Open Letter: Chinatown Action Group Condemns De-Platforming of and Attacks on Organizer Yuly Chan

To Organize BC and Vancouver & District Labour Council (VDLC):

We are outraged at your decision to cancel the May 4 evening panel because of false accusations over invited speaker and CAG member, Yuly Chan. Your decision to cancel the keynote panel has legitimized a handful of bullies who have been targeting a working class woman of colour organizer. Your decision legitimizes racist and sexist abuse and harassment of a respected organizer in our community. Instead of bringing collective unity to our movements — the stated intention of Vancouver Crossroads — your actions have done the opposite: rupturing and destroying the reputation and trust of marginalized community members.

We are appalled at the defamation campaign against Yuly, and are particularly infuriated and disappointed with Organize BC who refused to move forward with the panel due to Yuly’s participation in the event and openly sided with the individuals who have been harassing and bullying Yuly. A group known as CATA (Coalition Against Trans Antagonism), which consists solely of three individuals — Vanessa Bui, Tami Cameron, and Kai Rajala — have been perpetrating slander and harassment since Yuly was invited to speak a month ago. None of these individuals have ever approached Yuly in person or online to understand her politics or position in good faith. Instead, they used “hearsay,” selective, out-of-context tweets and past activities from a basic internet search of Yuly. Their accusations are untrue, vindictive, and based on a superficial understanding of her analysis. Their use of words such as “supremacist” and “fascist” in their baseless accusations is irresponsible and demonstrates a lack of understanding of the histories of violence from actual supremacists and fascists. Rather than targeting actual white supremacists, class oppressors, and fascists, they’ve selected to target a working class woman of colour as their sole campaign.

When these online attacks against Yuly began, Peter Gibbs and Laura Cuthbert of Organize BC were hostile in confronting Yuly about her position regarding sex workers and transgender people before attempting to understand her perspective or the broader situation. Yuly was forced to repeatedly explain that she has never engaged in any anti-trans or anti-sex worker actions. Yuly had also drafted a statement that was circulated to the event organizers that clarified the nature of her previous work, which was rooted in a political economy approach of the sex trade that included women who were actively or formerly involved in the industry. In fact, Yuly had been invited to speak on the topic of grassroots organizing in Chinatown and how the struggle against gentrification is central to an agenda regarding the future of Vancouver. Trans rights and the sex industry, while important issues, are not central to her work in Chinatown.  

Instead of building space for principled criticism and collective unity — what real organizing aims to do — Organize BC and VDLC caved to pressure from online sycophants and opportunists and allowed them to wreak havoc on Yuly’s reputation, betraying their name and mandate. We are appalled by the fact that Organize BC publicly apologized to CATA while having never acknowledged the harassment and hostility that Yuly has endured daily for the past month, which will continue to have an effect on her emotional and mental well-being as well as future opportunities for a working class woman of colour. CAG members are being used as a scapegoat for disagreements between the labour movement and the broader left that was neither started nor reinforced by us. The fact that labour leaders felt pressure by a few emails from CATA to remove Yuly from the keynote panel shows the inability of the labour leadership to confront conflicts in a principled, thorough, and transparent manner.

An attack against Yuly is an attack against Chinatown Action Group and the community of working class Chinese residents that we serve. Your actions silence the leadership and participation of Chinese working class residents in a united front to improve the future for all in Vancouver. Instead of encouraging an environment where principled debate and alliances can exist, you normalize a culture that shames individuals and shuts down debate when there are misunderstandings and differences. Bullying, harassment, and slander is not real organizing. Condoning such tactics destroys our collective movement and will not bring about the unity that is urgently needed to solve the many crises we face in the city.

We invite others to join us who are genuinely interested in grassroots organizing through building each other up, finding common ground, and transforming ourselves through constructive criticism and debate. CAG will not tolerate attacks by CATA, Organize BC, and the organizations and individuals that support them. We call on our allies to condemn these attacks and reject any group or individuals perpetrating this type of harassment towards CAG organizers, including the removal of any posts that target Yuly and CAG.  

We ask our supporters to stand with us and share this letter widely.  We encourage supporters to send letters to Organize BC (email:, and the VDLC ( with your concerns about their actions in condoning harassment and abuse and the implications of de-platforming a speaker due to baseless accusations.

Chinatown Action Group

Open Letter: Ryan Beedie, Drop Your Appeal

Ryan Beedie_Drop Your Appeal

Feb. 22, 2018

Dear Ryan Beedie,

Chinatown Action Group and Chinatown Concern Group demand you withdraw your upcoming 105 Keefer appeal at the Board of Variance’s meeting on March 2, 2018.

We are outraged but sadly not surprised at your appeal of your last rejected application. The refusal delivered by the Development Permit Board was not exceptional, but just the latest round in what will now be your fifth consecutive year of failures and public humiliations since acquiring the property in 2013. The Chinatown community and its supporters are not alone in refusing your luxury condos at 105 Keefer; the Development Permit Board and Vancouver City Council, including Mayor Gregor Robertson, have rejected your development proposal time and time again.

The message is clear. You and your condos are not wanted in Chinatown, not by the people nor the city that serves them.

Your appeal, which will be reviewed by the Board of Variance on March 2, 2018, claims that you have suffered “significant hardship by reason of the inability of the Appellant to make effective use of the property,” citing “loss of revenue” and continued “damage to [your] reputation.”

For the president of a billion-dollar firm to cry over supposed financial hardship is as disgraceful as it is disingenuous. Your crocodile tears are an insult to the poor and working people that your condos, if built, would displace from their home in Chinatown. We are appalled that you would dare to blame the Chinatown community for damages to your reputation. You have dragged your own name through the mud these past five years in your dogged pursuit of profit at the price of people’s lives. Your shameless ploy does not fool us; you have demonstrated for the people of Vancouver your ego, greed, and outright failure as a professional real estate developer. Ryan Beedie: perhaps you should consider another line of work.

Your developments have devastated and displaced low-income communities across the Lower Mainland. Chinatown will not tolerate your ruse. In a sweet bit of irony, your attack on Chinatown’s most marginalized has brought together an improbable city-wide coalition led by the Chinese working class. Your repeated defeats at the hands of the people has brought hope to the city’s renters and workers at a moment when our homes and livelihoods seem all but lost to the designs of the developer class. We will not stop fighting until the site at 105 Keefer is home to 100% welfare- and pension-rate housing and a communal space for Chinatown’s elders. Your name may be on the deed, but 105 Keefer belongs to us.

On Monday, February 26th, at 11:00 AM, we will hold a community hearing at 1111 W. Georgia St to determine the people’s final decision on the fate of 105 Keefer. If you say you are working with the Chinatown community, we challenge you to keep to your word. We invite you to our community hearing, to come down from your office on the seventeenth floor to defend your latest application and appeal.


Chinatown Action Group 華埠行動小組
Chinatown Concern Group 唐人街關注組

Chinatown Action Group 華埠行動小組 is a collective of people of Chinese descent fighting for social justice in Chinatown and building a progressive left voice within the Chinese community.

Chinatown Concern Group 唐人街關注組 is an organization of Chinese residents in Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside working to address neighbourhood issues.

CAG 2017: A year of building people power in the community

As 2017 comes to an end, here are some CAG highlights we’d like to share as we reflect on our work this past year and look ahead into 2018.

This year, we door knocked, surveyed, and interviewed hundreds of Chinatown residents, reaching them with the Voice of Chinatown News Service.


We hosted two community tea times that brought Chinatown residents together to discuss issues and solutions in their neighbourhood.


Consolidating our findings from door knocking, surveying, and interviewing, we created and launched the People’s Vision for Chinatown.


We mobilized the Chinatown community and allies across Vancouver in the 105 Keefer campaign to rally at City Hall in the May/June public hearings and October DPB meeting and stop Beedie’s luxury condo from being built.


We built relationships and shared stories and learnings with dedicated organizers across Turtle Island (North America), including Chinatown Community for Equitable Development (Los Angeles), W.O.W. Project (New York), People’s Defence (Toronto), and Chinese Canadian National Council (Toronto).


We filmed six language learning videos with CAG volunteers and Chinatown residents to add to our organizing toolkit.

We organized study groups with allies on patriarchy, gender oppression, anti-sexist organizing, and anti-Asian racism.

We spoke at conferences and gave talks and workshops to high school students, university students, union workers, organizers, and the general public to share our work and build solidarity.


We shifted the housing narrative in the media by highlighting the concerns of working class Chinese residents in Vancouver’s Chinatown and bringing to the forefront their stories and lived realities.


Thank you so much to everyone who has been part of this beautiful year of organizing and learning with us. 2017 was definitely a year of building people power and community for CAG, as we worked together to create a strong grassroots movement. We look forward to 2018 as a year of growth and more thoughtful organizing where we will sharpen our political analysis, deepen our social investigation, and strengthen relationships with each other so that the work we do continues to be nurturing and sustainable. ❤

Photo credits: Celine Chuang, Nat Lowe, Lenée Son, Sid Tan


Maple Ridge Should Provide Homes to Anita Place Tent City

Anita Place

Letter of Support for Anita Place Tent City from the Chinatown Action Group. Photo credit: The Volcano Newsletter.

Dear Mayor Read and Maple Ridge City Council,

We are writing to call on you to withdraw your application for court injunction against Anita Place tent city and instead focus on providing 200 units of emergency modular housing to begin ending homelessness in Maple Ridge.

We are writing as members of the Chinatown Action Group, an intergenerational organization of people of Chinese descent who advocate for the right of our low-income communities to remain in their neighbourhoods without fear of displacement. We are compelled to write to you as we have seen the impact of Maple Ridge Council’s actions on shaping political positions and public discourse on the housing crisis and homelessness across the Lower Mainland.

Maple Ridge Council’s decision to pursue a court injunction against Anita Place tent city without providing alternative and appropriate accommodations to its residents is inhumane and will increase danger and harms to homeless people in Maple Ridge. Anita Place is a space that has saved countless lives during the ongoing opioid overdose crisis. Much like Chinatown, Anita Place serves as a place of safety and belonging for low-income people in contrast to the open hostility and violence they face on the streets of Maple Ridge. Although it is not an acceptable substitution for homes, it is a safe space where homeless people can leave their belongings while they go to look for jobs, attend healthcare appointments, find food, or visit with family and friends.

We call on Mayor Read to publicly retract her harmful and irresponsible comments about homeless people at Anita Place tent city. In her comments about Council’s decision to apply for a court injunction, Mayor Read accuses Anita Place residents of being a nuisance because of complaints from neighbours which she legitimizes. There is no statistical basis to these complaints; police records actually show that property crime has plummeted to a 30-year low alongside Anita Place. No one at Anita Place has been charged or convicted for uttering threats, assaulting, or attempting murder against a police or fire officer. An effect of these unsubstantiated claims is that Mayor Read and Maple Ridge Council are legitimizing right wing populist hatred against homeless people, the group of people in our society most vulnerable to death by violence.

We call on you, Mayor and Council, to demonstrate your leadership to the city of Maple Ridge by treating all of your constituents with respect and dignity, regardless of their income. We call on you to fulfill your duties to your constituents by working to provide them with their most basic needs — safe and decent housing.

The historic role of Cities in building social housing has been to buy and provide land where the federal and provincial governments can build and operate social housing. We call on Maple Ridge Council to withdraw your application for a court injunction to break up Anita Place tent city and, instead, to focus your energies and resources on building 200 emergency modular housing units and 200 permanent units of social housing.

Chinatown Action Group 華埠行動小組

Can You Tell These Elders To Their Face That Beedie’s Profit Is More Important Than Their Lives?

Can you tell these elders to their face that Beedie’s profit is more important than their lives?
Oct. 30, 2017


My name is Jannie Leung and I’m also known as 梁泳詩. I’m an organizer with the Chinatown Action Group.

I grew up here on unceded Coast Salish territories, and Chinatown has always been an important part of my identity, culture, and community. I am indebted to the elders of Chinatown — many of whom you’ve met today — who teach me my language and history, and teach me to speak up for what is right.

I’m here today to ask you to do the right thing and reject Beedie’s application at 105 Keefer on the grounds that it will cause devastating social and economic harm to the neighbourhood.

Building condos at the Keefer triangle will not only disrespect a culturally and historically important site in Chinatown, it will further threaten the livelihoods of the neighbourhood’s most marginalized residents. In the neighbouring 189 Keefer building, we have seen 1 bedroom condos being sold for just under half a million dollars. In a neighbourhood where the median household income of the area is $27,000 and social housing waitlists are years long, and with over 2000 homeless people in Vancouver, it would be completely inappropriate to allow more condos to be built instead of affordable social housing.

Since 2014, Beedie’s previous 4 attempts to build on this site were unsuccessful because of overwhelming community opposition. We have voiced again and again that this community does not need more condos, but what we desperately need is affordable social housing. Yet, this developer has demonstrated that their sole interest is in making profit, and they do not care about or respect the Chinatown community. They especially do not care about the low-income people in this neighbourhood who struggle daily to meet even their basic needs. It is a selfish and greedy act that their current application has 111 units of market condos that will be completely unaffordable for these residents, and zero units of affordable social housing.

In this current version of their development application, 78% of community members giving feedback oppose this development. It is not appropriate to allow a building into a neighbourhood that will cause harm to the community and where the majority have rejected it.

And while I have your attention here, I also need to speak on the discrimination and exclusion I have seen within this Development Permit process. We know that a very high proportion of residents in Chinatown are unilingual Chinese speakers. And it is inexcusable that many of its residents can’t participate equally in these city processes about their neighbourhood because they speak a different language. Language accessibility is something that can be so easily addressed with appropriate interpretation services.

As we have seen today, the Chinese speakers only get half the time to speak as everyone else because they need English interpretation. There has been no interpretation of the proceedings into Cantonese and Mandarin for them, so they watch other people talk about their community and make decisions about it, but they cannot understand what is happening.

Chinatown has a long history of the city making decisions about them, for them, and enforcing regulations that threaten their livelihoods without their consultation. Even today, I commonly hear from Chinatown residents and businesses that they feel like their voices do not matter, and even when they participate in city processes, the city does not listen to their needs.

This is unacceptable.

As the City of Vancouver is making efforts towards reconciliation for historical discrimination against Chinese people, it is appalling to me that there continues to be systemic racism to this day. It is appalling that you discredit the community members telling you the very real and harmful impacts on their lives. It is appalling that you think you can ignore social impacts in assessing this development.

And despite the accessibility barriers, some of our courageous Chinatown elders have come here to speak their truth to you. Can you tell these elders to their face that Beedie’s profit is more important than their lives? Can you, in good conscience, approve a development that the Chinatown community has so definitively opposed?

I ask you to show us that these city processes are not a sham. I ask you to show us that we no longer live in a time when Chinese voices are silenced and our needs ignored. I ask you respect what the Chinatown community has so clearly asked for and do your duty to protect the community against a development that will cause irreparable harm to the community. I ask you to reject Beedie’s development application.

I also ask that you undertake a review of your procedures to end these discriminatory practices and ensure that community members have equal opportunities to participate and their accessibility needs are addressed. You can do better. You must do better.

Jannie Leung 梁泳詩 is an organizer with Chinatown Action Group.

Photo credit: Lenée Son

Ain’t​ ​Nobody​ Going​ ​to​ ​Save​ ​Chinatown

Ain’t​ ​Nobody​ Going​ ​to​ ​Save​ ​Chinatown
Oct. 30, 2017


Hey,​ ​I’m​ ​Vince​ ​Tao,​ ​speaking​ ​on​ ​behalf​ ​of​ ​Chinatown​ ​Action Group.

You​ ​know​ ​why​ ​we’re​ ​here​ ​today.​ ​Beedie​ ​is​ ​attempting​ ​to​ ​push through​ ​its​ ​latest,​ ​and​ ​likely​ ​last,​ ​development​ ​application​ ​to build​ ​on​ ​the​ ​105​ ​Keefer​ ​site.​ ​For​ ​the​ ​last​ ​four​ ​years,​ ​the Chinatown​ ​community​ ​has​ ​come​ ​together​ ​in​ ​opposition​ ​to​ ​Beedie’s designs​ ​to​ ​construct​ ​a​ ​tower​ ​of​ ​market-rate,​ ​luxury​ ​condos​ ​that would​ ​cast​ ​a​ ​long​ ​shadow​ ​over​ ​the​ ​Chinese​ ​Worker’s​ ​Memorial​ ​and the​ ​Sun-yat​ ​Sen​ ​Garden.​ ​If​ ​built,​ ​the​ ​condos​ ​on​ ​105​ ​Keefer​ ​will accelerate​ ​the​ ​destruction​ ​and​ ​displacement​ ​of​ ​Chinatown​ ​as​ ​we know​ ​it​ ​—​ ​where​ ​communities​ ​of​ ​workers,​ ​immigrants,​ ​and​ ​the marginalized,​ ​of​ ​all​ ​backgrounds,​ ​have​ ​laboured​ ​to​ ​make​ ​homes​ ​in their​ ​image.

This​ ​is​ ​Beedie’s​ ​fifth​ ​application.​ ​We’ve​ ​beaten​ ​them​ ​back​ ​four times​ ​now.​ ​They’ve​ ​seen​ ​our​ ​strength.​ ​The​ ​community​ ​has​ ​spoken. No​ ​Beedie​ ​at​ ​105​ ​Keefer.

You​ ​would​ ​think​ ​after​ ​four​ ​years​ ​of​ ​mounting​ ​community resentment​ ​and​ ​four​ ​rejections​ ​from​ ​the​ ​city,​ ​billionaire developer​ ​Ryan​ ​Beedie​ ​would​ ​have​ ​the​ ​sense​ ​and​ ​dignity​ ​to​ ​cut his​ ​losses​ ​and​ ​crawl​ ​back​ ​to​ ​the​ ​gilded​ ​cave​ ​he​ ​came​ ​from.​ ​But he’s​ ​bitter.​ ​He​ ​can’t​ ​stand​ ​that​ ​the​ ​poor,​ ​the​ ​working,​ ​the youth,​ ​and​ ​the​ ​elders​ ​of​ ​Chinatown​ ​have​ ​banded​ ​together​ ​to​ ​run him​ ​out​ ​of​ ​city​ ​hall.​ ​He​ ​wants​ ​revenge.​ ​Beedie’s​ ​last​ ​failed application​ ​promised​ ​12​ ​storeys​ ​of​ ​market-rate​ ​condos​ ​with​ ​25 units​ ​of​ ​social​ ​housing.​ ​We​ ​called​ ​his​ ​bullshit;​ ​25​ ​is​ ​a​ ​drop​ ​in the​ ​bucket​ ​in​ ​this​ ​city,​ ​and​ ​only​ ​7​ ​of​ ​those​ ​units​ ​were​ ​actually affordable​ ​to​ ​seniors​ ​living​ ​on​ ​welfare​ ​and​ ​pensions.​ ​Today: Beedie​ ​wants​ ​to​ ​railroad​ ​through​ ​a​ ​9-storey​ ​tower​ ​with​ ​zero units​ ​of​ ​social​ ​housing.​ ​Zero​ ​units.​ ​This​ ​is​ ​the​ ​cruel​ ​last resort​ ​of​ ​a​ ​man​ ​vindictive​ ​of​ ​the​ ​community​ ​that​ ​has​ ​grown stronger​ ​than​ ​ever​ ​together​ ​in​ ​struggle​ ​and​ ​opposition.

But​ ​Ryan​ ​Beedie​ ​will​ ​do​ ​as​ ​Ryan​ ​Beedie​ ​does.​ ​He​ ​is​ ​a​ ​pathetic, greedy​ ​little​ ​man​ ​—​ ​his​ ​contempt​ ​for​ ​the​ ​poor​ ​should​ ​not surprise​ ​us​ ​in​ ​the​ ​least.​ ​The​ ​city,​ ​however,​ ​had​ ​a​ ​rare opportunity​ ​to​ ​buy​ ​the​ ​land​ ​back​ ​from​ ​Beedie​ ​and,​ ​with​ ​BC Housing,​ ​build​ ​100%​ ​social​ ​housing​ ​on​ ​the​ ​site.​ ​Just​ ​three​ ​days ago,​ ​we​ ​were​ ​notified​ ​that​ ​this​ ​negotiation​ ​had​ ​ended,​ ​and​ ​the latest​ ​application,​ ​featuring​ ​a​ ​stunning​ ​0%​ ​units​ ​of​ ​social housing,​ ​will​ ​proceed​ ​to​ ​be​ ​reviewed​ ​by​ ​the​ ​Development​ ​Permit board,​ ​not​ ​city​ ​council.​ ​The​ ​cowardice​ ​of​ ​the​ ​city​ ​and​ ​BC Housing​ ​on​ ​this​ ​matter,​ ​at​ ​a​ ​time​ ​when​ ​the​ ​homelessness​ ​crisis has​ ​reached​ ​unimaginable​ ​heights,​ ​at​ ​a​ ​time​ ​when​ ​the​ ​homes​ ​and livelihoods​ ​of​ ​Chinatown’s​ ​most​ ​marginalized​ ​hang​ ​dangerously​ ​at the​ ​brink​ ​of​ ​disappearance,​ ​their​ ​failure​ ​to​ ​seize​ ​this opportunity​ ​is​ ​nothing​ ​more​ ​than​ ​a​ ​crime​ ​by​ ​the​ ​rich​ ​against​ ​the poor,​ ​the​ ​violence​ ​of​ ​profit​ ​over​ ​people.

Ain’t​ ​nobody​ ​going​ ​to​ ​save​ ​Chinatown.​ ​Not​ ​the​ ​developers,​ ​not the​ ​non-profits,​ ​not​ ​Chinatown​ ​“stakeholders”,​ ​not​ ​even​ ​the city.​ ​Chinatown​ ​doesn’t​ ​need​ ​to​ ​be​ ​saved.​ ​United,​ ​the​ ​working and​ ​the​ ​poor​ ​of​ ​Chinatown​ ​have​ ​the​ ​power​ ​to​ ​determine​ ​what happens​ ​to​ ​their​ ​homes,​ ​and​ ​we’re​ ​going​ ​to​ ​fight​ ​like​ ​hell​ ​for our​ ​right​ ​to​ ​live​ ​and​ ​prosper​ ​in​ ​the​ ​neighbourhood.

They​ ​have​ ​the​ ​money,​ ​but​ ​we​ ​have​ ​the​ ​power.

Vince Tao is an organizer with Chinatown Action Group.

Photo credit: Lenée Son

Stop the Discrimination Against Chinese Working-Class People

Stop the Discrimination Against Chinese Working-Class People
Oct. 30, 2017

King-mong 1200x630

Good afternoon everyone. My name is King-mong Chan and I am an organizer with the Chinatown Concern Group and Chinatown Action Group.  I acknowledge that we are on the unceded Coast Salish territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations.  I am asking the Board to reject the development application.

At tomorrow’s City Council meeting, the General Manager of Community Services will be recommending to City Council to acknowledge past discrimination against Chinese people and to offer a formal apology.  This discrimination however has not passed and is actually the point of discussion today.  105 Keefer is situated by the Chinatown Memorial Square within Chinatown, a working-class Chinese neighbourhood whose livelihoods are being threatened by gentrification, caused by market housing projects such as 105 Keefer and zoning polices that allow these projects to be built.

To approve this project is to continue this history of racism against Chinese people by saying Mr. Beedie’s profits are more important than the lives of the Chinese working-class residents.  To approve this project will go against Council’s motion on May 27, 2014 that directs staff to recommend steps and actions in support of reconciliation.  But the Chinatown Historic Area Planning Committee voted to not support this project on Oct. 12th.  The permit staff committee report for this application indicates that 78% of respondents were opposed to this application.  Close to 3,000 people have signed a petition rejecting market housing at this site.  Since 2014, the community has loudly vocalized opposition to Beedie’s market housing applications at this site.  To approve this project is not supporting reconciliation! Instead it means you are deciding to escalate hostility against the Chinese community!

And so Development Permit Board members, I call on you to stop the discrimination against Chinese people. Reject Beedie’s application, recommend to City Council a zoning policy at 105 Keefer that support justice and reconciliation such as no market housing and put people before profit!

King-mong Chan 陳敬望, is an organizer with Chinatown Action Group and Chinatown Concern Group.
Photo credit:  Lenée Son

On Grassroots Leadership

Photo credit: Murray Bush

The following is an excerpt from Chinatown Action Group organizer Stephanie Fung’s speech at the Hospital Employees’ Union Fall School (Oct. 15, 2017):

So I’ve been asked to come here today to speak about resilient leadership and what it means to be a grassroots leader. The more I reflected on leadership in Chinatown Action Group, the more I wondered about what it is that’s the real work we do. Beyond facilitating study groups, beyond organizing direct actions, what is our real job as grassroots organizers in the larger scheme of things? The way I see it is this: our greatest, and probably most difficult, task is to identify and develop leaders who want to build leadership in others.

For me, building resilient leadership means not only dedicating my own time and energy to various efforts for social change, but also working to move others to take action. It means helping them develop skills, political analysis, and confidence to organize so that in the long term they can continue to help sustain the movement by identifying, recruiting, and training other leaders who themselves will develop other leaders, and so on and so forth. This is the process of building a mass organization and building grassroots community power. It’s hard work. It involves tremendous labour and we don’t expect fast results. Organizing at the core is about building relationships. It’s about developing collective power through developing leaders. It’s about learning how to be patient through struggles and how to care for each other as we grow. This is a long-term project where the fruits of our work can take a long time to see.

Chinatown Action Group’s organizing model draws from and is inspired by grassroots organizing of the American Civil Rights Movement. Community organizers like Ella Baker, Septima Clark, and Myles Horton challenged the limits on the ability of the oppressed to transform their own lives. They engaged in participatory democracy where decisions were consensus-based. Ella Baker once stated: “I have always thought what is needed is the development of people who are interested not in being leaders as much as in developing leadership in others… Strong people don’t need strong leaders.”

What makes you get out of bed every morning? What does it take for all of us in this room to persuade ourselves to pick up and go?

If we’re not developing leaders, then we’re not building the organization. We start with where people are at. We share stories. Start with what matters most to our base and work with them in a way that they see themselves as having the right to fully participate in transforming their lives. We don’t empower people because people already have power; they don’t need us to liberate them from anything. Instead, we move each other to take action. We move each other to build capacity to use our power to change the material conditions of our lives.

How do we do this? Here are some concrete ways of how we build leadership in CAG:

    1. We have work parties as a hands-on, low-commitment way to get people involved. We bring people together to do action-oriented tasks so that they feel a sense of purpose right from the start.
    2. We build strong and organic relationships with others in the organization. This means members develop one-on-one relationships with volunteers to bring them into CAG. We also have mentorships between core members.
    3. We develop relationships with Chinese seniors in Chinatown by listening to them share their life experiences. Working class seniors who live in Chinatown make up a large part of the base that we organize and they love to talk about their life experiences. This is where they are experts—they have wisdom, they have life experience that we don’t have, and this is where we want them to feel the most confident in articulating. Seniors have endured a lot, and it is important to validate their experience and acknowledge that they have survived through tremendous hardships, that the injustice they face is real, but their existence is important and should not be invisibilized or marginalized. Their stories convince us that the work we do matters.
    4. We engage in grassroots education. We organize study sessions to learn about histories of grassroots organizing and movements. We develop power and class analyses.
    5. We develop a Vision and Basis of Unity where we bring people on the same page and create a sense of vision to understand the importance of our work in a more historical context and that we are part of the broader movement for social and economic justice.

Strengthening our relationships with each other through sharing stories, listening, and caring about each others’ growth and struggles—these are all things that build a community. I’m interested in how grassroots spaces might offer possibilities to shape our power beyond hierarchical cultures, in ways that can build momentum and allow us to relate to each other. That’s really the heart of organizing: to develop ourselves and more importantly, each other as leaders so that we can use our power together to create stories that address social issues and move more people to act on the side of justice.