Statement of APADC Board of Directors on the Passing of County Supervisor Wilma Chan
“Representation” is a word that is used very commonly now, but what does it mean? In the case of Wilma Chan, representation meant that she would seek out and hear the voices of those forgotten and ignored by society and then elevate those voices. Then she worked with these communities to find solutions through changing regulations or policies and providing funding when needed.
Wilma’s brand of helping required you to work for it – she coached us to sharpen our advocacy skills and to do the research that would support our case. The reason why community-based non-profit organizations in Alameda County are among the most effective in the state is that we have not been just given funding and support from the County, we have had to provide the rationale and basis for it and be willing to evaluate our effectiveness.
But just as much as the communities have needed her, she needed us to inform her of emerging needs and issues, and together we worked to create solutions. It was a synergistic relationship.
While every resident of Alameda County has benefited from her 30 years of public service as an Oakland School Board trustee, County Supervisor and State Assembly representative, Wilma Chan holds a special place in our hearts as a powerful role model for Asian Americans. That we can run for office and that we can serve with distinction. Wilma beat back the discrimination she experienced both as a woman and as an Asian American; and she emerged as a powerful leader who has shown all of us how to do the right thing.
Our sense of loss is profound, but we also deeply appreciate the 30 years of service she gave to our community. Through her unique quiet brand of leadership, she trained us well through example and now it is our time to continue her legacy by increasing the representation of progressive Asian and Pacific Americans on boards and commissions and elected office. We have many voices that have yet to be heard.
We also urge the Board of Supervisors to respect the Asian/Pacific American communities’ need for representation on the board as they consider who would be best to serve out Wilma’s term. Asian Americans are now the largest racial group in Alameda County representing over half a million people and 1/3rd of the population.