May at RYSE: Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month

In celebration of Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we invited our long-time community partner APEN (Asian Pacific Environmental Network) to be our guest blogger for May.

APEN works to build a collective voice for environmental, social, and economic justice, organizing to bring changes to economic and social institutions that prioritize public good over profits and promote the right of every person to a safe, affordable quality of life, and the right to participate in decisions affected their lives.

RYSE is grateful to be in partnership with APEN for more than 4 years, working together on multiple events and activities; candidate forums, voter registration drives, youth organizing trainings as well as youth engagement in the annual Our Power Festival. We are honored to organize and work with APEN in lifting up young people's voices and leadership in effort to make Richmond a safe and healthy community for all.

From Sandy Saeteurn, APEN:


I was 14 years old when I started organizing with Asian Pacific Environmental Network’s youth program, Asian Youth Advocates.  A friend invited me to join and I saw it as an opportunity to hang out with other young Laotian women and learn about my community and culture.

I was curious, and looking back, a little naïve.  Especially when it came to Chevron and environmental injustice.  When I learned about the harm that they were doing to our community and health, it really angered me.  So I wanted to learn more and educate people about what was happening.

By the end of the four-year program, I knew that I wanted to continue making space for our community to have a voice and a choice in the things that affect their lives.


I’ve been a community leader and organizer with APEN for over 20 years.  As young Laotian and Mien women, we’re so often not seen or heard. We are expected to become housewives.  I want to empower other Asian immigrant and refugee women to find their voices and passion for justice.

Today, this work happens through the APEN Academy, our youth leadership training program. 

Over the summer, Richmond youth learn about community organizing and immediately put it into practice. As part of last summer’s program, Ahllain Santos lobbied Assemblymember Rob Bonta’s office to pass housing, climate and immigration policies that serve California’s low-income communities.

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"I spoke about my concerns over stricter immigration laws, which would slow down the process of people migrating to America. I spoke about the strain that non-native speakers feel when learning English and how the government should implement more local services to help them adapt. I spoke about the last time I saw my relatives, our house gate separating us as I got into the car reassuring them that I'll come back. I haven't and it's been a decade since I've returned to the Philippines.

I looked around the room at the youth in my program. In that moment, I felt empowered to spend my time bringing a voice to powerless and to change my community and the world."

The month of May celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage. In light of this, I’d like to recognize the legacy of APEN’s work with young API women in Richmond. Thank you APEN for shaping me to be the feminist leader I am today!


Sandy Saeteurn
Local Political Coordinator
Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN)

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Learn more about Kids First Richmond here.

Help create a Richmond Fund for Children & Youth

Together with APEN and along with SEIU Local 1021, ACCE, and elected leaders including County Supervisor John Gioia and Richmond Vice-Mayor Melvin Willis, we’ve been hard at work on the Kids First Richmond campaign, an initiative that will help establish a Richmond Fund for Children and Youth to more effectively invest in our youth.

The Kids First Richmond campaign will ensure that Richmond's youth are physically, emotionally, mentally, and socially healthy, educated, and live in stable, safe, and supported families and communities. Here's how you can help us establish a Richmond Fund for Children & Youth to more effectively invest in our youth:

A Look Inside RYSE Commons

We're excited to share these newest previews of our RYSE Commons expansion! Check out all of our renderings and updates on our capital campaign here, and find out more on how you can support this project.

May at RYSE

This month, RYSErs participated at the North Richmond Block Party in the unveiling of a new mural, and to spread the word about the Kids First Richmond campaign that will help sustain funding for life-changing youth services in Richmond. We were also excited to celebrate the opening of our exhibit Kaleidoscope: Through the Social Justice Lens at Kaleidoscope Coffee in Point Richmond, which will run until June. Plus, photos from our trip to speak at Quest for Democracy, a state-wide rally in support of formerly incarcerated people in their fight for inclusion, and more.