A group of 15 students launched the Asian-Pacific Islander Leadership Forum on March 19 in an effort to provide a unifying space for Asian, Asian-American and Pacific Islander students on campus.
The organization “seeks to create spaces for celebrating, affirming, and mobilizing Asian and Pacific Islander students at Georgetown,” according to the group’s mission statement.
The forum joins the Black Leadership Forum and the Latinx Leadership Forum on campus. All forums function as both advocacy and organizational bodies for student groups representing the interests of black and Latinx students at Georgetown.
The group is not planning to seek formal recognition by Georgetown in order to ensure it can take stands on university policy, according to Zachary Frial (SFS ’18), who is the history and education chair for APILF. The Black Leadership Forum and the Latinx Leadership Forum are also not formally recognized by the university, but work with the Center for Multicultural Equity & Access to organize programming.
Frial, who initially started setting up the forum with the other students four months ago, said the leadership forum follows in the footsteps of the Black Leadership Forum and the Latinx Leadership Forum in looking to bring students of Asian and Pacific Islander descent together.
“Like the Black Leadership Forum and Latinx Leadership Forum, we initially wanted to create a unified and organized space for Asian/Asian-American and Pacific Islander student groups to meet and mobilize,” Frial wrote in an email to The Hoya.
According to APILF Relationship Liaison Gina Kim (SFS ’17), students from Asian and Pacific Islander descent do not have currently have an effective venue to express their political opinions as they relate to their cultural identity.
“Although there is a Political Activism Committee within AASA, as a student organization funded by the university AASA often cannot take clear stands on issues on campus and advocate for student needs in this capacity,” Kim wrote in an email to The Hoya. “The organization hopes to provide a space for people to express their concerns and create real and tangible solutions to those problems.”
Frial said APILF also aims to include students not traditionally represented in student groups like the Asian American Student Association.
“AASA has a history of being East-Asian dominated, so creating a new, separate group had the purpose of moving away from East-Asian centeredness so prevalent in many AAPI circles,” Frial wrote. “AASA, as an ‘Asian-American’ Student Association, also does not directly represent the interests of Pacific Islander students, so we made sure that APILF would center on Pacific Islander identities.”
The AASA did not respond to requests for comment as of 2:30 a.m.
According to Frial, the group originally intended to be a forum of leaders from various Asian-Pacific Islander student groups already in existence, such as the Asian American Student Association, with a similar structure to the Black Leadership Forum and the Latinx Leadership Forum. However, the forum ultimately chose to become a group of individuals, rather than a representative body of student groups.
The group currently consists of a 15-person board to organize the forum, with all meetings open to members of the Georgetown community.
According to Frial, in addition to unifying Asian and Pacific Islander students, the group seeks to connect with other student groups of different racial and ethnic backgrounds.
“A big part of our mission is to also forge connections with other student groups on campus that are not Asian- or Pacific Islander-affiliated. For example, we are currently planning one event on Black-South Asian solidarity at the Black House and another on shared Filipino-Latinx heritage at Casa Latina,” Frial wrote. “We would also like to have a discussion on Pacific Islander identity with Native American students on campus.”
APILF Co-Chair of Advocacy Jasmin Ouseph (SFS ’19) said APILF will learn from other cultural groups on campus how to advocate for important issues within their communities.
“By following the lead of the BLF and LLF, I hope that the APILF can create a more active API community that is aware of the racially triangulated position of Asian Americans in the U.S. and seeks to actually do something about the way we fit into the racial hierarchy in this country and be more effective, accountable allies to the Black and Latinx communities,” Ouseph wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Georgetown University Student Association President Kamar Mack (COL ’19), said APILF will fulfill several important needs of the Georgetown community, including organizing the AAPI Heritage Month.
“We believe this is important, since it is trying to bring awareness to a community that is not spotlighted enough on Georgetown’s campus,” Mack wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Mack said cultural organizations such as APILF, AASA, BLF and LLF are important because they help Georgetown students look outward to the global community.
“As Hoyas, we should be become involved in these organizations or attend their events, so that we can become more knowledgeable on their rich culture and heritage as well as the issues that these communities face at Georgetown and in the US,” Mack wrote. “This is an important step in embracing the global campus that we are.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly named the Center for Multicultural Equity & Access.