Nonprofit Spotlight: CAAAV

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In July, PennyLoafer donors collectively gave to CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities!

The Rundown

  • Years founded: 1986

  • Leadership: Executive Director, Sasha Wijeyeratne, is a talented organizer, strategist and thinker. Under their leadership, CAAAV has doubled in size across staff, membership and budget.

  • Issue they address: tenants rights and housing justice

  • What they do: build grassroots community power across diverse poor and working class Asian immigrant communities in NYC.

  • How they do it:

    • Tenant Unions: Organize tenant unions in both Chinatown and Queens to address apartment neglect, landlord harassment, displacement and build the power of immigrant residents.

    • Leadership development: CAAAV is led by its membership of Asian immigrants and refugees, and has a program specifically focused on building youth leadership.

    • Base-building and organizing: street outreach, door knocking, member meetings and direct action campaigns to make sure their voices are heard.

Why they were chosen

Based in Manhattan’s Chinatown, CAAAV was founded by working-class Asian women and one of the first groups in the U.S. to respond to racially motivated violence against Asians. For over 35 years it’s been organizing and movement building in NYC.

  • They’ve organized 1000+ working-class Asian American tenants in Chinatown and Western Queens Public Housing.
  • Recent wins include pushing Amazon’s headquarters out of Queens and helping to pass NY’s historic 2019 rent laws. CAAAV is currently working on a community-led rezoning campaign in Chinatown to ensure it stays affordable for the community.

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CAAAV’s work originally came in response to rising anti-Asian violence across the country, including the murder of Vincent Chin in 1982.

Who was Vincent Chin?

Vincent Chin was a Chinese American man who was out with friends for his bachelor party in Detroit, when he was beaten to death by two white men who worked in the auto industry. The racially motivated attack occurred at a time when the American auto industry was experiencing increased competition from Japanese imports and massive layoffs were happening —especially in Michigan, home to Ford, Chrysler and GM.

The two men were fined $3,000 and 3 years probation for Chin’s murder. The lenient sentencing sparked national outrage and inspired Asian Americans across the country to protest, resulting in the first federal civil rights trial for an Asian American.

Chin’s legacy helped ignite the pan-Asian civil rights movement.

And it still reverberates today with the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Between March 20, 2020 – December 31, 2021, received almost 11K reports of hate incidents against Asian Americans.
  • And the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism revealed that in 2021, anti-Asian hates crimes increased 339% in some major U.S. cites.

2022 marks 40 years since Chin’s murder. Check out the Vincent Chin Legacy Guide that tells his story + inspires people to take action.

If you enjoyed this and want to get involved, you can support the Racial Justice cause on PennyLoafer, starting with as little as $5/month. Each month, you’ll support and learn about a different nonprofit creating a more equitable world.