By Mai Thao
Since 2012, Hmong Innovating Politics (HIP) has been dedicated to serving the hard-working but historically disenfranchised communities of Sacramento. To start 2018, HIP is thrilled and proud to announce that it is teaming up with local organizers to expand its civic empowerment and integrated voter engagement work to Fresno.
Led by Fresno resident Mai Thao, HIP will grow its efforts to empower disenfranchised communities and elevate voices in support of social and economic justice. Thao previously served as the political community organizer for SEIU Local 521 and played a critical role in several local campaigns. Her organizing and voter engagement experience will help residents in Fresno grow their political power and elevate issues affecting low-income communities to the forefront.
“Being born and raised in Fresno,” says Thao, “I didn’t think too much about the disparities my family faced. Growing up in neighborhoods with gang violence, relying on food stamps, eating vegetables grown in our own backyard and going to the swap meet to buy basic essentials were experiences a lot of people from Fresno can resonate with.
“It wasn’t until I left Fresno to go to undergrad did I realize how disenfranchised and disadvantaged families in our neighborhoods were. After graduating from Cal, I came back to Fresno fueled by the belief that in order to change the circumstances of our community, we needed to do everything we could to tear down the institutional and political barriers that reinforce (and benefit from) the existing disparities. In order for individuals and entire communities to reach their full potential, I knew we had to start building power.”
The challenges that communities in Fresno and Sacramento face are distinct and localized to specific neighborhoods. However, the ingredients necessary to build power and advance a progressive vision for all of California will always include grassroots organizing and increasing civic engagement. HIP now can grow progressive political power in the two largest Hmong communities in California.
HIP is a grassroots organization with a mission to strengthen the political power of Hmong and disenfranchised communities through innovative civic engagement and strategic grassroots mobilization.
HIP envisions a California of empowered communities that thrive in a socially and economically just democracy. HIP believes that
Communities of all backgrounds are unique and have strengths to contribute to society.
It is essential to involve communities to create effective policies.
When all communities are empowered, society changes for the better.
The primary components of HIP’s work include the following:
Voter engagement. To realize its vision of a socially and economically just democracy, HIP specializes in grassroots mobilization that utilizes direct voter contact and base-building strategies. Its efforts target historically disenfranchised residents who have been ignored by decision makers or falsely characterized as apathetic. By removing barriers to voting, developing culturally and linguistically appropriate voter education materials, and empowering young people, HIP is ready to make voices heard.
Youth leadership. Young people make up the largest proportion of the Hmong community. Young people are the future but also the present. Their voices and their vision are essential to the progress of the community. HIP is committed to creating spaces for young people to thrive and to give them the tools to affect their community.
Parent engagement and education advocacy. From fighting school closures to advancing support for English learner students to advocacy for ethnic studies, HIP is proud to stand for educational equity. Communities can rise by overcoming the significant education disparities that communities of color face. HIP’s efforts include helping immigrant parents navigate the school system and advocating for policies that improve education outcomes for young people.
Social justice and coalition building. HIP believes that the advancement of the Hmong community is intrinsically tied to realizing social justice for all. HIP believes that Black Lives Matters. HIP will fight to dismantle patriarchy and empower women. HIP will stand up for equality and work in solidarity with those who face discrimination and systemic racism.
Mai Thao is a Fresno-based community activist and the civic engagement director for Hmong Innovating Politics. Contact her at email@example.com.
Hmong Innovating Politics (HIP)
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