„Teatime is a way for us to help members get to know each other and discover what’s important to us — and what we want to organise around,“ said Powen Shiah, member of the Global AAPI Caucus Steering Committee.
Members from the Europe, Middle-East and Africa region joined us for Teatime on January 28th to exchange experiences, ideas and stories. The first in a series of planned global and local community-building events hosted by the Global AAPI Caucus, the virtual event aimed to give members a relaxed space to connect.
„I wanted to create a space where Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders living abroad can gather and get to know each other. For me, building this kind of political group starts with building a community,“ said Powen.
The hour-long event consisted of an initial round of introductions, followed by group discussion in smaller breakouts, and concluded with a few rounds of speed-networking.
Ifung Lu spoke in-depth with new Democrats Abroad member Anita Kattakuzhy about her experience at Teatime. Ms. Kattakuzhy is a member of Democrats Abroad Greece. An edited transcript of our conversation follows:
How did you find out about Teatime and did you have any expectations or hopes for the event when you signed up?
I found Democrats Abroad, and was trying to figure out an entryway that I would feel comfortable in, and saw the AAPI Caucus and was like, yeah, that’s it!
I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m already really engaged in politics of different kinds in my normal day job. So I came with a slight expectation formed by my work that we would get down to business and talk strategy, that we’d be brainstorming work that we could do collectively. So I was really pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t really about that, actually. And it made me feel more like, okay, actually this isn’t just an extension of my work. This is part of my identity and a community space, which I don’t have to treat like work.
What did you think of the event? What did you like about it? What could be improved?
It felt really nice. And it was fun! I thought that our American-origin diversity was really interesting as well. I found hearing about personal stories that counter stereotypes that we grew up with in the US to be really cool.
And I think I was surprised to see how many young Asian Americans there are. Their experience of being Asian American is so different than mine. I really, really love that. Hearing about what other people are doing in different places… I’m super curious - what are you doing over where you are? And how did you get to where you are?
I was surprised to see how few Indian-Americans there were in Teatime. And I feel like that needs to change. I have complex feelings about the Asian-American identity and who’s part of it and who’s not. And why Indian-Americans tend to stay out of that group somehow, divide ourselves. Ultimately we are part of the same community. And so, I definitely want to take a more active role in trying to bring in more Indian-Americans that I know into the Caucus.
I think this space seems to be growing, and I think there is an opportunity for us that are abroad and part of a minority American community to really get engaged and fill that hole that probably a lot of us are feeling - we’re far away but we want to stay connected in politics. And that’s at such an important moment when our democratic institutions are being threatened so significantly. And to feel like you’re part of a community that, at the very least, cares. And hopefully can take some action.
Do you have any hopes or wishes for future events or for the Caucus in general?
I think there are more policy issues that I would love for the Caucus to engage more publicly on. So I started following the Caucus on social media. You know how there’s been this recent uptick in violence against the Asian American community?
There are moments when we can do something or say something and make it really clear that we exist as a community. And I think being able to show leadership in moments like now would be great! It would be good to see some pulling together of the community when there are moments like this.
Thank you so much for speaking with us!