and programs that I forget why we are doing them in the first place; essentially our purpose. In addition to myself, I’ve come across other members who have gone through this and often the cause of this is a common occurrence that every human being goes through: burnout.
Burnout occurs when we lose motivation, get overwhelmed and can’t seem to do the work we want to do. One way to combat that is through examining one’s purpose. Through purpose we are able create and implement the change we want to see in our organizations.
My spiel aside, without further ado here is UniPro’s mission statement:
UniPro’s mission is to engage Pilipino Americans through collaboration, advocacy and education.
Wait what? That’s it?
Yeah I was kind of surprised too haha (It’s pretty short compared to most Fil-Am org mission statements) so here’s more of an expansion on it some more on their mission statement:
It seeks to transform Pilipino students & young professionals into community leaders through its various programs, which incorporate professional development, history, and policy through the lens of the Pilipino experience. The organization allows Pilipino Americans the opportunity to explore their place in the community in the hope of owning their niche.
Ultimately, UniPro asks Pilipino Americans to critically answer, “How do you define Progress?”
I read UniPro’s mission statement before the conference just to see what I was getting into (I’ve had very limited exposure to UniPro before this) and it challenged me to ask this question myself: How do I define progress?
Reflecting over the mission statement and going to the conference I learned of a new leadership perspective in Filipino American organizations.
West Coast v. Midwest
The Summit was held in Seattle so most of the delegates were from that area. Overall the conference had a very similar layout to the more commonly known Filipino Americans Coming Together Conference (FACT) in our region but with an intimacy similar to our Midwest Filipino American Summit (MFAS). However, what really stuck out to me was difference in focus between the Midwest and the West Coast.
In the Midwest, we place a heavy emphasis on the cultural aspects of the Philippines: cultural dance, food, religious practices, languages etc. In the West Coast, I noticed that there is a bigger focus on the issues here in America and how they play a role in our Filipinx community today and in the future.
It’s not that the Midwest doesn’t also address this issue (because believe me, we definitely do) it’s just that I have never encountered a more motivated group of people who were so ready to create the change they wanted to see.
To break off really quick, the differences I’ve observed are purely from my perspective; they can be seen differently from another person. In addition, the differences I noted are not to say that one focus is better than the other.
If anything, it makes sense because on the West Coast there is a larger Filipino-American community, the culture there is seen much easier what with the Filipino food chains there such as Red ribbon and Chow King, higher number of Filipino stores etc. In contrast, unless you’re from Chicago, there are fewer Filipinos in the community; we’re spread much thinner as it’s more popular for Filipinos to immigrate to the East and West coast.
In the Midwest, we celebrate our culture because we live in a community where there are fewer people who look like us. In the West Coast, they are more equipped towards progress because they have the resources and the community to do it.
That being said, with my perception of the West Coast Fil-Am Organization mindset, it made sense as to why it was such a great place to host a summit for an organization looking to make progress towards a united Pilipino America. It’s this perception that bring me to the next topic: the theme “Reach”.
The conference coordinators defined “Reach” through the following:
“The goal for this year's Summit is to create a sustainable intergenerational pipeline of leadership for the Filipino American community by developing a unified and engaged Filipino America through a series of dialogues and workshops. This movement continues by reaching inwards, within ourselves; reaching upwards, to our mental capabilities; reaching outwards, to our networks and communities; and reaching onwards, to future generations. It is our time to reach, reach for a better today.”
-- CO-DIRECTORS MELODY PEREZ KIDD & ROSE-ANN GUTIERREZ
In addition to this; each workshop, equipped delegates with knowledge, history and perspectives for us to reach in many different ways. Here’s what I took away from the three workshops sessions; we are called to reach...
ACROSS COMMUNITIES Reaching to stand in solidarity with other minority groups. We become stronger through similar experience and strong in number.
ACROSS REGIONS Reaching to collaborate with Filipino-American organizations throughout the States. Together we can work to become a united Pilipino America.
ACROSS GENERATIONS Understanding our identity with the wisdom of our elders and the experiences from our youth.
With a larger age range, we reach a more diverse perspective; the big picture.
With this knowledge, we were able to discuss what we can do with the newfound information, how we can apply what we learned into practice and come together to form a tentative plan of action. At the end of this conference, we listened to a keynote speaker who not only emphasized the importance of our work but also called us to remember why we are here: because of the hardships our family and our people did to ensure that we had a life better than they ever will.
..and that’s it!
That was my experience with UniPro and my first ever UniPro Summit. It was humbling to the West Coast Region with a Midwest lens. If you’re ever looking for an eye opening experience or a new perspective on Fil-Am culture I highly recommend visiting a different region; especially if you’ve been on board with your organization for a long time. Something I took for granted and wish I did more in my undergraduate is to continue learning as a delegate. Similar to interning or holding a position on board, there are certain things you can learn leading others and certain things you can learn when following others’.
If you have any questions about UniPro or other regional conferences or organizations please feel free to shoot us an e-mail at email@example.com or hit up Kenny Stamper (our VPE) and I. We’ve had many positive experiences both within and outside of MAFA; we’d love to give you that opportunity to :)