CIANA gathered with fellow members of the 18% and Growing Coalition at Queens Borough Hall on May 10 to tell elected leaders to invest in their Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) constituents for the coming fiscal year. Composing 18% of New York City’s population overall, and 26% of Queens alone, AAPI communities typically lack adequate representation in the city’s annual budget.
Led by the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families (CACF), the campaign has been periodically renamed to reflect the AAPI community’s growth over the years, from 10 percent when CIANA first joined, to 12 percent, 15 percent, and now 18 percent.
As Outreach Worker Micah Dicker explained at the press conference, “The fight for budget equity is more than just demanding money or dropping numbers; it is a fight for basic, essential services and against invisibility.” CIANA's founding mission was just this- to bring holistic assistance to the Middle Eastern and South Asian communities that had been discriminated against, excluded, and made invisible following 9/11.
In 2006, when CIANA was founded, very few services were available to these communities, neither to combat hate nor the resulting socioeconomic impact, even in neighborhoods like Astoria where they have a significant population. To this day, basic services such as health, housing, education, language access, and more, are severely lacking, despite years of engaging elected leaders about the needs of their constituents.
The other organizations who attended and spoke at the conference reflected the diversity of Queens’ Asian populations, both in terms of their culture and their needs. We heard about the care India Home provides for South Asian seniors; Caribbean Equality Project’s dedication to protecting LGBTQ folks of Indo-Caribbean background; Minkwon Center’s tireless efforts advocating for the Korean American community; and many more.
Anti-Asian bias in general has been prevalent in the U.S. for generations and in a multitude of forms, such as overt bigotry as well as systemic exclusion from city funding.
“It is difficult to ignore how AAPI New Yorkers have been neglected and how they have not been accounted for when it comes to funding social services and public benefits,” explains Emira Habiby Browne, CIANA’s Founder and CEO.
The last three years of the pandemic have shone a light on the intersection between anti-Asian hate, lack of government support, poverty, and the need for holistic government funding to meet AAPI communities’ growing needs. Habiby Browne continues, “Budget equity means fighting for the most essential needs- health, education, language access, safety, and more- that are being kept from nearly one fifth of our city’s population.”