Twenty years ago, more than a thousand community leaders, students, senior citizens, Filipino World War II veterans, young professionals, entrepreneurs and elected officials from across the nation gathered in Washington, D.C. for the first “National Filipino American Empowerment Conference.”
Its goal was to build a national organization that will be recognized by Washington policy makers as the ‘the voice’ of Filipinos and Filipino Americans.
With its theme, “Panahon Na,” the organizers declared: “It’s about time we translate our numbers into political clout.”
There were about 2 million Filipinos and Filipino Americans at the time. Their number grew to nearly 4 million today, making them the second-largest population of Asian Americans, and the largest population of Overseas Filipinos. Included in that count is an estimated 600,000 undocumented Filipino immigrants.
On October 21, NaFFAA will mark its twenty-year legacy of advocacy and civic engagement with a Gala Dinner here in the nation’s capital. It coincides with the celebration of Filipino American History Month.
We congratulate NaFFAA for its role in unifying and amplifying the diverse voices of Filipino Americans who have struggled over the years to assert its presence and speak out on critical issues that affect their interests.
To its credit, NaFFAA’s first rallying cry at its founding in 1997 was to highlight the plight of Filipino World War II veterans. By working closely with advocacy groups, like the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans and the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project, NaFFAA helped secure some benefits and, more recently, the long-awaited recognition of the 260,000 Filipino soldiers and guerrillas who fought under the American flag. This month, they will be honored by the U.S. government with the Congressional Gold Medal.
We call on the Filipino American community to step up its support of NaFFAA as it continues its role of empowering Filipino Americans and become productive members of U.S. society.