ACL Spokane reclaims history to shape a better future

ACL Spokane reclaims history to shape a better future

By activating distinct community voices, Asians for Collective Liberation in Spokane (ACL) is creating a space for people to put their energy towards building a more vibrant and loving future.


During Asian American Heritage month, Asians for Collective Liberation in Spokane (ACL) is celebrating the unique cultures and experiences that braid together to form the Asian American community in Spokane. United by the theme, “Interwoven: Weaving Together Asian American Stories,” ACL is lifting up the histories of the Asian American community in the Inland Northwest and creating space for new generations of Asian Americans to build an intentional, empowered future.

Running from May 4 through June 2, the “Expo Revival: Searching for Trent Alley” on the top floor of the Central Library serves as an important center piece of the month-long celebrations. On the 50th anniversary of EXPO ‘74, the exhibit brings attention to the racism faced by Chinese and Japanese immigrants, whose community hubs were razed in preparation for the World’s Fair. The exhibit contains personal artwork and storytelling from people from throughout the Asian American diaspora in Spokane, as well as an exhibit curated in partnership with Eastern Washington University that traces the history of Chinese and Japanese American communities in Spokane.

Differentiating and celebrating the distinct Asian American experiences and cultures is a major focal point of ACL work. The organization is lobbying for local cities to recognize Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander culture in August as a way to honor the important differences across Asian and Pasifika histories and cultures, and current community experiences. Currently, local, state, and federal municipalities combine the recognition of these communities into May. Other governments, including the state of Utah, have honored this community desire for separate recognition. While the organization has asked municipal leaders to recognize these cultures separately, those requests haven’t been adopted. “I’d love to see Spokane be leaders in this and other changes we need to see in the world,” said Ryann Louie, the executive director of ACL.

“Our organization has been working on the disaggregation of Asian American and Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander communities for the past three years since the height of COVID,” Louie said. The especially heavy impact of the pandemic on Spokane’s Marshallese community highlighted just one of the important differences in experiences in the Asian American (A/AA) and Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander (NH/PI) cultures. “The Asian community is super diverse, there’s hundreds if not thousands of languages and cultures and unique experiences” they said. 

And, importantly those differences come with consequences. “We know there’s higher levels of health disparities and police brutality in the NH/PI community,” Louie said. Despite these disparities, the A/AA community and NH/PI are often lumped together, which can lead to resources not flowing to those who need it the most. “Resources usually show up in A/AA spaces, and not so much the NH/PI spaces.”

As ACL works to bring together experiences from across the A/AA community in Spokane, they’re creating spaces for healing and civic engagement. “A lot of us in our organization now have this space and the recognition of the intergenerational trauma that our ancestors and our parents and a lot of people around us are experiencing,” Louie said. “We’re cultivating a community space where people can figure that out.” 

Moving forward, ACL will be focused on community organizing work that starts with voting outreach — including a get out the vote music festival — and follows-through with policy work and holding politicians accountable in their 501c4, Asians for Collective Action.

Ultimately, by leading with love and building spaces for healing and connection, Louie said they hope they can build community strength by honoring the past and advancing a values-based community in the future.

“We're interested in continuing and kind of reshaping this narrative around Expo and how environmental, racial and social justice intersect in the ways that really move our community forward,” Louie said. “We can use this 50th year anniversary as another stepping stone to what the future of Spokane needs to be.”

ACL’s month-long slate of celebrations culminates on May 30 with a film screening at the Garland Theater. For information on that free event and the rest of the programming for Asian American Heritage Month

visit the ACL website