Past and present members of the Asian American Political Alliance, or AAPA, met Saturday to commemorate the recognition of their former meeting space at 2005 Hearst Ave. with a plaque.
The event honored the 50th anniversary of the Asian American movement’s founding at UC Berkeley, as first reported by KQED. Since last year, members of AAPA have been meeting with the property owner of the location to determine whether or not some sort of identifying mark could be placed on the property, co-founder of the original AAPA Floyd Huen said.
Along with Huen, another original member of the organization, Vicci Wong, shared her experiences and the organization’s role in coining the term “Asian American.”
When discussing their decision to install the plaque, Huen said: “On the way home, I drove by this site and I said, ‘You know, when Vicci and I are gone, people aren’t going to remember what happened here. We need to do something to change that.’ ”
With the help of Berkeley City Councilmember Kate Harrison, AAPA and the property owner were able to install the commemorative piece. Harrison helped, Huen said, in the creation of Asian American Political Empowerment Month as a method of recognizing the efforts of the community.
A representative from Harrison’s office discussed the diversity of Berkeley and the excitement of having such a diverse district to celebrate this piece of history.
Speaking as one of the last surviving members of the original formation, Wong discussed the importance of having such an organization in the past and the present.
“This (was) a world where everything was black and white and we were the ‘inbetweeners.’ … I came in as an ‘oriental’ and left as an Asian American,” Wong said.
Wong recalled how media in the 1960s perpetuated Eurocentric beauty ideals and how textbooks taught that European culture was superior to Asian American culture. Wong added that the plaque commemoration and those attending the event were helping to undo the legacy left behind by Eurocentric ideals.
“This is just the start of how we’ve got to retake our history because these people have perverted it,” Wong said to the crowd.
KQED stated that although the original branch of AAPA disbanded, another subsequent branch formed in the 1980s and eventually again in 2018, named AAPA 3.0.
“Having taken my first ever Asian American studies class this semester, it’s surreal to hear about my place in history in the textbooks,” Campus freshman and current AAPA 3.0 leader Johnny Nguyen told KQED. “I’d like to see Asian American studies expanded and enhance it. That’s exactly what we want to do with AAPA 3.0.”