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Q&A: Co-writing and shaping the history and narrative of Asian Americans in Miami and beyond

Tony DelaRosa (‘12 Indianapolis), Director of Teacher Leadership Development for Miami-Dade, is the recipient of the 2021 NAAAP (National Association of Asian American Professionals) Inspire Award sponsored by United Airlines.

August 30, 2021

Tony DelaRosa (‘12 Indianapolis), Director of Teacher Leadership Development for Miami-Dade, is the recipient of the 2021 NAAAP Inspire Award sponsored by United Airlines for his work in DEI coaching, consulting and motivational speaking at his name sake business, Tony Rosa Speaks LLC. Tony was recognized and honored as an API leader at the annual NAAAP Awards ceremony on Friday, August 27th.

Q: The NAAAP Inspire Award is granted to “luminaries in their respective field” who have made considerable contributions and powerful achievements to elevating AAPI voices across their communities. Tell us what this award means to you personally and professionally.

It means that I can live multiple truths at the same time. I can battle and freedom-dream simultaneously. When I say “battle,” I'm actively combating the erasure and invisibility of Asian Americans in broader narratives of social justice. When I say “freedom-dream,” I mean being able to help others imagine my community as a central part in shaping the future of social justice in education and out. If I were to dedicate this award to a group of people, I would dedicate this to all my Filipino/a/x Americans anti-racist educators both in K-12 and Higher Education who continue to push me to decolonize my work, embrace my ancestry, and share our unique gifts to the world.

Q: What are some of the projects and initiatives from this past year that you are most proud of?

I’m proud of expanding my anti-bias and anti-racist work throughout Florida! I had the opportunity to train School Board Member Luisa Santos’s inaugural Relational Organizing Fellows in the foundations of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in organizing. They led a campaign to listen to hundreds of District 9 constituents to inform this year’s strategic plan. This would not have been true without Teach for America Miami-Dade. As a staff member assigned to D9, I was able to develop a deep understanding of this community’s context, as well as understand the needs of such a unique community with a rich immigrant history.

Another project I’m proud of is working with Volunteer Florida to train all their AmeriCorps Directors in DEI assessment strategy to close out fiscal year 2020-2021. Outside of the larger organizations such as Teach for America and City Year, Volunteer Florida also has smaller organizations that are in their beginning stages of DEI strategy. Being able to jumpstart people and organizations on their journey has been very rewarding. That’s the power of capacity building.

Q: Looking to the future, how do you plan on using your platform to further impact the AAPI community in Miami-Dade/ across the state?

First, I want to note, Tony Rosa Speaks LLC is both a platform and a DEI consulting, coaching, and speaking company. From a social media platform standpoint, I want Miamians to learn more about two topics: 1) Cross-racial coalition building and 2) How to imagine AAPI people in their social justice narratives.

For topic one, with the murder of George Floyd and the rise of Asian hate in the country, there’s an opportunity for the Black and Asian community to stand in solidarity with each other. So, I try to educate the public on the histories of how different communities have done this in the past and how they are doing it now. These past few years have been a wakeup call for cross-racial solidarity, and I’m proud to be a part of doing this work.

For topic two, since there’s not a prominent history of Asian Americans in Miami, I get to help co-write and shape this narrative with fellow Asian Americans. Using myself as a template, people will see how I balance my multiple identities of being cisgender, Filipino, Asian-Hispanic, a first-generation US college graduate, and a parent in the fight for social justice. From a service standpoint, I hope to go deeper in my work with training organizations across Florida in DEI strategy.

Q: Tell us about your latest poem. What inspired you to create this piece?

“The Game Board: Filipino Coach Edition”

Inspired by Lauren Lisa Ng’s “The Game Board”

 

Here’s how you play

You wake up in Coconut Grove in a house so move ahead two spaces because you’ve “made it”

You head to work, mask up, and drive to a school in North Miami to observe one of your elementary school teachers

They are holding a restorative justice circle, just like you taught so move forward one space

You notice a few students stare at you and automatically ask you if you eat bat

Ask: If you are Chinese, Ask: If you brought Covid-19 to Miami

Triggered -  move back three steps

One student tells another and another virus spreads like a wildfire throughout the classroom

Move backwards two again

Laughing at your Eyes that Kiss in the Corners 

You muster the strength to pull this student aside 

And remind him that this is not so different than what his ancestors dealt with

What he may deal with, and what he just added to . . .

He nods in agreement, apologizes, and we move forward two steps

I leave school, go to the next, and this repeats all over again.

You head into a high school math classroom and they are doing a gallery walk

It looks like a hyper engaged lesson so go ahead move forward three steps 

Then kids notice you, and one yells “Ching Chong Ching Chong”

Move back

The teacher doesn’t know how to react

So move back two steps

You remember you’ve played this game before so stay idle

Just smile and breathe, notice your body, remember your tactic

Then move forward and try to focus on the lesson

 

But what actually is the lesson here?

Is it coaching the teacher to teach their students to master this formula on paper?

To master the myth of meritocracy?

or is it something else?

Or is it something that requires an undoing.

The peeling of hardened layers.

To get to the core of a teachable moment

You must prepare for a teachable movement

There’s no cheat code.

You must remember that unlearning takes time.

Because it happens at the speed of trust.

Q: You are an influential leader in the Asian American community who has made significant contributions in advancing AAPI cause and elevating Asian America voices in your community. Can you share a little more about your background and what drives your passion for AAPI advocacy and representation?

Part of my passion for advocating for AAPI issues stemmed from friendtors (friends that are mentors) that continue to show up for this community, even when our issues are not trending. In my TFA experience these people were Cap Aguilar, Sarah Ha, Justin Tandingan, and Soukprida Phetmisy. They show up unapologetically Asian American and have urged and supported others like me to do the same. As one of the 1.5% of Asian American educators in this country, I didn’t know the power and weight of my voice until this cabinet of leaders. I want to be the same for others. Again, this is the power ancestral and cultural capacity building, we always think about how we are setting up our descendants.

 

Tony DelaRosa (he/him/siya), is an aspiring Anti-Bias & Anti-Racist Educator, DEI Consultant, spoken word poet, and coalition builder. NAAAP is excited to honor DelaRosa for his work in DEI coaching, consulting, and motivational speaking at his namesake business Tony Rosa Speaks LLC. His company has worked with the NYC Department of Education, Volunteer Florida, The Smithsonian APA, Harvard Usable Knowledge, Bain & Co, and the Philippine Embassy. He is an official DEI service provider of the CatalystEd Network which works with companies like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the New Schools Venture Fund. He also co-founded Pulse Poetry, a school program that uses spoken word, pedagogy, and public speaking to empower youth voices in Boston, Indianapolis, Miami, The Philippines, and Mexico. DelaRosa currently works as the Director of Leadership Development at Teach for America Miami.

 

About NAAAP 

The National Association of Asian American Professionals (NAAAP) is the premier leadership organization for Asian professionals in North America, with 28 chapters, several thousand active members, and a reach of more than 20,000 professionals.  Since 1982, NAAAP has operated as a nonprofit to inspire, develop, and connect leaders in all major industries and countless communities through professional development and community service.  

Learn more about the NAAAP100 Inspire and Pride Awards and this year's honorees here: https://www.leadershipconvention.org/naaap-awards/