MinKwon Center for Community Action Records, The

Date Range: 19842010
Survey Conducted: Tue, 2010-11-16
Creator: MinKwon Center for Community Action, The
History: The MinKwon Center for Community Action is a grassroots, community-action non-profit organization based in Flushing, New York, serving the Korean and Asian American communities. MinKwon, which means “civil rights” in Korean, engages in advocacy and community organizing, provides social services, encourages civic participation, fosters youth empowerment, and supports cultural expression among the Korean community in New York City.The Minkwon Center was originally founded in the Jackson Heights area of Queens as the Young Korean American Service and Education Center (YKASEC) on October 21, 1984 by group of ten young, progressive Korean Americans who saw the need for a community center (madangjip in Korean). One of the few advocacy organizations serving Korean Americans, YKASEC provided information and assistance to vulnerable community members (the elderly, low-income persons, and people with limited English) in accessing basic social services like government benefits, food stamps, and senior housing. With the support of volunteer lawyers from the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), YKASEC started the first legal clinic for Korean Americans in 1984 in order to provide legal advice on issues related to immigration, racial discrimination and violence, along with small business assistance. The organized expanded its reach in 1985, establishing Binari, a cultural performance troupe to encourage the revitalization and preservation of Korean cultural traditions.In the 1990s, a surge in anti-immigrant sentiment, policies hostile to immigrants, and the 1992 Los Angeles riots spurred YKASEC to greater political involvement in the form of grassroots organizing, education, advocacy and political empowerment. One of its largest campaigns was called the “Fix 96” Campaign, which fought to restore recently cut benefits for immigrants like food stamps, and to reverse discriminatory welfare reform policy that had been enacted in 1996. As part of the campaign, YKASEC, which helped found the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC), delivered hundreds of paper plates signed by protesting Korean American seniors with the message “Our Plates Are Empty” to various members of Congress. In the summer of 1998, food stamps were restored to certain groups of immigrants and NAKASEC’s Co-Executive Director Chung-Wha Hong was invited to join President Bill Clinton signing the bill into law.

Recognizing the importance of civic engagement, YKASEC launched its voter registration program in 2004; by October 2010, the organization had registered 50,000 new immigration voters. In the 2000s, YKASEC expanded its civic engagement work to include voter education (bilingual voter guides and community candidate forums), voter mobilization (phone-banking and door-knocking), and voter protection (exit poll surveys and analysis of Korean American and Asian American voters in New York City).After a period of careful consultation and discussion, YKASEC underwent a re-branding process in 2008. After much discussion, it was decided that its new name would be the MinKwon Center for Community Action. In 2009, to better serve the communities in Flushing, the organization began working with Chinese community members and hired Chinese-speaking staff.

The MinKwon Center’s current Advocacy and Community Organizing campaigns focus on immigrant rights, workers rights, and tenants rights as well as language access and budget fairness for Asian Pacific Americans. Its Civic Participation program continues to build an informed voter base through voter registration, education, mobilization, research, assistance, and protection. MinKwon’s Social Services initiative provides immigrant rights legal services and financial benefit services. Its Youth Empowerment efforts include campaigning for the Dream Act and educational programs to encourage students to be active in their schools and communities. Finally, the organization continues to support Binari, and organizes an annual Lunar New Year festival, Jishin Balpggi to further its cultural mission.

The MinKwon Center continues to collaborate with many immigrant, minority, Asian/Pacific/American, and Korean American organizations in New York, including the New York Immigration Coalition, Korean Community Services of New York (KCS), Chhaya CDC, AALDEF, Queens Legal Services, and the Coalition for Asian American Children & Families (CACF).

Sources: Choi, Steven. Conversation with Daniel Kim and Amita Manghnani. Flushing, New York, November 16, 2010.

MinKwon Center for Community Action. ‘Who We Are: Mission Statement.” Accessed February 3, 2015. http://www.minkwon.org/whoweare/mission_statement.

MinKwon Center for Community Action. MinKwon Center for Community Action pamphlet. Flushing: MinKwon Center, 2010.

MinKwon Center for Community Action. Broadening Civil Rights Marching for the Future: 26th Annual Gala program. Flushing: MinKwon Center, 2010.

Summary: The MinKwon Center for Community Action Records measure 126.95 linear feet and document the organization’s programmatic, advocacy, media relations, and development efforts from 1984-2010.

The largest section measures 46.0 linear feet and documents MinKwon’s community organizing and action programs including its tenants, workers, and immigrant rights initiatives. Records related to its tenant rights programs (2005-2010) include documents on foreclosure prevention, tenant laws, and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program and are contained in 18.25 linear feet. Documentation of workers compensation and unemployment insurance options for clients, as well as client case files, make up the organization’s workers rights related files and measure 14.0 linear feet. The MinKwon Center’s immigration rights programs are documented in 9.75 linear feet and consist of client case files and naturalization records. Also included is 11.0 linear feet documenting the organization’s participation in rallies and campaigns from 1980-2010, including banners. The MinKwon Center’s civic participation (2002-5) records measure 2.25 linear feet.

The organization’s media files measure 8.75 linear feet and span the dates 1998-2010. They include clippings from Chinese and Korean community newspapers, such as the Korean Daily, and are in English, Korean, and Chinese. These files also contain events announcements and press releases.

The records also contain visual documentation of the MinKwon Center’s efforts. Photographs (some framed), dating from 1986-2010, measure.7.5 linear feet and document the MinKwon Center’s history from its earliest days in Jackson Heights to its recent campaign to encourage the passage of the Dream Act. VHS tapes (1985-2006), DVDs, and Hi-8 tapes documenting the MinKwon Center’s events including the 1985 Young Koreans United National Conference and 2005 Mayoral forum held by KAAGNY, measure 2.5 linear feet.

The MinKwon Center publications and outreach materials including flyers, newsletters, and factsheets on housing, immigration, and voter registration measure 7.70 linear feet and span from the 1990s-2010. These materials are available in English, Korean, and Chinese.

The organization’s development files measure 5.25 linear feet and include grants applications from 2002-2010 and multiple copies of banquet programs (2008-2010) and annual reports (2008-2010). The MinKwon Center’s finance files measure 14.0 linear feet and its board-related documents measure 1.5 linear feet.

Books and journals published in English and Korean measure 12.75 linear feet, of which 6.5 linear feet are legal reference texts.

The organization also maintains the files of Young Koreans United (YKU), which document YKU’s activities from 1984 to the 1990s and measure 21.0 linear feet.

Total Size: 126.95 linear feet
APA-related Size: 126.95 linear feet
Languages of materials: English, Korean, and Chinese
Arrangement: other
Bibliographic Control: inventory
Conditions Governing Access: Currently inaccessible to the public.

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