Victor Yang - We Need to Not Only Sit in the Bargaining Chair, but Shake the Table

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Oct 12, 2015
by Heather Jaber
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Victor Yang - We Need to Not Only Sit in the Bargaining Chair, but Shake the Table

Victor Yang, a community organizer and doctoral Student at the University of Oxford UK, discussed firsthand experience of discrimination and using the transformative power of the people

While many institutions claim to also work for the marginalized, the reality is that many of these people are not involved in decision-making processes, said Victor Yang, participant of the third annual Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, Strengthening Communities: LGBT Rights & Social Cohesion.

“Who is at the table?” asked Yang, who is a community organizer and doctoral Student at the University of Oxford UK. “What I really would like to see, and have seen achieved in the past in rare instances, are those people coming to the table empowered not only to sit in front of that bargaining chair, but also to shake it so vigorously that the table actually falls over and that there’s a radical shift and change in power structure.”

Yang shared his formative experience of growing up as a person of Chinese heritage in the American south. “Seeing how discrimination, racism, difference manifested themselves very viscerally and personally growing up planted the seeds. I didn’t have the words to talk about it, but I definitely had the emotions with which to label that.”

Yang's research relates to these feelings of difference, and looks into the lives of low-income people of color within the HIV/AIDS movement. Specifically, his work focuses on the Philadelphia chapter of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) and the impact of these types of movements in uprooting traditional hierarchies of power. 

Yang also works as a community organizer, focusing on anti-racist and street-level activism. He led academics from Oxford to launch their first summit on race equality. What is important in this type of activism, said Yang, is to make sure people are not being used as pawns or numbers for organizations, but actually "thinking about people in their own transformative potential."

To hear more about Yang's formative experiences and outlook on systems of power, watch the interview below.


The Salzburg Global program Strengthening Communities: LGBT Rights & Social Cohesion is part of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum. The list of our partners for Session 551 can be found here. For more information, please visit: www.salzburgglobal.org/go/551

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