Asian American civil rights organization helps organize flood of Monterey Park donations

California

As the community of Monterey Park continues to recover from the mass shooting last month that killed 11 people, local organizations have begun pitching in to organize and distribute the influx of donations from around the world.

At a special City Council meeting on Jan. 31, Monterey Park approved an executive order establishing the California Community Foundation as the administrative operator of the city’s official fund, the MPK Support Fund. The California Community Foundation, which is based in Los Angeles, has given more than $200 million in grants to communities faced by disaster and hardship.

The City Council also decided that the civil rights agency Asian Americans Advancing Justice Southern California, or AAAJ SoCal, would join an advisory oversight board to help give recommendations on the distribution of those funds.

AAAJ SoCal has been a core agency in local Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities since its inception in 1984. It served as legal counsel in a 1995 landmark federal civil rights lawsuit representing Thai garment workers who were imprisoned in El Monte.

Connie Chung Joe, the company’s CEO, began her career as a civil rights attorney before joining the company in August of 2020 during a summer of rampant racism against Asian Americans.

“I thought to myself, ‘we’re living in a moment of history right now; our pandemic is something that will be in my children’s history books,’” Joe said. “When they read about that chapter, it’s important for me to be able to say I was part of a solution.”

AAAJ SoCal was one of many organizations that descended on Monterey Park after the Jan. 21 shootings to help with a problem city governments often don’t have existing infrastructure for – distributing funds to victims of mass casualty disasters. It has become somewhat of a cottage industry in the United States, with agencies cropping up to assist local governments who have faced such tragedies. When the shooting made international news, it became clear that there would quickly be a need to give people a way to donate money.

“We knew from the very beginning of Sunday morning that people were saying ‘we want to make a donation, where do we do it?’” Joe said. “We wanted to make sure we got out there early, and with a very strong message that this is being sponsored for all the victims by an established coalition of AAPI organizations and philanthropy.”

Shortly after the shootings, AAAJ SoCal started the Lunar New Year Victims Fund GoFundMe page, which racked up over $1 million in donations in just two weeks. The fund will stop taking donations at 5 p.m. PST on Feb. 3, according to a Thursday press release, but donations can continue to be made directly to AAAJ SoCal by contacting info@ajsocal.org. More information about the MPK Support Fund will be available in the coming weeks.

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