(S2 EP 13.1) Sina Sam, a 1.5 generation Khmer-American chatted with the podcast for our two-part interview. She became the first Cambodian-American woman to serve as the Commissioner for the Asian Pacific American Affairs (CAPAA) for Governor Inslee’s office in Washington State. She is a co-founder of the Khmer Anti-Deportation Group (KHAAG) and currently the Field Director for SEARAC (Southeast Asia Resource Action Center). She shared her experience arriving in Seattle with her family during the 1980s. Sina would experience many of the same challenges and hardship that Southeast Asian refugees faced during resettlement. There was poverty, violence, intergenerational trauma, internalized racism, failing schools and family instability. In Pt 1 of this interview, she talked at length about being a teen parent and high school dropout at the age of 16, and dealing with the fractured relationship she had with her father at the time. There’s so much more that Sina shared with me throughout our long, fascinating interview, but don’t miss out on listening to Pt 1 of this interview.
Sina Sam is a 1.5 generation Khmer American, born in a Thai refugee camp and raised in Seattle, WA. Before her appointment as the first Cambodian woman to serve on the Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs (CAPAA) of Washington State, Commissioner Sam has been an active organizer in the Khmer community for almost two decades. Co-founder of the Khmer Anti-deportation Advocacy Group (KhAAG) and an organizer with F.I.G.H.T, her advocacy work centers around addressing high rates of incarceration and deportation for Southeast Asian Americans (SEAAs), and other vulnerable populations. Currently, she is the Field Director in transition at the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC), Chair of CAPAA’s Civil Rights & Immigration Committee, and is the first woman to be elected to lead the API Caucus of WA State Democrats.
Understanding that hard work alone will not guarantee better opportunities, that there are structural barriers for some and not for others, much of Sina’s personal, professional and community building work are guided by a passion towards intersectional and restorative justice, and trauma-informed healing