N2N Spotlight: Formerly Incarcerated Group Healing Together (FIGHT)
FIGHT builds a supportive community for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who are or were incarcerated
March 18, 2019
By Aileen Balahadia, Neighbor to Neighbor Consultant
Despite being one of the fastest growing populations in the United States, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) are sometimes deemed invisible or overlooked in the broader culture, or treated as a monolith that’s all the same.
Within the criminal justice system, there is little about the “other” racial and ethnic groups including Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who comprise roughly 10 percent of both the U.S. and justice-involved populations, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics (2016).
Building a supportive community for AAPI individuals who were formerly incarcerated is the mission of winter Neighbor to Neighbor grantee Formerly Incarcerated Group Healing Together (FIGHT). Started by AAPI people who experienced the prison system in Washington state, FIGHT hosts gatherings and builds connections among diverse participants who have similar life experiences but come from different ethnic backgrounds and cultural and political histories.
Partnering with API Cultural Awareness Groups (APICAG) and API Sisters, FIGHT empowers its community by providing education, job training, mentoring and support groups, including within prison facilities like the Monroe and Clallam Bay correctional centers.
FIGHT also advocates to prevent the detention and deportation of immigrants and to keep families together. According to the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, at least 16,000 community members have received final orders of deportation, more than 13,000 of which are based on old criminal records. Many of these people came to this country as refugee children and were raised as Americans. A significant number of deportees were born in refugee camps, and never stepped foot in their “native” country. As part of this work, FIGHT takes part in national advocacy efforts such as “AAPI’s Beyond Bars and Beyond Borders,” a convening focused on community-based alternatives to incarceration, detention and deportation.
FIGHT will use its N2N grant to support youth organizing efforts in South Seattle, where many of their members live. They will work with a group of youth to educate and plan a series of workshops examining the roots of mass incarceration and the immigration/detention system, including a session at the annual Youth Summit organized by APICAG at the Clallam Bay Correctional Center and a final workshop within the community. They will also provide a tailored “Know Your Rights” training for API youth who encounter police or immigrations and customs personnel in their communities.
“When youth come together at our workshops to learn from and support each other with hope and compassion, they’re building healthy lives and healthy communities while breaking the cycle of mass incarceration,” said Savannah Son, FIGHT’s youth coordinator. “I also think that the community benefits from hearing what the youth have to say about wanting to feel safe in the community. “
For more information, please visit their website: www.fightwa.org.
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders,
Children and youth,
Immigrants and refugees,