In an exclusive GAT conversation with Dr. Jung Ha Kim, former CEO of Center for Pan Asian American Services (CPACS) shares her views on CPACS Board and its dedicated staffs. CPACS has recently been mired with controversy that its Board of Directors accused of corruption, nepotism and unethical practices.
What’s going on at CPACS?
There is a document that’s entitled ‘What’s going on at CPACS?’ on the SAVE CPACS Facebook, which summarizes the current predicament of the oldest, largest, and most comprehensive API nonprofit organization in the American South.
From my perspective, CPACS staff members – both current and former — have risen to resist the wrongdoings of the past and to purge corruption from their own beloved community. And I think what’s going on at CPACS deserves a lot more and closer media coverage as well as much-needed probes on ‘who speaks for the nonprofit org.?’
Who speaks for the non-profit organizations?
The regulations of the 501(c)3 nonprofit organization stipulate that the Board of Directors are the governing body to ensure the organization fulfills its mission and carry out fiduciary responsibilities of the entity. And the C-Suite staffs’ responsibilities include daily operations and making strategic decisions, plans, and actions to uphold the mission of the entity.
The questions I’ve been wrestling with in the context of CPACS is what happens when the Board of Directors cease to represent the communities that they are supposed to serve for various reasons? What happens when the governing body of the organization fails to ensure its very mission and actively justifies wrongdoings of the past leadership by silencing dissident voices? Who has the right to speak for the nonprofit organization in such times?
I think these questions go beyond the conventional binary oppositions of the “right vs. wrong” and the “governing vs. governed” and beg for deeper reflections and probes on who should be speaking for whom and why. In the case of CPACS, because its mission is to serve immigrants, refugees, and underprivileged people, we need to heed to members of these communities and the staff who directly interact with them on a daily basis. And since many CPACS staff are also members of the communities they serve, the possibility of discontinuing a program that their families and neighbors rely on every day is deeply troublesome. For them, the possibility of shutting down their beloved community due to a handful of past leaderships and the Board’s incompetence and cowardliness is simply unacceptable. They are rising up to speak for themselves, to protect their communities, and to save CPACS.
And CPACS staff members are not alone. Hundreds of ethnic senior citizens signed the petition letters in solidarity with the staff in a matter of days. Community partners and supporters that cut across lines of race, social class, language, generation, and gender, are also standing strong in their effort to save CPACS.
CPACS is at a crossroad. And from where I stand, I see very clearly whose voices we need to heed and why.
What’s next? What’s the next phase of CPACS and what’s next for you?
I think there are several next, depending on where one stands at the moment.
I think the staff at CPACS will continue to fight for their rights and responsibilities as active members of the beloved community. And if anyone attempts to portray them as passive, ignorant, or victims of power struggles between a few organizational leaders, s/he will be in shock and continue to experience disappointments. The fate of CPACS is in the hands of its staff. As its motto, People Need People, CPACS without the people who are willing to risk their names and livelihood – their all – will succumb to empty rhetoric.
I think the people who harmed and damaged CPACS by self-dealing, corruption, and deception will pay the price accordingly. For justice prevails. It’s just that it may take time and I worry the CPACS staff, their families, and the communities in need may also suffer a bit longer. Dr. King argued, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” A nonprofit organization that continues to profit the selected few more than the communities of accountability will surely approach social death.
As for me, it’s been a fantastic and humbling journey at CPACS as the CEO and I’ve been very blessed and proud to work with the staff who are community-minded.
I’d like the CPACS staff to remember that protest may be a primarily response to repression and/or oppression at hand. While specific to a place and context, the pedagogical reverberation of protests rebound in time and place. Historically, those who resisted the racial apartheid in South Africa taught those who boycotted western clothes with Gandhi in India. Those who marched with MLK taught those who fought for Asian American Studies programs in universities. And those who participated in the BLM movement taught those who work on Stop Asian Hate. I am truly lucky to drum beside CPACS staff and I wish to continue to stand with them who taught me that “they are the leaders we are waiting for”.
And I thank you, again, for the honor of being included in the 25 GAT Most Influential Asian Americans in GA. My wish for the Georgia Asian Times is that it continues to stand with Asian American communities and bear witness to unique contributions that Asian Americans are making in the American South.