Young people of color gather in a virtual affinity space to discuss social issues. Photo from Non-Standard Project
By Ross Killion, AsAmNews Staff Writer
In August of 2020, as coronavirus-fueled anti-Asian hate crimes surged across the country, a virtual workshop sought to address a herculean task: how do we define Asian American and Pacific Islander(API), an umbrella term for over 50 ethnicities, and how can the API community come together to combat anti-Asian racism?
The workshop was organized by the Non-Standard Project, an organization founded by Frances Leung and Nicole Kim in New York City after a month of overnight Facetime calls. The organization was established in early 2020 as STAND New York which stood for Stand Together Against Negativity and Division.
STAND New York was originally intended to be a small, local organization, but as it began to garner interest outside of New York, the co-founders decided to pick a name with broader global appeal. The name Non-Standard is both a derivation of the original name and a reference to the work that they do which is non-standard; very few organizations exist which focus on pan-racial solidarity for youth.
“There is a misconception that grassroots organizations are really draining,” Frances Leung said. “While some parts are draining, such as constantly having to organize and not be heard, the goal of the Non-Standard Project is to show that organizing and activism are fun. We want to combat the stigma of activism.”
Every two weeks, The Non-Standard Project hosts a virtual affinity space for youth of color to discuss social issues without the eyes of authority. Topics that have been discussed include racial sexualization, Yellow Fever, patterns of white supremacy, mental health, Asian American invisibility and the Model Minority Myth.
According to their website, which contains a resource toolkit, the two core values of the organization are community care and accessibility.
“One thing many grassroots organizations lack is empathy beyond attachment to group identity,” Kim said. “Many Asians that are heavily involved in Asian American organizations do not stand in solidarity with other communities. We should not see ourselves as just boxes.”
The Non-Standard Project also hosts fundraisers for a different non-profit each month. Past non-profits that benefited include the NDN Collective, BLM, Mutual Aid NYC and Colors of Change. Fundraisers have also supported community members experiencing financial difficulty.
The organization seeks to build solidarity among youth who belong to the Asian, Black, Hispanic, Indigenous, Pacific Islander and Middle-Eastern communities. The goal of their workshops, like the one that took place in August, is to unite Asian Americans and other Communities of Color so that they are better equipped to fight racism and oppression.
The organization has over 100 current team members across over 17 chapters in six countries: the US, the UK, Egypt, Canada, Cambodia, Kenya, Nigeria and Taiwan. The Canadian chapter is based in Manitoba and focuses on First Nations and Inuit rights.
The Non-Standard Project has a number of goals for 2021 including a critical theory book club and a plan to bring critical theory to colleges. They are actively seeking to expand the team and improve accessibility for the community.
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