We Are One: The National Asian Pacific Islander American Historic Preservation Forum

Also posted on the PreservationNation.org Blog. I’m working on a post of some exhibits I recently attended but wanted to post this here as well.

We are one.

At the end of the first day of the Asian Pacific Islander American Historic Preservation Forum (APIAHPF) I found myself at a banquet hosted by Guam Preservation willingly participating in a group sing-a-long complete with traditional hand motions and live music. For those who attended the two and a half day conference this moment represented everything that the meeting had offered to attendees: camaraderie, energy, synergy and determination – all in a forum to encourage, educate and mobilize Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA) communities that are working to preserve their American story.

About two years in the making, this conference served two distinct purposes. The first was to provide educational sessions that would give attendees basic preservation tools to save their historic communities. Context matters, so the fact that we were at the Kabuki Hotel in the heart of San Francisco’s Japantown definitely added to the atmosphere. I moderated a session that gave an introduction to historic preservation, and quickly learned that all of the attendees who had gathered brought with them a particular story and vision for APIA preservation. One of the major components of this session was recognizing that preservation, especially in the case of Asian Americans, is more than just buildings and structures, but also includes the intangible heritage—the folklore, the language, the dance.

The second part of the Forum involved thinking organically as a group about what APIA historic preservation means and consequently what it needs in order to become a broader and successful movement. I mentioned synergy earlier and this is where all of our minds worked together to brainstorm. Every meal was a working meal and breakfast (both days) and lunch were reserved for the task of identifying what tools the APIA community needs to preserve their unique American past. Using the World Café format we looked at three central questions that served as jumping off point for what we as a group wanted for APIA preservation:

  • What inspires and motivates you personally to preserve APIA culture?
  • What does historic preservation mean in an APIA context? What changes?
  • What next steps would you like to see for API cultural preservation?

This allowed us, on the final morning, to develop a series of product-based next steps that ranged from developing a “basics” toolkit from existing materials, developing a social media strategy for the group that includes advocacy alerts and networking, and determining that the conversation needs to continue with others—especially with stake holders who were unable to attend the Forum.

Perhaps the most important piece of this Forum was the recognition that the APIA and historic preservation community needs to work together in order to be successful. That…

We are One
With the Earth
With the Sun
With the Sky
With the Sea
We are One

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