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CAAAV: Decades of Organizing Asian Communities

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Reading Guide: The Voice Digital Archives


Founded in 1986 as the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence, CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities has a rich history of advocacy and organizing in New York City’s Asian and Asian American immigrant and refugee communities. This archive digitization project documents over 25 years of local and national justice struggles around issues of police brutality and militarization; workers’ rights; housing, gentrification and displacement; and access to social services and electoral power. This archive puts the rich history of resistance of Asian American communities in New York City, the United States, and abroad at the fingertips of community members activists, organizers, researchers, scholars, artists.

This Reading Guide is a companion for visitors of the digitized archive. The archive currently includes 30 editions of the Voice newsletters, which CAAAV published from 1988 to 2008. CAAAV began publishing the Voice to report on recent events and provide important updates about its campaigns and organizing efforts. These newsletters are a testament to community organizing as a powerful strategy for marginalized and disenfranchised communities in the fight for justice and equity. Since its founding, CAAAV remains firmly rooted in local, national, and international struggles against racism, imperialism, and state violence.


The Voice document the issues that continue to face Asians and Asian Americans today. The newsletters covered organizing efforts around Phillip Kaufman’s racist film Rising Sun; corporate media bias and the so-called Los Angeles Riots in 1992; post-9/11 racial profiling and surveillance of New York City’s pan-Asian communities; unjust deportation laws; national labor rights; homophobic policies affecting queer youth; and countless other struggles. Prominent themes that emerge throughout two decades of the Voice include racial violence; police brutality and other systemic state violence; city governance; workers’ rights; particularly of undocumented workers; news from CAAAV’s partners, and urgent calls to action. These and other themes continue to shape CAAAV’s organizing model, campaigns, and political framework.

Anti-Asian Violence

CAAAV emerged as part of a national response to rising anti-Asian violence across the country in the 1980s, including the violent hate crime and murder of Detroit native Vincent Chin in 1982. As part of its commitment to addressing the root causes of violence and challenging the structures of power between the city government, police, and New York City’s communities of color, CAAAV has always worked to support Asian American communities throughout the city and in solidarity with peoples’ struggles abroad. Through issue campaigns and coalition work, CAAAV has successfully pressured decisionmakers and leaders, such as the police commissioner, housing authorities, and other powerful entities to create lasting change for its constituents and the larger community.

The Voice reported on many instances of anti-Asian violence in New York City and in the country through Fall 1998. This segment began as “NYC Update”, “Anti-Asian Violence Nationwide,” and later, beginning in Spring 1993, they were generally called “New York City Incidents” or “National Incidents” and included incident reports of police brutality, profiling, abuses of power, and other forms of state violence, creating an important record of the continued history of anti-Asian violence in New York City and throughout the United States.

Police Brutality

The Voice reported on many instances of police brutality. For example, the Fall 1992 [LINK - 4:2] issue highlighted the Rodney King case in LA, as well as identifying 1992 as the ten-year anniversary of the Vincent Chin case in Detroit. Additionally, many local instances of police violence appear in many vignettes under “New York City Incidents.” Some of the ways in which CAAAV had resisted and fought against police violence, had been through “Know Your Rights” campaigns, involvement in Civilian Complaint Review Board, and grassroots organizing efforts.

In Fall 1989 [LINK - 1:3], the Voice featured an article on Spike Lee’s iconic film Do the Right Thing and its representation of the political climate of the 1990s during New York City’s mayoral race. The same issue ran an election guide with actual NYC mayoral candidates’ platforms on issues that directly affected CAAAV members on the ground. CAAAV called on readers to pressure local leaders to address critical issues of widespread police brutality and racial violence.

Government Accountability

New York City’s elected officials play an important role in policies and procedures that have a daily impact on local residents, and CAAAV is committed to holding these officials accountable.

For example, the Fall 1998 [LINK - 10:1] issue of the Voice reported on the discriminatory impact of former NYC Mayor Giuliani’s so-called “Quality of Life” and “Broken Windows” policies (currently being revived by the NYPD)[LINK - 7:1]. The policies claimed to make streets safer for a better city for New Yorkers, but in reality, was a policing campaign that targeted and criminalized poor and working class people of color rather than addressing the structural conditions that create injustice.

Workers’ Rights

Recognizing the importance of labor rights, CAAAV organized around workers’ rights, for all kinds of work and immigration status. In Spring 1994 [LINK - 4:1], the Voice reported on the Saleem Osman - a CAAAV organizer for the Lease Drivers Coalition - and his experience with police brutality, connecting themes of labor, police brutality, and organizing to keep the city accountable. Saleem Osman knew all about how labor rights were additionally central to CAAAV’s mission to support poor and working-class people of color.

Between 1989 and 2008, some of the themes related to labor in the Voice included sex work, undocumented workers, domestic workers, garment worker, and working women. One of CAAAV’s organizing arms, beginning in Summer 1996 [LINK - 8:2], was the Women Workers Project, which originally began to address sex work and to bring sex workers together for collective action. The WWP continued to be a forum from which to organize working women.