WHEN FAMILY IS ONCE A YEAR

Who is family? Who gives you the feelings of family? Where do you find family?

For the past three years, I have served on the leadership team of the Asian Pacific Islander Knowledge Community of NASPA, a professional organization that supports people and communities in higher education. While I have developed, over the years, as a scholar and practitioner who advocates for API communities, I certainly haven't always been as "woke" (as Dr. Dafina-Lazrus Stewart says). In fact, for much of my life, I have skirted the boundaries of even being a part of the community. 

At a really crucial time in my life -- a time when I was struggling with my own identity as an Asian American -- I was given the opportunity to serve in a leadership role in this community. I wasn't comfortable. Actually, I was so uncomfortable that I was certain that everyone around me must be thinking that I'm an imposter. An Asian American imposter. There are so many analogies that I'll leave out of here, but, yes, I felt like I didn't belong. 

That first, year, I was uncomfortable being in a room of mostly (okay, all) Asian American, Pacific Islander and Desi folks. The second year, I found myself really wanting to be around them. The third year, I needed them so much in my life. 

I'm back home now, and it's time for me to start counting down the days until I can be with my APIKC family. There is something so special, so necessary, about being with people who affirm identity, who understand who we are as a community, and who see me as an individual in a room and conference of over 6,000 others. 

This year, there were also a number of scholars and friends who do not identify as Asian American, Pacific Islander, and Desi who were also so present in the events. I am thankful. I am thankful that you, too, found some space in this community and that you hopefully felt loved and embraced. 

I am thankful for the many new people who, maybe, were feeling just like I was a few years ago. I hope you found a home within the community. I hope you found a few new friends, mentors and family. I hope you come back and serve as a guide to a new person next year.

Each year, I leave a little bit sad but a whole lot of loved. Thank you to all those who recognize the need for spaces that not only are "safe" but also powerful. Thank you for all those who joined in and who became a part of a movement, a legacy and a future. 

To my pamilya, may you carry strength and wisdom; love and peace; courage and empowerment back to your family. And, come back to share more next year!

Peace and Love

(Dr.) Liza