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Very Asian Foundation (VAF)
Very Asian Foundation (VAF)
Very Asian Foundation (VAF)
The Very Asian Foundation (VAF) has a mission to shine a light on Asian experiences through advocacy and celebration. We as a journalist-founded 501(c)3 understand the role storytelling, representation, and problem-solving have in narrative and culture change. To further our mission, we have a vision to also make sure we're telling our stories in ALL the places we live and for our underrepresented communities. We are immigrants, children of refugees, adoptees, parents of multi-ethnic and multi-racial kids, athletes, and fifth-generation Americans. We also represent Asian American experiences in the South, the Midwest, the Southwest, and places that need representation. We are problem solvers, which is why we created The May Book Project and the Creators Microgrant program. We raise money for other AANHPI causes such as the Asian American Journalists Association, Stop AAPI Hate, AAPI Montclair, and have supported dozens of other AAPI groups and initiatives such as The Slants, the Asian American Chamber of Commerce of St. Louis, and more. Our foundation became real thanks to a racist voicemail and a trip to The Ellen Show, but our work has been legitimized by the national FBI office, the White House, and many municipalities and states across the US. VAF works because we work on basic principles -- we are non-partisan, we are problem solvers, and our day jobs have been built around deadlines and tight turnarounds. We are efficient and media savvy. We have the heart to execute but we certainly need resources to do more.
About the Organization:
$100,000 - $500,000
VAF aims to be part of actionable change to the Asian American and Pacific Islander narrative. AAPIs need a better sense of belonging–The STAATUS Index shows Asian Americans are the least likely racial group to feel they belong in the US. https://staatus-index.s3.amazonaws.com/2023/STAATUS_Index_2023.pdf The Asian American Journalists Association found that AAPIs are underrepresented in the top 20 markets (or largest cities) in TV News. While Asians may be more visible in places like the entertainment industry, we are not physically seen in our own communities and don’t feel like we belong in our hometowns. https://www.aaja.org/2022/05/04/aaja-broadcast-snapshot-finds-underrepresentation-of-aapis-in-local-tv-news-in-top-20-media-markets/ Our stories are also not being told for ourselves. Television news stations are still the #1 way people get their local news. If AAPIs are underrepresented in this space, one can assume they’re not visible in any of the 200+ markets. Then the question is – who is telling our stories? Who cares about our stories? https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2021/01/12/more-than-eight-in-ten-americans-get-news-from-digital-devices/ VAF has had incredible support from cities like St. Louis, where they named January 19th “Very Asian Day”, and Missouri’s librarian fully supported The May Book Project. We have found that cities with less media attention have flourishing and proud AANHPI populations that want to be engaged and are more likely to accept support. Our work is meaningful to keep our stories American, less foreign, and to fight stereotypes. We’ve worked with schools with 99 -percent AAPI populations, like a Hmong magnet school in St. Paul, and we found that their libraries were not diverse because of systemic racism in publishing. We have supported creatives from around the country who are working against a model minority myth to follow their dreams in careers that may seem untraditional for the diaspora. Our goal leads us back to serving underrepresented communities and telling stories of marginalized people – something journalists are tasked to do on deadline, every day. We want to change the narrative. The Asian American community is a tapestry of varied experiences, cultures, and languages. They deserve to be heard and amplified.
VAF has two programs: 1) The May Book Project (MBP) and 2) the Creators Grant. The MBP is a book donation program for schools and libraries. Initiated in 2022 in response to St. Louis area Asian American students’ unmet request for more Asian representation in their schools’ libraries, the May Book Project creates grade-appropriate reading lists on Asian American themes and authors and donates these books to schools and libraries. To date VAF has donated to 80 schools across 11 states, many in the Midwest and Southern states, averaging 50 books per school. With more schools on our waiting list, we request funds to expand this program and improve inclusivity through reading. The Creators Grant, provides microgrants to Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander individuals who have pivoted their careers toward their creative passions. Recent studies have found that children’s books still show mostly white characters, even though school populations are growing more mixed and diverse. Pew Research Center reports that Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial/ethnic group in the U.S. Pew further suggests the population doubled between 2000 and 2019, growing 81%, and is expected to triple from 10.5 million (2000) to 35.8 million by 2060. Reading books that feature a variety of abilities, cultures, beliefs, and skin colors helps students understand that different ethnic groups are not a monolith, but rather all unique types of people worthy of celebration. The false narrative that AAPI communities are economically stable, apathetic, and/or conservative, perpetuates the model minority myth. Notably 84% percent of the schools on our May Book Project wait list are Title I schools. Of the 2,000 books distributed this year , one school has a 91% free or reduced lunch rate; one school has a 96% minority demographic; one school has a 99% Asian demographic; and others have a high minority population and/or rate of economically disadvantaged students. These students deserve access to a wide range of Asian representation that better reflects not just who they are, but who they can become, and VAF enables schools and public libraries to bridge that gap through literature.