NaFFAA upbeat, vows to work, push FilAms to greater heights, creates anti-hate Task Force

NaFFAA PIONEERS (from 3rd left to right) Gloria Caoile. Jon Melegrito, Rodel Rodis, Brendan Flores, Loida Nicolas-Lewis and Michael Dadap, among others, at the conference in Las Vegas. The group is now headed by Mariella Fletcher.

By Jun Nucum
LAS VEGAS – The new crop of officers of the biggest group of Filipino associations in the United States vowed to continue with much energy and vigor whatever their predecessors have started to further serve and improve the plight of Filipino Americans across the U.S.
The officers of the National Federation of Filipino American Association (NaFFAA) led by President Mariela Fletcher made the pledge at the just concluded  NaFFAA’s 14th National Empowerment Conference (NEC) where they were elected held at the Harrah’s Hotel in Las Vegas.
At the conference, NaFFAA created a task force to focus on hate incidents and crimes in order to alleviate the plight of particularly Filipino victims and would-be victims of hate.

This was announced in the NaFFAA’s 14th National Empowerment Conference (NEC) held at the Harrah’s Hotel in Las Vegas, the first national in-person gathering since the COVID pandemic with the theme “From the National Team to the Desert Mountain Region.”

” There is truly no better way to celebrate NaFFAA’s 25th Anniversary than being together again,” said the NaFFAA officers.

NaFFAA President Marinela Fletcher explained that with focus of the Hate Crime Task Force is to offer resources to everyone.

“We sympathize with all victims of hate crimes and promise to do everything within our power to assist and empower them. Through our Hate Crime Task Force, we will do our best to respond to hate crime reports, assist hate crime victims on the ground, and build a network of task forces across the country to serve more local areas, increasing our digital resources and seeking funding to hopefully create a Defense Fund for hate crime victims. We are willing to do more to provide these much-needed resources to our ‘kababayans.” Fletcher commiserates.

Fletcher said she believes that essential to fixing hate crimes is that it must be a collaborative effort from the whole Asian community.

“We are willing to work with our friends from other Asian communities to help put an end to these hate crimes. A united Asian community is a stronger and louder voice against any type of hate crime. We encourage those who were victimized to reach out to us,” Fletcher stated. “To all victims: We are here for you. Stay Strong. We got your back. Please continue being the resilient and hardworking Filipino-Americans that you always are,” she said.

“We were all excited to gather together in person as a NaFFAA family at the recently held NEC. I am overwhelmed with satisfaction and gratitude to be able to meet our engaging members, selfless community leaders, guiding founders, and everyone in-person again,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher said she was thankful that the association’s founders reminisced the colorful history of NaFFAA with so much enthusiasm during the conference which gave the attendees the opportunity to collaborate with partners and community leaders. The conference team also highlighted several Filipino-Americans who continue to serve the organization, among others.

More importantly, Flethcer said NaFFAA was able to channel ways to improve as a Filipino-American community in matters of national advocacy, leadership development, and civic engagement.
“As the President of NaFFAA, my foremost priority is the welfare of our Filipino-Americans and helping them reach greater heights through national advocacy, leadership development, and civic engagement are my priorities,” Fletcher said.
“The NaFFAA founders and past presidents have created a path, and I will ensure that necessary adjustments are made to adapt to current situations and changes in the present and future environment of NaFFAA, as needed,”  Fletcher added.
She said she would focus on empowering the NaFFAA States, concentrate on the growth of certain NaFFAA Regions and developing and strengthening the structure of the regions’ States by closely working with NaFFAA’s leaders and sharing best practices and monthly newsletters, among others.
As to the challenge of NaFFAA founder Loida Nicolas-Lewis for Filipinos Americans to be at the table lest they become merely part of the menu, Fletcher viewed it “as a call to action something that conveys that Filipino Americans have to be represented in elected office.”
“As we continue to steadily increase towards five million Filipino-Americans in the United States, we believe that we need to have more elected officials from among us,” she said. “Our goal is to create a pipeline of Filipino American leaders who will represent us on local boards, commissions, city councils, states, and national offices through NaFFAA’s Run for Office Program.”
“Let’s get out, vote and have our voices heard,” Fletcher stressed.
Fletcher lauded the pioneers of NaFFAA like Gloria Caoile. Jon Melegrito, Rodel Rodis, Michael Dadap, Loida Nicolas-Lewis and others who attended the conference. She also cited “the exemplary leadership of Alex Esclamado (deceased).”
“These pioneers  passed the baton from the elders to their younger successors,” Fletcher said.

“They were certainly engaging throughout, greeting and welcoming people, and sharing stories of how NaFFAA was founded. Regarding the term ‘passing on the baton,’ we prefer to say, ‘let us hold on to the baton together.’ This is what NaFFAA is all about. Our previous leaders are always engaged and helping out as much as possible. Because more than being a national non-profit organization, NaFFAA is multi-generational with over four million Filipino-Americans strong,” Fletcher said.

The new NaFFAA president said she believes in the next rising generation of young leaders in the community, adding that they must hear their concerns and consider what is best for them while paying tribute to the history and founding principles of NaFFAA.

“As President, I believe a crucial role is to find that balance and bridge generations within our Filipino American community. The best way to move forward is by working TOGETHER,” stressed Fletcher.

Aside from Fletcher, other new NaFFAA officers include National Vice President  Christopher Rivera, National Secretary  Aldrin Carreon and National Treasurer Angeles “Jelly” Carandang.

Past President Brendan Flores gave his farewell speech during the conference following his address on the State of the NaFFAA, a summary of NaFFAA’s collective efforts over the past six years and that also gave an insight of what NaFFAA will do next.

In his farewell speech, Flores enlightened on the NEC’s theme, “Navigating the Present, Shaping the Future,” as it gathered its members from across the United States to come together again to address critical issues impacting the community post-Covid and into the midterms, and to lay out a roadmap to build a unified vision for the community the next 25 years and beyond.

The NEC also highlighted presentations and workshops from various Filipino American leaders – representing multiple generations from every corner of the United States and abroad.

“According to Census 2022, Filipino-Americans are the third largest origin group of Asians in the United States, with more than 4 million Filipinos living in the country. As Filipinos continue to grow in numbers, the conference seeks to fulfill NAFFAA initiatives by empowering Filipino-Americans through leadership development, civic engagement, and national advocacy,” Flores said.

In his own call to action, Flores challenged that “Filipino-American community voices must continue to be interconnected to make progress. And while our individual push and pull on issues that matter most to us can be isolating at times, that should not insulate us from the power of our collective voice.”

Since 1997, the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) has been the standard-bearer for promoting the welfare and well-being of the four million Filipinos and Filipino Americans throughout the United States. NaFFAA is the largest non-partisan, non-profit organization and national affiliation of Filipino American institutions, umbrella organizations, and individuals. Its fourteen-member regions cover the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, and the Pacific Islands.

In a report from March 2020 to December 2021, 10,905 hate incidents were reported to Stop AAPI Hate.

Of those incidents, 824 were reports of hate incidents against Asian American elders aged 60 and up.

This national report shines a light on how the past two years exacerbated threats to the safety and wellbeing for Asian American elders ages 60 and up.

The report also spotlights the work of San Francisco‘s Self Help for the Elderly, the Center for Pan Asian Community Services (CPACS) in the greater Atlanta area, the Chinese Information and Service Center (CISC) in Seattle, and the Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York.

Key findings of the report include:

  • Six out of 10 (57.6%) incidents reported by adults aged 60 and up involved verbal harassment or shunning;
  • One out of four (26.2%) cases against adults 60 and up were physical assault
  • In one in 11 incidents, elders were coughed and spat upon (7.8%); and
  • Elders reported being barred from establishments in 5.7% of incidents and having their property vandalized in 7.2% of incidents.

The report also indicated that:

– Asian American elders – those ages 60 and up – experienced verbal harassment, shunning, physical assault, and other hate incidents.

– One out of four (26.2%) cases were physical assault, twice the rate of those under the age of 60 (15.4%). Elders also reported being refused service (5.7%) and having their property vandalized (7.2%) more than non-elders (4.0% and 4.2% respectively).

– Six out of 10 (62.5%) incidents reported by elders involved verbal harassment or shunning — the deliberate avoidance of individuals.

– In one in 12 (7.8 %) incidents, elders were coughed and spat upon.

– Asian American elders named race, ethnicity, and gender as the top suspected reasons for their discrimination. They reported language (8.1%) as a reason more than those under the age of 60 (7.2%). Asian American elders were most likely to encounter incidents in public and at businesses.

– Like those under the age of 60, Asian American elders were most likely to face discrimination on public streets (36.7 %) and at businesses (26.7 %).

– Elders were twice as likely to face discrimination at private residences (15.8%) than those under the age of 60 (9.8%). 1 2 STOP AAPI HATE | Anti-Asian Hate, Social Isolation, and Mental Health among Asian American Elders during COVID-19 4 Asian American elders experienced increased fear, stress, and anxiety in the pandemic.

–  Nearly all (98.2%) Asian American elders who experienced hate incidents believed the United States has become more physically dangerous for Asian Americans.

– Asian American elders who experienced hate incidents stated they experienced higher levels of stress (65.5%) and anxiety (24.2%) than Asian American elders overall (24.2% and 19.1% respectively).

The National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization. Established in 1997, NaFFAA promotes the welfare and well-being of the four million Filipinos and Filipino Americans throughout the United States. NaFFAA’s vision is to serve as the voice of all Filipinos and Filipino Americans by uniting, engaging, and empowering diverse individuals and community organizations through leadership development, civic engagement, and national advocacy.