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Asian American/Pacific Islander Community Development Corporations and the Just City: The Relevance of a Race-Conscious Approach


Asian American/Pacific Islanders (AAPIs), the fastest growing racial group in the United States, are of increasing importance to struggles for the right to the city. AAPIs have a rich history of participation in movements for labor rights, language rights and civil rights, and a history that includes the establishment of community based organizations that work to establish a justice in ethnic neighborhoods. In the current political economy, these organizations can offer insight as to how to address the effects of neo-liberal policies and the larger impact of globalization on low-income neighborhoods and community wellbeing. This dissertation examines the intersection of place and race for community-based organizations that utilize a social justice framework for neighborhood development.

This study investigates the unique context surrounding the formation of three well-known AAPI Community Development Corporations (CDCs) to analyze their evolving strategies of transformational community development: Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC) in Los Angeles, CA; Chinatown Community Development Center (CCDC) in San Francisco, CA and InterIm Community Development Association (InterIm) in Seattle, WA. Through a case study approach, the dynamics of a race-conscious strategy are analyzed. The findings reveal that AAPI CDCs have evolved into complex community development organizations that rely on the moral legacy of the Asian American Movement. Characteristics of AAPI CDCs include: a commitment to the context and history of ethnic neighborhoods; a horizontal leadership approach that stresses communal values and coalition building; the articulation of social justice into values that include a critique of neoliberal economic policies; and a sophisticated use of "inside" and "outside" political power. The transformational impact of AAPI CDCs includes the reclamation of space to historic ethnic neighborhoods and the establishment of AAPI low-income communities as significant players in the struggle to the right to the city.

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