Cultivating Growth and Leadership: Reflections on Sammie’s Time at APIENC
I first met Sammie in 2015 when I chaired the Asian Pacific Islander Queer Women & Transgender Community (APIQWTC) scholarship committee, and we awarded Sammie one of the scholarships. On paper, Sammie already had an impressive track record of social justice organizing. When we later met again at a party where Sammie was leading the games, I saw Sammie’s fun side and their natural ability to connect with people and inspire action.
Fast forward to November 2016, soon after Sammie started their role as Director of APIENC. As we all know, it was a difficult, reactive and painful political period. Our communities reeled from constant attacks on immigrants, trans folks, Muslims, and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color) communities. A few days after the election results were final, Sammie sent a message to the APIENC community. Sammie reminded us of our core values, our strength as a Trans and Queer Asian and Pacific Islander (TQAPI) community, and our commitment to trans justice, building community, and understanding our histories. They invited us to stay rooted in our work of supporting our community.
With Sammie as Director, I’ve seen APIENC build on and model its core values of abundance, vulnerability, interdependence, innovation, and self-determination. Expanding on the work of the preceding Director Monna Wong, Sammie helped APIENC put its core values into action in creative and uplifting ways that continued to build leadership, capacity, and a political home for the TQAPI community.
In 2018, MLin and Sammie invited me to join the Core Committee, APIENC’s volunteer leadership group that helps to cultivate APIENC’s strategy and vision and to model a culture of liberation. I was excited by the opportunity to deepen my involvement with APIENC and to expand my own leadership development. I remember the first APIENC Core Retreat in 2018 where Sammie invited me to consider thinking of APIENC as a sandbox, as a place to effect change by dreaming up, inspiring, incubating, and fostering bold ideas. I struggled with this initially, as someone who learned about leadership in a corporate tech environment, where the focus is on implementation and production. Under Sammie’s leadership and facilitation, I was able to see how we could build the structure, processes, relationships, and partnerships to achieve our best vision of the world – and how we get to have fun, be well fed, and drink lots of T4 boba while doing it!
Our community has faced devastating local, national and global challenges over the last five years while Sammie has been Director. From Trump, to the Pulse Nightclub shooting, to anti-trans legislation, to COVID, to anti-Black police brutality, to the Atlanta shootings, to anti-Asian attacks, APIENC has provided the space to support each other and be in solidarity with other communities. While responding to arising crises, APIENC under Sammie’s leadership has continued to provide programs such as the Summer Organizer Program, the Leadership Exchange program, Trans March Teach Ins and Community Safety trainings. I just want to highlight a few of Sammie’s accomplishments during their tenure:
- Centering trans and non-binary people and experiences throughout the organization, which led to sunsetting the Trans Justice committee
- Training 104 people through APIENC’s 5 year old Leadership Exchange program
- Raising the funds to grow our team from 2 to 4 full-time paid staff
On a personal level, Sammie and APIENC have impacted me and helped me cultivate my own sense of self and leadership. Sammie leads from the heart, across divides. They stand up against oppression and fight for justice. And they do it all while modeling the best of our humanity with abundance, love, tenderness, and care. This is the best of what all humans have to offer, and in APIENC, we get to model this as Trans and Queer Asians and Pacific Islanders.
I was lucky to be part of the Directorship transition team over the last few months. In many ways, the transition process was a testament to what we have built during Sammie’s Directorship. The team we gathered to support the transition reflected the connections across multiple communities that APIENC, under Sammie’s leadership, has created and deepened over many years of organizing and relationship-building. And as the team worked together to think about the APIENC leadership transition, I got to participate in and witness what it means to support and nurture our leaders and live out our values of interdependence and vulnerability. I am excited about what the organization has built and nurtured over Sammie’s tenure as Director. I am also excited to see Sammie embark on their next chapter and see how their role as a leader within APIENC will shift away from the Directorship.
I have grown so much as a person and as a leader thanks to APIENC and Sammie. I look forward to continuing to “sandbox,” support, and plug in to the next phase of APIENC as we welcome in Yuan and continue building the world that we want, where the TQAPI community can be our full selves and continue to lead from our hearts.
Junior Claros (he/him)
Core and Healing Justice Committees