The History of Asian Pacific Islanders for Civic Empowerment

Our APIA Community has a long history of activism to increase our political power.  In the 1960’s ACE (Asian Coalition for Equality) sought to create affirmative action programs inclusive of APIA communities.  In 1997, APACE (Asian Pacific American Coalition for Equality) formed a state-wide APIA coalition to join other communities of color, women’s organizations, and national organizations to oppose the passage of I-200, an initiative to end affirmative action in Washington State.  At the end of the campaign, APACE’s membership grew to 24,000 AAPI individuals and 19 AAPI organizations across the state of Washington. APACE’s “No! 200” campaign was a 24-7 grass roots effort to fight for the continuing need for affirmative action.

Other coalitions such as APIC (Asian Pacific Islander Coalition), R.O.A.R (Raising our Asian Representation) and APIA Vote-WA developed to continue building our political power.  Every election season, different parts of our communities would join campaigns for APIA candidates or work for legislative initiatives under various names. We would gear up, work hard, and then dissipate until the next election. A candidates-forum was organized every year by various groups of APIAs to educate our communities about the candidates and the issues on the ballots.

In 2006, many of these same electoral activists received funding from national APIA organizations such as APALA (Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance) or APIA Vote to organize voter turnout activities to increase the political voice of our often-overlooked communities. In 2008, the first APIA PAC was formed by Albert Shen and Jeffrey Hattori.   Knowing the need for a sustained organization dedicated to the political empowerment of our many diverse APIA communities, the current iteration of APACE (Asian Pacific Islander Americans for Civic Empowerment) was launched in 2010 to sustain political organization for our rapidly growing population. We formed three separate organizations, a C3: APACEvotes; a C4: APACE and an APACE PAC.  We began with C4 work, endorsing candidates, translating candidates’ brochures, doing in-language phone banks and ballot parties. We held workshops on voter registration, political campaign strategies and raised money for our endorsed candidates.

In April 2011, we organized a conference, “Taking the First Step:  APIAs and Public Leadership.” together with the Progressive Majority, Seattle University School of Law and People of Color for Progress.  

In 2012, APACEvotes began to receive regular funding from APIA Vote for non-partisan voter registration, education, protection and turnout.  APACE C4 did our first or many Independent Expenditure campaign for Governor Jay Inslee. The 3 Boards of Directors are intergenerational, ranging from ages 21 to 73, with many skills and talents.  Our Community Advisory Board includes elected officials and former Board Members. We currently have three full-time staff members that support our vision and mission statement:

“APACE envisions active and powerful APIA communities who are well-educated on the issues, informed of the political process and fully participate in our democracy.  APACE strives to increase access and participation in electoral and civic affairs by registering, educating and protecting APIA voters.”