A young Asian woman with long hair holds up a poster depicting three people and a heart around them. She is wearing an Asian-Black Unity T-shirt.
A participant at the Love Our People, Heal Our Communities rally in Oakland. Photo Credit: Denny Khamphanthong

Five Organizations With a Shared Mission

On a Tuesday afternoon in May, 85-year-old Chui Fong Eng was waiting for a bus near 4th and Stockton streets in San Francisco when a man stabbed her and another Asian woman, 65, with a knife. Both women were rushed to San Francisco General Hospital to undergo surgery and survived. 

Once Eng was discharged from the hospital, an outreach team from the Community Youth Center paid her a wellness visit. The San Francisco-based Community Youth Center is one of the core partners in the Coalition for Community Safety and Justice (CCSJ), which provided financial assistance and in-home support services to Eng daily.

CCSJ was formed in 2019 by five Asian American organizations — Chinatown Community Development Center, Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA), Chinese Progressive Association, Community Youth Center, and New Breath Foundation — to address long-standing issues of violence and racial tensions. 

“There were a series of violent incidents — many of them involving the elderly — that compelled us to formalize and to seek funding to address these issues in the longer term,” says Cynthia Choi, co-executive director of CAA. “We said, ‘Enough is enough.’ We need to do better to support victims, we need to prevent this from happening, and we need to invest in racial solidarity work.”

“We said, ‘Enough is enough.’ We need to do better to support victims, we need to prevent this from happening, and we need to invest in racial solidarity work.”

Cynthia Choi, co-executive director of CAA

Since the beginning, the coalition strove to develop a holistic approach to addressing violence and racial inequity in ways that meet the needs of Asian communities. With decades of mobilizing experience, the five organizations share a long history of working together on many issues, and each organization brings expertise in different areas.

Community Youth Center leads the coalition in victim services and community outreach, making wellness visits to individuals like Eng, and meeting with local merchants to spread awareness of the full range of services, from immediate financial assistance to mental health resources, that are available to them.

“Historically, our community doesn’t seek support. I know from first hand experience that community members need intensive support during and throughout their recovery and healing process,” says Sarah Wan, executive director of Community Youth Center.

CAA spearheads policy advocacy around language access, holding city agencies accountable to complying with the existing Language Access Ordinance, which requires that information and services be accessible in multiple languages. It is especially important for community members to know that when they seek assistance, especially in cases of an emergency, that language won’t be a barrier.  

Meanwhile, Chinatown Community Development Center and Chinese Progressive Association, with their deep experience in organizing work, lead on cross-racial solidarity efforts. 

Building a Network to Serve Our Communities

Ultimately, CCSJ is building a culturally and linguistically competent network that prioritizes violence prevention and intervention programs. The coalition works towards this through three interlocking strategies:

  1. Supporting victims with wraparound services – the coalition implements a city-wide case referral and reporting system to help victims receive holistic support services and financial aid.
  2. Strengthening public safety systems – CCSJ partners with city agencies and community-based organizations to develop better response and support systems.
  3. Building cross-racial healing and solidarity – CCSJ aims to bridge the divide across racial and regional lines by promoting collaboration and equitable access to resources for all communities to thrive. 

“Our goal is to call for more effective and compassionate responses,” says Choi. “We know that carceral solutions are not the most effective way to resolve violence and crime. That’s why we’re developing community-centered solutions to mitigate violent incidents and create safety and support for our most vulnerable communities.”

What this looks like in practice is advocating for the needs of AAPI communities with government agencies, listening to communities about their experiences and needs, and building relationships so that communities can work together to heal. CCSJ works in seven languages — Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Cambodian, Toishanese, and Thai — and partners with key community stakeholders, grassroots organizations, and merchant associations.

The coalition has wasted no time in working towards its goal. So far, it has raised thousands of dollars through the CCSJ Victims and Survivors Fund, provided case management, as well as legal, mental health, and other assistance to 37 individuals. This includes administering financial aid from the victim support fund to 28 individuals, totalling $24,120. It has also collaborated with the Street Violence Intervention Program to conduct community outreach in six predominantly Asian neighborhoods.

On the advocacy front, CCSJ has met with the Mayor’s Office, the Board of Supervisors, the District Attorney’s Office, the Human Rights Commission, the Office of Civic Engagement & Immigrant Affairs, the Municipal Transportation Agency, and other city departments to ensure that limited English speaking residents who are victims and survivors of violence have meaningful access to city services and programs. CCSJ has also secured public and private investments to support our work moving forward. 

In cross-community racial solidarity work, CCSJ has held 12 listening sessions with nearly 140 community members at Asian and Black-led organizations; conducted a needs assessment of Asian American and Pacific Islander-serving organizations regarding community safety concerns and priorities; and organized six community healing and solidarity events for the public to grieve, call for unity, and demand action from city leaders. This included a solidarity rally in San Francisco Chinatown with the Rev. Jesse Jackson in June.

Moving forward, CCSJ will build towards long-term solutions both at the government systems level and at the neighborhood grassroots level. In the meantime, it will continue to offer immediate support to victims and survivors in San Francisco. 

“Change doesn’t come overnight. It requires thoughtful, persistent work over the long haul,” says Lai Wa Wu, policy and alliance director at Chinese Progressive Association. “And it starts with building trust and relationships across communities so that we can understand how to address these issues together.”

To learn more about CCSJ, watch a recording of CAA’s latest donor program, entitled “Addressing Violence and Promoting Healing in Asian Communities.”