Sissy is the founder and Executive Director of the Southeast Asian Community Alliance (SEACA) in Los Angeles. Her family fled Vietnam and moved to the U.S. when she was a toddler, and like many Southeast Asian immigrant families, she grew up in poverty. Chinatown is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Los Angeles. A determined advocate for social justice, Sissy realized very few organizations addressed the needs of the Southeast Asian community. She envisioned and created a new program—SEACA, empowering the Southeast Asian community through leadership development, education, advocacy and organizing.
Through Sissy’s innovative organizing with youth, SEACA used land use policy reform to take on the City of Los Angeles and a new wave of gentrification slated for Chinatown that was proceeding with no meaningful input from residents. Sissy was the organizer connecting the dots, bringing in land use experts (both traditional and unconventional in her youth members), and moving the policy through City Hall. Under Sissy’s mentorship, the youth at SEACA learned about the content and context of the zoning plan, its impact on access and how be powerful advocates to advance a comprehensive vision of social, economic and racial justice. In Sissy’s words, “a scrappy little youth group helped to create what the L.A. Times’ editorial board called a ‘Model of L.A. Planning,'” that will shape the neighborhood for decades to come, and deep and meaningful involvement of residents made the difference.