Asian Pacific Islander public affairs forum draws hundreds to Sacramento

The 18th Annual California Voter’s and Candidates Forum organized by the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs (APAPA) was held at Sacramento State on Saturday.

Several elected officials, including state Sen. Ling Ling Chang, R-Diamond Bar, Citrus Heights Councilwoman Porsche Middleton and Fremont Mayor Lily Mei, shared their wisdom and stories as leaders striving to improve the community.

Sacramento City Council District 8 candidates, including Chris Baker, Ronald Bell, Les Simmons and Mai Vang, also talked about local issues and their vision for Sacramento at a panel discussion.

Other community leaders, academic experts and students from different communities also attended the event, and teens as young as 13 came as volunteers and as participants.

Tzi Ma, actor from Mulan and The Farewell, was the keynote speaker at the forum. His speech echoed with the event theme, “Our Voice Matters,” as he talked about the importance of representation in the entertainment industry.

“We have the power to have the world see us the way we should be seen. So really us in the entertainment industry cannot do it without you, and vice versa, because of your support we are going to be able to represent you the proper way,” Ma said.

Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly, who spoke at the event, said he was privileged to secure an APAPA scholarship while in law school, and had it not been for other community leaders, he would not have dreamed of being in elected office.

Congresswoman Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, was given the public service award. Chang and Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, were recognized as legislators of the year.

Panel discussions included topics such as the census, voting in Sacramento, women in politics and homelessness.

Louina Hafoka, 13, has been a participant since her grandmother brought her to attend the forum to learn about politics and get hands-on experience as a volunteer two years ago.

Hafoka’s favorite part was the women in politics panel. “There was one (panelist) who said, ‘If you are not sitting at the table, then you will be on the menu,’” she said. “And I thought that was actually really inspiring because sometimes I have tons of girls at school not treated equally to the boys, and the teachers think it is okay. Some of us actually protested and we had to get those rights. Now I am getting into high school, I’m hoping that it will be different.”

David Soohoo, a native Sacramentan, said he was there to support Darrel Woo, a board member of the Sacramento City Unified School District. His favorite part of the forum was meeting the people and he recommended others attend the APAPA forum in 2020 during the presidential election.

“The information that you can get by coming here... you don’t just learn but you are actually here to meet the people, candidates, and you also get resources like how to vote,” Soohoo said.

Jacqui Nguyen, president of APAPA’s Greater Sacramento Chapter and chair of the forum, was one of the volunteers who ran and coordinated the event.

“We do it because we have a passion,” Nguyen said. “We want to help the community. We want to be able to offer the community a voice. We feel that it is important and collectively as one unified voice, and we can work together to make an impact.”

The Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs is a non-profit, non-partisan organization founded in 2001 by C.C. Yin and Regina Yin, in response to a lack of API representation in local and statewide government.

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Theodora Yu covers Asian American issues for The Sacramento Bee. She is a Hong Kong native and a Columbia Journalism School alumna with an interest in immigration and climate change issues.