Building Power, Combating Anti-Asian Hate, and BTS

YNPN of Southern Nevada welcomed the conclusion of the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with a panel of AAPI women leaders that bridge three generations:

  • An established community champion in Vida Lin, President and Founder, Asian Community Development Council (ACDC)
  • An up-and-coming leader in Nicole Santero, Director of Communications, OCA Las Vegas & UNLV School of Public Health
  • A young rising star in Leora Dumanlang, Administrative Coordinator, ACLU NV; Secretary, UNLV FASA

With our own Events Director Christina Wu moderating, the lively conversation that followed touched on diverse grounds ranging from the panelists’ own unique experiences, building and sustaining a community, what it would take to combat the tide of anti-Asian hate, and the power of BTS stans.

Given the context that this is a moment in time when America faces a rising tide of anti-Asian hate crimes, a dominant theme throughout the conversation revolved around the need for the AAPI community to build power—and what it would take to do so.

Vida, as the most experienced leader in the room, had much to share. Building power involves building up people and organizations directly. The nonprofit world can sometimes feel like a ruthless competition for limited resources, yet in one anecdote, she shared about how ACDC, the organization she leads, supported smaller grassroots AAPI nonprofits apply for and win grants. She also talked about the importance of speaking up, even if you have to force it sometimes. ACDC intentionally built a board that include representation from many major companies in town, which helped when she had to, in her words, “demand money” (the implied assertiveness is intended; to her, AAPI-led organizations should never shy away from participating as equals in the philanthropic process).

Nicole, an expert in communications and a board director at the advocacy organization OCA Las Vegas, had the best anecdote to share. OCA Las Vegas’ Stop Asian Hate materials went viral after they were spread through the activism of BTS stans* on Twitter, TikTok and elsewhere. Incidentally, we wish Nicole success on her upcoming dissertation on the BTS fan culture.

Quick explanation: BTS is a famous K-Pop musical group from South Korea; while “stan” is slang for a devoted fan (many self-identified stans prefer more bluntly self-depreciating descriptions, mind). As part of the larger K-Pop fans community, they’ve shown an activist edge.

It wasn’t all “business” talk, however. Given the subject—spotlighting our panelists who are AAPI women leaders in different stages of their journey—we heard their personal stories and how they got involved. Of particular delight was Leora’s story on how she got to work for the ACLU, as well as her parents’ trepidation about the “nonprofit thing” (to general concurrence).

As an aside, all three panelists, our moderator, and the blog author are all completely on the same page that Vegas has incredible Asian food.

All in all, it was a delightful conversation which we hope is not the conclusion of AAPI-related content from YNPN. After all, the work of building power and inspiring new generations of leaders does not begin on May 1 and end on May 31, and our panelists, we are confident, will continue to inspire others in their respective journeys as AAPI women leaders in the nonprofit community.