Civic participation grant boosts Vietnamese American Roundtable’s racial justice work

Civic participation grant boosts Vietnamese American Roundtable’s racial justice work

As the Bay Area, like the rest of the country, confronts a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes, Silicon Valley Community Foundation continues to support nonprofits that are working for racial justice.

A recent round of grants from SVCF’s Community Catalyst Fund for Civic Participation included the Vietnamese American Roundtable, which seeks to bring the local Vietnamese community together through civic engagement, community building, and cultural learning.

VAR ProtestVAR started as a grassroots organization in 2013 “as a way to bridge the political fractures in our community,” said Atkinson Tran, president of VAR, which is based in San Jose. VAR is now working to hire an executive director to augment the work of its volunteer board.

This round of Community Catalyst Fund grants supported organizations that are focused on racial justice, coalition-building and advocacy. The objective of the fund was to build on 2020's civic engagement programs, like SVCF's census and voter education grants, and invest in growing the capacity of smaller organizations led by people of color and allies.

“The Vietnamese American Roundtable fits squarely with the priorities of this fund,” said Anne Im, SVCF’s director of community investment. “They have provided a lot of education and outreach. They’ve worked with other nonprofits, government partners and others to ensure the community is engaged.”

Engaging the Community

VAR’s bilingual volunteers put on events, civic engagement programs, issue forums and festivals. For example, they host an annual Black April Commemoration to mark the anniversary of the fall of Saigon - the event that is the reason many Vietnamese refugees came to the United States.

VAR Zoom Sessions

VAR holds Facebook Live programs twice a month. For the past year, many of them have focused on COVID-19 information – including, recently, how to get vaccinated – though they also cover topics ranging from anti-racism to back-to-school preparation. VAR is also canvassing in predominantly Vietnamese-speaking neighborhoods to promote COVID-19 vaccination.

The group’s upcoming civic engagement projects may include community education on the redistricting process or a forum for mayoral candidates. Many of their programs are held in partnership with organizations that are serving other communities, and those partnerships have evolved to become coaltions committed to advocating for underrepresented communities.

To help combat anti-Asian sentiment and violence, VAR has held community listening sessions and participated in San Jose’s hate crime task force. Group members have spoken on panels regarding anti-Asian hate.

VAR supported a move by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors in March, championed by Supervisor Otto Lee, to address racism in the community. The group is also working with the city and county to get better data on hate crimes.

“We can’t fix the problem unless we really understand this,” Tran said.

Supporting Nonprofit Growth

Many of Community Catalyst Fund grants are for general operating support, which allows the nonprofits to spend the money in any way that’s helpful rather than just for one specific project.

Im says it’s exciting to see VAR grow as an organization.

“For a long time, they have done this work with the blood, sweat and tears of volunteers who really just cared about the community,” said Im.“With this grant and other funding they’re trying to get, they are building their capacity.”

VAR’s plans for its grant money include civic engagement as part of its summer youth program, SEEDS (Student Education and Engagement for Development and Success), followed with an anti-racism summit planned for August or September. It will be a cross-cultural event involving different community organizations and featuring leaders from the local Asian American community.

The Community Catalyst Fund’s Civic Participation grants will open again in June. Please refer to our Grantmaking Calendar where information about this funding opportunity will be added in May.

Expanding the Anti-Racism Fight

As Nicole Taylor, president and CEO of SVCF, wrote in a March statement in response to the mass shooting in Atlanta, which primarily affected women of Asian descent:

“The rising hate and violence in our country do not operate in silos of ignorance, gender or race. We are battling a complex and deep-seated intersectionality of racism, misogyny and white supremacy, all of which need to be addressed together if we are to create safer communities for every person – no matter their race, gender, or socioeconomic or citizenship status.”

The grant to VAR is just one example of SVCF’s commitment to amplify the voices of community partners. SVCF also encourages you to give to these groups working to support the AAPI community:

Anti-Asian Racism

Support for Individuals and Families

Want to learn more about SVCF’s grantmaking programs? Click here.

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