By Randall Yip, AsAmNews Executive Editor
Kamala Harris vowed to lift up Asian American small business owners during an interview with AsAmNews, the only digital and print outlet she spoke with in a one- on-one conversation during her quick trip to San Francisco Friday to the Chinatown Him Mark Lai Library.
Harris made her remarks following her round table with small business and city leaders that included Mayor London Breed, City Attorney David Chiu, and Assembly members Phil Ting. Small business owners included Linda Mahera of the Paper Tree, Deepa Lounsbury of Lab Start and Tony Lau of K-Elements BBQ.
“We have to support our businesses. Part of why I’ve convened Asian small businesses here is to lift up the value and the importance of their work, not only for the Asian community, but all of society…and by extension, the whole country,” she told AsAmNews exclusively.
She stressed the need for her and the President to speak up all the time about “this anti-Asian hate. It is awful. It is meant to create fear. It is destructive, not only of communities that are directly hit by that, but the whole of society. So have to speak against it,” she said.
Kevin Chan of the Golden Gate Fortune Cookies Co, which is now celebrating its 61st year in Chinatown, left the meeting impressed that the Vice President chose Chinatown for her meeting.
“We’re the one hit real real hard (by the pandemic),” Chan told AsAmNews after the meeting by phone. “We suffer and we haven’t recovered. She’s very sincere by coming to the community to listen to our voice and see how we’re doing.”
She says the Vice President didn’t make any promises, but he is confident she will help.
Harris told AsAmNews supporting small business, both in the Bay Area and the nation, is about community.
“It’s about understanding what the community wants. It’s about strengthening of the community and not only the economy of the community but the culture of the community. It really means that we are growing and strengthening America’s economy through our small businesses. That’s great,” the Vice President said.
Harris got her political start in San Francisco, first as its district attorney- becoming the first woman, the first African American woman and the first South Asian American woman to hold the office. She went on to become State Attorney General serving two terms before her election to the U.S. Senate, the first South Asian American to serve in the U.S. Senate.
Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-SF) says the importance of her visit cannot be over emphasized.
“Just her being here, her being Asian American herself, showing support for small businesses. Just her presence as Vice President means a lot to folks,” said Ting by phone to AsAmNews after the meeting.
Ting says people forget that early on in the pandemic there were a lot of Asian businesses being boycotted because they were Chinese or look Chinese.
In her opening remarks at the start of the round table, Harris emphasized the importance of the Biden Administration investing in the community through community banks known as Community Development Financial Institutions or CDFI.
“A lot of our work our administration has done to support small businesses has been to invest in a smart way (in CDFIs),” she said. “They are situated in the neighborhood in the community, they understand the culture, they understand the needs and capacity in a way that big banks don’t always.”
She says the administration is now working in partnership with bigger financial institutions to also invest in community banks. She says these community banks are helping small businesses deal with payroll, taxes, and how to think about investing in capital of the business so that the business “can grow and thrive.”
“The work we did at the height of the pandemic was about making sure that our small businesses could stay open, but the work has also been about an investment in the medium and the long term to grow small businesses in America, which by extension means growing the job market, growing jobs and allowing communities to thrive.”
AsAmNews also talked to Harris about her identity and experience as a person of mixed Black and Asian heritage. We’ll have more of our exclusive interview with the Vice President on Monday.
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