Jenny Lau Hometown: New York, NY
School/Major: Tufts University/B.A. in American Studies and Community Health | Ethnicity: Chinese-American | Other Language(s): Cantonese
How I became interested in politics: I became interested in learning how public policy and the legislative process work because of my experiences in campus organizing at Tufts. It was a shift for me that came about when I learned the hard way that grassroots efforts alone don't always work. In the spring of my senior year, there was a racial incident targeted at a group of Asian-American students on campus. As a student, I wasn't surprised that the incident happened, but rather that administrators failed to respond to it. For obvious reasons, what happened outraged Asian-American students and other students of color and made the campus feel unsafe for many of us. At the time, I thought that if students went to administrators and told them how the incident affected many of us that administrators would be sympathetic, be understanding, and do something. They didn't - Despite several meetings with administrators and a campus-wide rally with over 200 attendees, the Tufts administration didn't do anything to respond to the incident, nor did they offer any sort of support to the students who were directly affected. The experience forced me to acknowledge how much power decision makers hold in our society and how far and wide their impact is, for instance, on students, or at the community-based organizations where I worked.
What AAWPI means to me: I am grateful for AAWPI's fellowship program for two main reasons: First, it showed me that if I want to consider myself to be fully engaged civically, I need to take political engagement seriously, especially as a means of making change. Before AAWPI, I thought that grassroots was enough on its own. Now, I have a greater understanding of the relationship between upstream and downstream approaches and that both are essential. I have come away knowing better how to strategize to advance an agenda that addresses the needs of the Asian-American community. Secondly, it has been a meaningful, personal experience for me to find other Asian-American women who are passionate about the same issues as I am. This program has given me support and hope, things that I've discovered are so hard to come by in this line of work.
What I'm doing now: Worker Center and Civic Engagement Organizer at the Chinese Progressive Association (CPA) in Boston's Chinatown
Placement: State Representative Alice Wolf (D-Cambridge),
Chair of the Joint Committee on Elder Affairs