2018 chertkov fellow: VICTOR YANG
Victor Yang is a queer organizer and writer. The son of Chinese immigrants, he has been fighting for immigrant and labor justice for a decade.
His work began as a volunteer case-worker and then coordinator for a program called Project HEALTH, where he spent four years working with single mothers of color, helping them apply for public benefits, secure safe housing, and advocate for their children. He then spent five years learning from ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), a direct action AIDS activist group. He received a Rhodes Scholarship to the University of Oxford, where he helped push the administration to launch the first summit on race in its 800-year history. These efforts sparked a curricular review and institution-wide initiatives to increase the voices of women and people of color on campus.
From 2015 to 2018, he led and worked on campaigns alongside low-wage workers in Boston. His organization, 32BJ SEIU District 615, represents 18,000 workers in the New England area, the majority of whom are Latinx janitors. Since the 2016 election, his work has been focused primarily on immigrant rights. He helped launch his union’s inaugural Social Justice Leadership Academy, a bilingual program that empowers its members to teach others about systemic injustice and collective resistance. He has been instrumental in coordinating campaigns for immigrant rights in places like Everett, MA, and in organizing large populations of new immigrant voters to win certain crucial elections and ballot initiatives in Massachusetts.
While at the BMC, he worked on both fiction and non-fiction. He edited pieces in a short story collection featuring a multi-generational cast of characters who embody the struggle and resistance of Chinese and Latinx immigrants. He also drafted and revised essays that reflected on his difficulties, defeats, and joys as an organizer. He believes that documenting loss and contradiction in the movement is crucial to understanding what is required to win in our communities.