Meet Gary Kwong
MICAH Board President
I was raised by highly educated parents and grew up in an area with no other racial minorities, so I was impacted at an early age by the effects of racial and housing discrimination.
I have always been conscious of being “different” from the other children because a part of my father's advice was that “You have to be twice as good as a White to get a job” and we children had to get PhD's to get a good job.
My awareness of greater housing concerns grew through my involvement with Hmong, Cambodian, Vietnamese, and Eritrean youth through the 3M STEP program, the St Paul public schools, refugee culture adults I met through Scouting; and most of the Multicultural Visiting Wizards of color I recruited were Black technical people.
I have led a series of 4 anti-racism adult education meetings at 6 UCC churches as a part of my membership in the United Church of Christ MN Conference anti-racism team and being an organizer for the anti-racism committee of my home church in New Brighton. Each series was different because those participating at each congregation and their local community were different.
I worked with Dr Chris Mato Nunpa (Dakota, PhD 1974, UMN, retired UMN Morris faculty) to do 2 workshops at the UCC MN conference annual meeting on the Dakota culture. The UCC anti-racism team led the conference to adopt a resolution dealing with Native Americans in 2009 and has another this year. I try to help ease the cross-cultural understanding with African and Southeast Asian refugees, African-Americans, Native Americans, and Whites.
Restorative justice means celebrating humanity’s rich cultures and diverse ethnic backgrounds, traditions, and expressions of faith. Racial justice demands Christians actively, boldly, and without reservation participate in dismantling racism within systems and structures that oppress people, limit equal access, and denies children, women, and men their civil and human rights.
In 2018, Gary was elected MICAH's first president of Asian descent. Under his leadership, MICAH continues to expand the diversity of our Board of Directors, Staff, Leadership, and Membership.
He became involved with MICAH in the early 2000s. His service on the MICAH anti-racism team, 2006-2008, produced strategic recommendations which continues to guide MICAH's work.
In 2015, Gary became a MICAH board member. MICAH had recently filed four Fair Housing Complaints and Gary became MICAH's primary representative on the Fair Housing Implementation Council and also represented refugee cultural groups. The Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing did not include authentic community engagement. Gary asserted MICAH's position that people experiencing homelessness, housing crises, and/or discrimination must be involved as decision makers at all levels. This is critical in developing appropriate and successful housing opportunities for our diverse community.
Gary was successful in guiding the committee to utilize culturally based listening and learning circles to provide the critical information to amend the Analysis of Impediments to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing Plan. He worked with the staff of diverse communities to implement community engagement sessions for Lao Advancement Organization of America, Lao Assistance Center of MN, Karen Organization of MN, United Cambodian Assoc. of MN, and Mothers Tutoring Academy (Somali).
MICAH received an award from HOMECo, in 2018, for helping them increase over $30 million in new resources to address the disparity in home ownership between Caucasian and diverse communities in the metro area.
This Legislative session, Gary guided leaders from the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans to meet with legislators (with MICAH support and technical assistance on their legislation) in the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention Program which passed. $375,000 for FY 2020, and $375,000 appropriated in FY 2021.