Spotlight on API Boys and Young Men at Legislative Hearing

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Asian Pacific Islander youth leaders and community experts brief legislators on the status of API young men in the areas of health, workforce, and higher education.

Photo courtesy of Rubén Lizardo.

Assemblymember Phil Ting (far right) and members of the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color. Photo and members of the courtesy of Rubén Lizardo.

San Francisco, CA – The California Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color, chaired by Assemblymember Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), held a legislative hearing yesterday on the unique opportunities and challenges facing California’s Asian American and Pacific Islander (API) boys and young men of color.

“As the first Filipino-American legislator in the history of our state, and the father of a Filipino-Puerto Rican-American son, I’m well aware of a lot of the disparate impacts facing our boys and men of color,” said Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) during opening remarks.

APIs are the fastest growing group in the state, making up 15 percent of California’s population, according to Widening the Lens on Boys and Men of Color: California AAPI & AMEMSA Perspectives, a report recently released by Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP). As the API population increases, it is also becoming more diverse, with disparate ethnic subgroups making up the broader demographic.

“Widening the lens to include API boys and men of color is critical, but we need to focus the lens to really see important disparities between the diverse communities that make up APIs,,” testified Jonathan Tran, California Policy and Program Manager of the Southeast Asia Resource and Action Center.

“Collecting disaggregated data is a civil rights issue for APIs,” added Cynthia Choi, Deputy Director of AAPIP. “One-size-fits-all approaches are really detrimental to APIs.”

During the two-hour hearing, youth and community experts testified about issues facing API boys and young men in the areas of health, workforce, and higher education.

“The policies you create can really be a catalyst to destroy the model minority myth,” advised Tran.

Reshma Shamasunder, Executive Director of California Immigrant Policy Center/Health4All, urged the panel to pass legislation granting access to health care for California’s undocumented population. Approximately 416,000 undocumented immigrants – one-quarter of California’s total undocumented population – are API.

“California has been at the forefront of peeling away the exclusion facing undocumented immigrants,” said Shamasunder. “We must continue to be a leader by creating access to health care for this population.”

Jon Osaki, Executive Director of the Japanese Community Youth Council, described the need for the state to support culturally-competent workforce training and employment opportunity programs for youth in their primary languages.

“This country’s young people are still trying to recover from historic unemployment rates caused by the Great Recession,” said Osaki. “The federal government has systematically dismantled youth employment programs. I think we need to think about what role the state should play to provide workforce opportunities for our boys and men of color.”

The hearing was attended by representatives from API youth groups located across the state, including Fresno’s Stone Soup, Long Beach’s Khmer Girls in Action, and members of the Santa Ana Boys and Men of Color campaign.

“Investing in us is investing in the future of California,” testified Kevin Teav, Youth Organizer for Khmer Girls in Action.

Programs and policies that support young men of color can reap huge dividends for California. According to a 2007 study by the California Dropout Research Project at UC Santa Barbara, African-American and Latino men graduating high school generate $681,130 and $451,360 more per person in additional dollars for the state than those who do not graduate high school. This is due to increased tax revenue and economic productivity as well as decreased costs associated with poor health or incarceration.

“We’re still struggling to recognize the diverse challenges as our API community grows,” said Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) during his closing remarks. “We shouldn’t have a community where there’s a core and fringe. We should all be inside.”

The Alliance for Boys and Men of Color is a coalition of change agents committed to improving the life chances of California’s boys and young men of color. The Alliance includes youth, community organizations, foundations and systems leaders – like education, public health and law enforcement officials. For more information and to see a list of Alliance local anchors and state policy partners, please visit:

The California Assembly’s Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color was formed in 2012 to respond to the pressing needs of young men of color in California, where 70 percent of youth identify as people of color. In the 2013 session, the Committee continued efforts to advance common sense school discipline, design a more comprehensive approach to school safety, and facilitate the implementation of the local control funding formula to ensure that young men of color can access opportunity in their neighborhoods starting at an early age.

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