Race matters. In a culture where racism is touted to be extinct and colorblindness pervades, people of color intimately know a different reality. Race matters in how we see and navigate this world, in how the world sees and navigates us. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2010, our state legislature was reminded of this.

That day every single state legislator was handed a copy of “Facing Race: 2009 Legislative Report Card on Racial Equity,” a report that outlined 34 key bills that directly impacted people of color in regards to civil rights, economic justice, housing, education, healthcare, criminal justice, tribal sovereignty, budget equity, and institutional racism. The highlight – it outlined how each member of the Legislature voted on those bills. Using a methodology that was developed by the Applied Research Center, a letter grade — easy to understand, hard to ignore – was issued based on those votes.

The average grade was a D.

We want to see them do better. And should require it. The report card, created by Washington Citizens Action Network (Washington CAN!) and the Northwest Federation of Community Organizations (NWFCO), functions as a reminder that we are here and that we matter in legislative decision-making.

And we are growing. One in five people who live in WA state is a person of color and in the next few decades that number is expected to grow to one in three. Those are numbers that elected officials cannot ignore or forget when voting in the Capitol.

But the Report Card was only the first step in accountability. Now that Washington CAN! and the NWFCO are putting the finishing touches on next year’s edition, where do we go from here? How do we make it sustainable? How do we expand the NWFCO coalition to be a powerful force in Olympia? How do we civically engage and educate communities of color about the Racial Report Card? And most importantly, how do we use this report as a tool to effect positive social change?

That is where our beautiful selves (our classmates included) come in: the Asian Pacific Islander Community Leadership Foundation (ACLF), a community-based non-profit that trains and supports the next generation of API leaders in our community. Tasked with tackling these questions as part of this year’s community project for the 2010 Community Leaders Program (CLP), we were excited to be part of a project that not only impacted our API community, but all of Washington state.

ACLF’s CLP program is a unique program inviting motivated, burgeoning API leaders to hone not only their skills in advocacy, communication, and media, but also to experience a curriculum with a strong community ethic of coalition-building across ethnic differences to strengthen the community at-large. It is a program that seeks to empower our leaders to lead our communities.

Integral to this year’s CLP project sustainability analysis, we conducted two focus groups, one consisting of NWFCO members, another consisting of leaders in our community. A separate survey was also sent to various organizations and community leaders all over WA state to gain additional feedback. In addition, we interviewed several executive coordinators from other states who have already employed the same methodology to create their own report cards.

After all the data was compiled, we identified venues of improvement in the report card’s current operation and subsequently crafted recommendations for key areas of development: strategy, capacity building, community outreach and a call to action. On Thursday, October 14, from 6:30 – 8 p.m. at the Chinese Information and Service Center (611 Lane St, next to Cathay Bank), the ACLF CLP Class of 2010 invites you to come and see what we’ve put together. And there will be free food!

Race Matters – and if we want to make sure our issues are tackled, our communities are represented, and our elected officials maintain accountability, the Legislative Report Card on Racial Equity is an amazing tool to make this happen. This year, the next, and the one after that, we can work together – legislators and constituents alike – to ensure that those grades continue to get better.

And stay that way.

Thursday, 10/14

Join the ACLF’s CLP Class of 2010 for their Community Project Presentation highlighting their sustainability analysis and recommendation report of the Racial Equity Report Card! This exciting presentation will take place at the ACLF Office in the Chinese Information and Service Center (611 Lane St, next to Cathay Bank) on Thursday, October 14th, 6:30-8:00 pm. Come and see what the Class of 2010 has come up with, engage in a lively conversation about why race matters in our state Legislature, and eat delicious food!

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