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Asian Americans United

Wednesday, December 15, 2021
Location: Chinatown, Philadelphia

Org Focus: Pan-Asian immigrant services

Grant Funding: COVID education & vaccine clinics


Click here to download a PDF of this profile.

Based on an interview with Alix Webb, Executive Director

Awareness about COVID began earlier for our community because of connections to family and friends in Asia. As early as January 2020, Chinatown businesses were going into crisis; there was fear rising and misinformation forming. Parents pulled children from our after-school programs much earlier. The prior administration was targeting Asian and Chinese communities as the origin of the virus, and we were seeing a rise in anti-Asian violence.

At the very beginning, a lot of what we were trying to do was give information. Language access has been a constant struggle. It’s not something you can win a campaign or create a policy; it requires ongoing monitoring and implementing. You see the effects of it when a crisis hits. We saw it in schools, with families misunderstanding what was happening with online learning. When restaurants closed, workers who didn’t know the language lagged weeks or months behind in applying for unemployment. When factory workers got sick, they couldn’t go home, but they couldn’t communicate well enough to connect with city resources. The most vulnerable in our communities were exponentially more vulnerable in these situations.

The things AAU was founded around — immigrant rights, language access, public education, strengthening communities by honoring culture and traditions — all of those continued through the pandemic. But every few months we needed to change the tactics we’re using. Initially, we gave out PPE. We moved all youth programs online. We distributed funding to undocumented folks who couldn’t receive government assistance. During the election season we did extra texting and phone banking. We brought on former youth participants with language skills to help communicate and started a new youth leadership development program. In 2021, we shifted very quickly to vaccination, collaborating with other immigration services organizations to create a safe space and address language access.

We move with our communities. Our communities aren’t separate from us; they’re our families, the young people we work with in school every day. If it’s your community, you can’t step away from what’s impacting it.