CelebrAsian: ACAS Celebrates 20 years of community activism and support
On behalf of the board and staff members, ACAS would like to thank all our members, allies, donors, volunteers, performers and all of those who had attended the ACAS 20th Anniversary CelebrAsian Fundraising Gala on May 30! It was certainly a memorable night to remember as we celebrated 20 years of community support and activism provided by ACAS to the East and Southeast Asian HIV and LGBTQ communities.
Since 1994, ACAS has provided vital support to persons living with HIV/AIDS, a safe space for LGBTQ community members, and education and outreach to underserved migrant farmworkers of East and Southeast Asian communities.
Andre Goh, ACAS Board Chair remarks, “ Since 1982, Toronto’s LGBTQ East and Southeast Asians have been building a community that is diverse, complex, delicate, yet strong. All this while, the organization we call ACAS has been the public face for this community for three generations.”
The evening saw the presentation of two special 20th Anniversary Awards to individuals who espouse the core values and visions of ACAS and have contributed to our organization’s success: The Patrick Truong Award and the Community Builder Award. The Patrick Truong Award, named after our late Support Program staff and AIDS activist, is to honor a person living with HIV/AIDS who has made significant contributions in the areas of HIV/AIDS in Canada or internationally. This year’s Patrick Truong Award recipient is Derek Yee, a fearless community leader and a past board member of ACAS. “Through my involvement with ACAS, I have learnt resiliency in life and have grown as an individual with my community. I am proud of my achievement to speak my truth quietly and clearly,” says Derek Yee.
The ACAS 20th Anniversary Community Building Award recipient Dr. Alan Li and The Patrick Truong Award recipient Derek Yee (Photo by Tony Wei-Han Chen)
Alan is a primary care physician at Regent Park Community Health Centre. At the highest peak of AIDS epidemic in Ontario in the early 1990s, Alan and members of Gay Asians Toronto (GAT) started the Gay Asian AIDS project (GAAP) and subsequently ACAS. His activism and community building have spanned more than 3 decades, including being the founding co-chair of the Committee for Accessible AIDS Treatment (CAAT), a coalition group working for rights of immigrant, refugee and non-status persons living with HIV.
“ACAS was the chosen family we co-created to take care of our communities during the AIDS epidemic and to combat homophobia. I am deeply grateful and inspired by the courage and residence of the many Asian persons living with HIV that I have had the privilege to have worked with and learnt from,” says Dr. Li.
A list of local luminaries had attended the gala including honoured guests Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 27 Toronto Centre-Rosedale), Councillor Chin Lee (Ward 41, Scarborough – Rouge River), Markham Councilor Alan Ho (Ward 6 Markham), MP Craig Scott (Toronto – Danforth), Fairness Commissioner of Onatrio Ms. Jean Augustine, Film-maker Richard Fung, and long-time equality campaigner and ACAS supporter Olivia Chow acting as the event’s auctioneer.
CelebrAsian follows a highly successful #PinkDotTO Chinatown Pride March on May 26 organized by ACAS and community partner CCNCTO to rally support for Asian LGBTQs and youths. The fundraising gala event featured live performances by queer positive multiracial dance troupe Il Na Na DiverseCity Dance Company, 2013 Miss Chinese Toronto runner-up and violin virtuoso Whitney Lau, and premiere Toronto Asian drag talents Mina and Sofonda Cox.
ACAS and CCNCTO Made History with #PinkDotTO: Chinatown Pride March
ACAS and the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter (CCNCTO) have teamed up to bring Pink Dot to Canada in efforts to promote and support the LGBTQ community and freedom for all to love regardless of sexual orientation and gender expression. About 100 members from the Asian LGBTQ and allies dressed in pink took the streets and rallied in the first annual #PinkDotTO Chinatown Pride March, which took place on Saturday, May 24 during Asian Heritage Month. Noted political figures Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam and MPP Rosario Marchese were in attendance at the event to show support for Asian LGBTQs and youths.
In many Asian countries, LGBTQs are still fighting to gain equal rights as citizens, or the right to marry or enter into a civil union with their love or partners. Locally, LGBTQ issues often still seem to be a silenced subject within many of the Asian communities.“This is a movement that has come out of Singapore. I know there are similar rallies in Malaysia, in Hong Kong, in the Philippines, in Taiwan. So this is part of a global discussion and a global movement,” says Wong-Tam.
The #PinkDotTO Chinatown Pride March emphasized highlights the need for the Asian and broader communities to promote understanding and support for queer Asians and youths, especially since many families might not be educated about LGBTQ issues or how to adequately support queer family members. “By wearing pink on May 24, allies and supporters marched with us in Chinatown to show our commitment for Asian gay, lesbian, bi, trans, intersex, queer and questioning brothers and sisters of their rights in anticipation to World Pride 2014 in June,” says Noulmook Sutdhibhasilp, ACAS Executive Director.
The after-march performances showcased talents such as genderqueer artist Alvis Parsley, drag performer Jolene Star, along with singer Ace Antonio and award-winning singer Kal Cheung for the event, and community members guest speakers Karen Tsang and Chloe Tse.
ACAS Celebrated Asian Heritage Month at the Toronto Police Service’s Asian Heritage Month Reception
On May 3, ACAS celebrated Asian Heritage Month with a number of East and Southeast Asian community groups at the Toronto Police Service Headquarters. Notable speakers included Chief Bill Blair and honoured guest CTV news anchor Pauline Chan. The event was held as a celebration of the great achievements made by local Asian community leaders and an opportunity for community groups and the public service sector to strengthen the ties with Toronto Police Service’ community police program. The event showcased traditional Mongolian and Thai dances, a demonstration of Muay Thai Boxing, and an array of Asian delicacies.
ACAS Women’s Program Hosted Another Successful Pillow Talk Community Forum for Asian Women
Following last year’s successful Pillow Talk Community Forum for Asian Women, the ACAS Women’s Program and the Pillow Talk Planning Committee once again hosted a highly successful forum on May 24. The content rich forum included a lively panel on Reawakening and Resiliency; a sexual health party called “You are Invited to a party in my (Bloody) Pants!” led by our long-time ACAS volunteer and sexual health educator Anda Li; an opportunity for participants to learn about various different sex toys with Jennifer from Good for Her.
ACAS Sakura Picnic
How can you experience spring without appreciating the blooms and flowers of spring? ACAS held its annual Sakura Picnic this year for all of its programs, service users and volunteers this year at High Park on May 19 to appreciate the last of the cherry blossom for a gathering of fun, sharing, laughter and good food.
See everyone in June at World Pride 2014! Watch out for our events and our amazing Pride Float!