By Contributor on March 04, 2014

By Kathy Ko Chin

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, two women are on my mind: Grace Lee Boggs and Yuri Kochiyama.

Both came from immigrant families, like mine, and helped advance the movement to empower women and people of color in our society.

Born in 1915 in Rhode Island to Chinese immigrant parents, Boggs has spent her life advocating for civil and labor rights. The Organization of Chinese Americans honored her with a lifetime achievement award, and she is a member of the National Women’s Hall of Fame. Just last year, at 98, she was still promoting a recent book: “The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century.”

Kochiyama was born in 1921 in California to Japanese immigrant parents. After Pearl Harbor, her father was arrested and imprisoned for a month, where he was denied medical care. He died a few days after being released. Shortly thereafter, Kochiyama and the rest of her family were forced into an internment camp.

An activist for decades, Kochiyama was an associate of Malcolm X — she was even with him in the Audubon Ballroom when he was gunned down. She cradled his bleeding body in her arms.

An advocate of Puerto Rican independence, she also campaigns for nuclear disarmament and stands up for Asian-Americans and women’s rights.

Boggs and Kochiyama inspired me to dedicate myself to the cause of immigrant women.

Often at the margins, immigrant women are among the most exploited in our society. Toiling many hours in our factories, homes, fields and restaurants, many immigrant women cling to the lowest rungs of the economic ladder. They are often targets of discrimination and sexual violence in the workplace.

Many undocumented immigrant women are isolated and afraid. They often fear reporting the abuses they encounter because they could lose their jobs or, even worse, get deported and separated from their children.

Plus, many do not have access to decent health care. The Affordable Care Act excludes undocumented immigrants from coverage. And it keeps in place policies that lock out hard-working immigrants from the same affordable health care programs their tax-dollars support.

These inequities are why I advocate so strongly for immigration reform — an issue that demands action from President Obama. While the Senate has answered such demands, now is the time for the House to do its part.

Just any bill will not do, however. We need immigration reform that is fair and puts all Americans — both aspiring and native-born alike — on a healthy path. Equal access to health insurance must be part of that equation.

As we celebrate women of character, courage and commitment this Women’s History Month, let us not forgot the many faceless, voiceless immigrant women who sacrifice for their families and our country every day.

In the footsteps of Grace Lee Boggs and Yuri Kochiyama, let’s not let yet another year go by without making comprehensive immigration reform a reality.

Kathy Ko Chin is president and CEO of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, a national social justice organization that works to improve the health of Asian-Americans, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders and other underserved populations. She can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

Copyright Kathy Ko Chin

Section: 

Add new comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.

More

By State Representative Chris Taylor

I’m at my third American Exchange Legislative Council (ALEC)...

The conservative majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued decisions today upholding the state’s controversial...

A new report by Human Rights Watch and the Columbia Law School focuses on the dubiousness of federal terrorism sting...

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

Public School Shakedown

Progressive Media Project

Newsletter

Get Breaking News and Alerts!