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Apr 13, 2018 | Insights

Spotlight on Community Work: Kevin Lam, Asian American Resource Workshop

On April 10, 2018, Kevin Lam spoke at the fifth event in our Grassroots Speakers Series. Kevin is the Organizing Director of the Asian American Resource Workshop (AARW), an organization working for the empowerment of the Asian Pacific American community to achieve its full participation in U.S. society. At AARW, Kevin coordinates the Dorchester Organizing & Training Initiative (DOT-I), a leadership development and organizing program for young Vietnamese adults.

Kevin spoke about how his identity and his family’s history inform his organizing work. Kevin is a queer, Lao- and Vietnamese-American, born and raised in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. due to his family being displaced from their homelands by the war in Southeast Asia. As a child, Kevin was one of only five Asians in Poughkeepsie, where there were no culturally competent services to support Asian families resettling in the U.S. after fleeing from the war.

Watch our recording of his talk:

(View the Prezi slideshow used)

Kevin highlighted present day struggles the Southeast Asian community faces with detention and deportation, which are not always visible in the public narrative around immigration issues in the U.S. Kevin framed these current issues by talking about the thousands of years Vietnam spent colonized and dominated by foreign powers, and the history of U.S. military invasion of Vietnam and bombing in Southeast Asia. Kevin used this historical context to shape the narrative around justice for immigrants and refugees. Many immigrant rights organizers have been working to shift the narrative around immigration issues to include the effects of U.S. foreign policies in displacing people from their homelands, and forcing them to move to the U.S. for safety and economic opportunity.

Asian American Resource Workshop has been working locally and collaborating with other organizations nationally to fight for the safety of Southeast Asian communities, resist deportation and keep families together. We are inspired by the power of organizing led by communities directly affected by oppression, informed by their history and personal experience. In this political moment, it is critical for us all to listen to these stories and take action in solidarity.



Join us for the next event in our series on April 24 featuring Roslindale IS for Everyone (RISE), a group that began in November 2016 as 60 activists concerned about immigrant rights and the erosion of progressive policies, that has now grown into a network of over 650 neighbors. Organizers from the Immigrant Rights Working Group of RISE will be talking about their work coordinating neighborhood-based ‘Know Your Rights’ workshops, legal clinics, and outreach.

On May 15th, we will hear from Catalina Rojas, Indira Garmendia and Liliana Avendaño from Center for Cooperative Development and Solidarity (CCDS). They will be speaking about the work of CCDS in the creation of a cooperative culture and supporting new economic alternatives, including immigrant-owned worker cooperatives as a strategy to resist gentrification and displacement from East Boston.


In the midst of today’s hostile political climate, grassroots organizers remind us that the struggles of oppressed people are not new. TSNE, with our long history of nonprofit capacity building, seeks to use our platform to lift up the voices of grassroots community organizers working on some of our society’s most pressing issues.

The Grassroots Speaker Series highlights the creativity, resourcefulness, and resilience of local community organizers. Our speakers will share how their lived experiences shape their organizing and the difficulties they face leading grassroots organizations.

Our speakers will explain how audience members can get involved in supporting their work, and may include a facilitated action step during their talks. We hope that attendees will leave with ideas about how to continue to support these important organizations and causes in their own lives — as nonprofit workers, funders, students, or community members.