CAAAV's History in Space
You can continue exploring CAAAV's history, through "The Power of Protest: CAAAV Taking Action in NYC," a city-spanning geographical history of CAAAV's work advocating for economic and racial justice in New York City's pan-Asian community. This collection is available here on HistoryPin.
Reading Guide: CAAAV's Responses to Incidents of Anti-Asian Violence
Not Your “Model Minority”: An Annotated Bibliography of Grassroots, Women-Led Asian American Activism
This annotated bibliography aims to bring attention to the vital labor done by women within CAAAV, situate their work within broader Asian American social movements, and explore Asian American women’s leadership and intersectional approaches to social activism throughout the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. I examine thirteen books and articles written by both scholars and Asian American activists in order to provide an in-depth exploration of working-class Asian American women’s labor within grassroots social justice projects. In doing so, I detail the specific methodologies, organizing strategies, and campaigns these activists use to achieve their goals, advocate for marginalized communities, and engender a more just and equal society.
Working-class Asian American women have been at the forefront of CAAAV: Organizing Asian Community’s activist work since the organization was founded by Mini Liu and Monona Yin in 1986. Over the past three and a half decades, CAAAV has been run by an almost entirely female-identifying staff and supported by numerous female-identifying volunteers. The leadership of these Asian American women has played an integral role in shaping CAAAV’s efforts to support poor and working-class people of color and its longstanding dedication to alliance work. Like many other women of color, Asian American women were largely left out of the second- and third-wave feminist movements in the latter half of the twentieth century. In response, many Asian American women began participating in social movements in their communities or in the larger society and applying intersectional frameworks to their activism. Much contemporary Asian American feminist activism, like that of CAAAV, uses a coalitional approach to advance their social justice work and secure equality for all oppressed communities. However, Asian American women’s political and social activism goes largely unacknowledged, and Asian American feminists still struggle to gain political visibility.
The intersection of Asian American women’s gender, race, class, and culture, as well as their exclusion from the mainstream feminist movement, has resulted in the development of a uniquely Asian American feminist consciousness. Accordingly, many working-class, Asian American women activists articulate a form of identity politics that is overtly about justice, power, and praxis. These intersectional, identity-based frameworks contest power and inequity by embracing both identity and community, and they even shape the work of social justice organizations that employ a feminist lens but do not not focus solely on feminist issues, like CAAAV. CAAAV’s Women Workers Project, for example, was created by Ai-Jen Poo in the summer of 1996 to address sex work and bring sex workers together via collective action. In 1999, CAAAV and Poo launched a joint organizing effort with Andolan: Organizing South Asian Workers in order to fight injustices on behalf of Asian women in the domestic workforce. However, Asian women only comprise a small percentage of domestic workers, who are mainly Caribbean and Latina women. Since no other organizations were organizing with these underrepresented groups, CAAAV helped launch Domestic Workers United to secure fair wages, working conditions, and protections for New York City’s domestic workers. This coalitional rationale and commitment to people-of-color-focused movements was directly shaped by the intersectional ethos of CAAAV’s working-class, female-identifying leaders. This organizing model is also used by numerous other Asian American women activists and grassroots, women-driven Asian American social justice projects, such as Oakland’s Asian Immigrant Women Advocates (AIWA), Asian American garment workers in the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU), and the Chinese Progressive Association (CPA) Workers Center in Boston.
Of course, Asian and Asian American women’s activism is not a recent phenomenon. As Betty Yu, cofounder of the Chinatown Art Brigade (CAB) points out, “Chinese immigrant women have always been at the leadership of everything, of all these movements, of all this work… we continue in this tradition.” Today (May 2021), it feels particularly relevant to draw attention to the activism of Asian American women, as Asians are scapegoated for the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, hate crimes against Asian Americans rose by 150 percent in 16 major cities in 2020. STOP AAPI Hate, an organization that tracks violence and harassment against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States, reports that there have been almost 3,800 instances of discrimination against Asians and Asian Americans over the past year. Women have faced the brunt of this discrimination, reporting 2.3 times more hate incidents than men.By uplifting the leadership and activism of Asian American women, we can increase awareness of the United States’ legacy of violence and discrimination against Asian and Asian American women and highlight these women’s vital activist work, historically and presently.
This guide was created by Helen Stec as coursework for HIST-GA 3901 Community Archives, taught by Maggie Schreiner, in the Archives and Public History MA program at New York University.
 “CAAAV’s 30th Anniversary,” CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities, accessed March 22, 2021, http://www.caaav.org/30th_anniversary/caaav_30th.html.
 Esther Ngan-Ling Chow, “The Development of Feminist Consciousness among Asian American Women,” Gender and Society 1, no. 3 (1987): 284-285; Shireen Roshanravan, “Weaponizing Our (In)visibility: Asian American Feminist Ruptures of the Model-Minority Optic,” in Asian American Feminisms and Women of Color Politics, ed. Lynn Fujiwara and Shireen Roshanravan (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2018), 262.
 Roshanravan, “Weaponizing Our (In)visibility,” 262.
 Chow, “The Development of Feminist Consciousness”; Jennifer Jihye Chun et al., “Intersectionality as a Social Movement Strategy: Asian Immigrant Women Advocates,” Signs 38, no. 4 (2013): 917.
 Ariella Rotramel, Pushing Back: Women of Color-Led Grassroots Activism in New York City, (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 2020), 2-4.
 “Reading Guide: The Voice Digital Archives,” CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities, accessed March 22, 2021, http://caaav.org/reading-guide-the-voice-digital-archives.
 Ai-jen Poo, “A Twenty-First Century Organizing Model: Lessons from the New York Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Campaign,” New Labor Forum 20, no. 1 (2011): 263.
 Poo, “A Twenty-First Century Organizing Model,” 263.
 Erika Lee, “Making a New Asian America Through Immigration and Activism,” in The Making of Asian America: A History (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2016), 370; Glenn Omatsu, “The ‘Four Prisons’ and the Movements of Liberation: Asian American Activism from the 1960s to the 1990s,” in Contemporary Asian America: A Multidisciplinary Reader, ed. by Min Zhou and Anthony C. Ocampo (New York: NYU Press, 2016), 95.
 Diane Wong, “Shop Talk and Everyday Sites of Resistance to Gentrification in Manhattan’s Chinatown,” Women’s Studies Quarterly 47, nos. 1-2 (2019): 144.
 “The Rise In Anti-Asian Attacks During The COVID-19 Pandemic,” NPR, March 10, 2021, http://www.npr.org/2021/03/10/975722882/the-rise-of-anti-asian-attacks-during-the-covid- 19-pandemic.
 Kimmy Yam, “There were 3,800 anti-Asian racist incidents, mostly against women, in past year,” last modified March 16, 2021, http://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/there-were-3-800-anti-asian-racist-incidents-mostly-against-n1261257.