I’ve been friends with 2011-2012 Rockwood Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Advocacy Fellowship alum Ben de Guzman since my 20s when we were both doing work on Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) national policy. Filling a vital need for a national organizing presence for LGBTQ AAPIs, Ben is the Co-Director for Programs at the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA), managing the policy and programmatic work for the federation of the more than 30 AAPI LGBT groups around the country addressing racism, xenophobia and homophobia. Before his work at NQAPIA, Ben was the National Coordinator for the National Alliance for Filipino Veterans Equity where he ran the successful legislative campaign to achieve payments for and recognize the military service of Filipinos who fought under the United States during World War II. As a non-profit consultant, he has worked with clients such as Organization of Chinese Americans, APIAVote and the National Federation of Filipino American Associations.
What have you been up to since the Fellowship?
I plunged directly into a serious meeting with my Board right after my fellowship, where I immediately put my training to use! The following summer, my organization, the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) put on a national conference that brought 350 activists and community leaders to Washington, DC, to connect and build community with each other and to claim our place at the decision-making table at the nation’s capital. We held a briefing at the White House and over the course of the weekend, met with two members of Congress and President Obama’s Cabinet Secretary.
Currently, my work at NQAPIA has turned to the national dialogue on comprehensive immigration reform as it’s heated up in recent weeks. I am focusing on both capacity with our local membership to lift up queer Asian American, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander (AAPI) immigrant voices in the debate, as well as engaging our national partners to make specific and strategic impact where we can on the policies and legislation that are being developed. It’s quite an exciting time to be developing and exerting leadership in LGBT social justice movements!
What did you find most useful from your Fellowship experience?
In very specific terms, I find myself coming back to some of the tools, skills, and resources I learned during my Rockwood fellowship. Whether it was learning how to “mesh” and some of the more internal aspects of self-awareness, or some of the resources around things like time management and “POP”-ing, or even having a mechanism for mindfulness/meditation, I’ve been able to build a stronger foundation on which my leadership and activism in the LGBT community has been able to develop.