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Sallie Lin, ALC Community Advocacy Manager: ‘The work is not easy, but they make it possible.’

August 8, 2023 Perspective

In the last few years, the Asian Law Caucus has put more attention to how we’re supporting an essential role across our organization: community advocates.

When most people think about ALC’s staff, they often picture attorneys. Yet, for our team to achieve our goals of community empowerment and education and to advocate for the local, state, and federal policies that would help our clients find justice and live safely, we need a growing group of community advocates.

These tremendous staff members are meeting with clients and community members every day, helping people navigate complex legal systems, understand their rights, and hold those in power accountable to those rights.

We’re committed to hiring more community advocates (check out our job openings!), and as we do that, it’s critical that community advocates have more support systems and resources.

Sallie and Mei Mei sit at a table in conversation.

Sallie meets with Workers’ Rights community advocate, Mei Mei.

Last year, Sallie Lin joined ALC as our first-ever community advocacy manager. In this role, she supports each community advocate to build skills, solve problems, and build relationships with community members and clients. She also helps community advocates across all our six issue areas develop shared strategies for outreach and education.

In the past several months, the team has met with Bay Area community members in more in-person spaces, including street fairs, festivals, Ramadan gatherings, and legal clinics at ALC and other local organizations. Through these connections, more Bay Area residents have learned their rights and what to do if they aren’t paid their full wages, lost their job and need unemployment benefits, visited by law enforcement at their homes, or unjustly questioned at airports, among other key topics. The team has also helped community members testify at state legislature hearings for bills like the HOME Act and talk to boards of supervisors in San Francisco, San Mateo, and other local counties about what they need to do to take care of their families and build a good life.

Sallie’s love for ALC’s work began early in childhood.

“I was raised in the Peninsula and would go to Chinatown with my parents on the weekends to grocery shop. Every time, I would pass by the ALC office and think: If I could grow up and provide any type of assistance or direct services for folks in this neighborhood, that would be so great.

My parents are Chinese immigrants and I came here when I was 10. I thought it was amazing that there was this institution in SF Chinatown. An impression was left on me week after week, when I’d see the incredible work being done by ALC.”

Sallie stands in the sun smiling.

Sallie Lin, Community Advocacy Manager

Her work fighting for social causes started in high school when 9/11 happened, she saw the U.S. occupying Iraq and Afghanistan and put her energy towards anti-war movements. She went to college to study political science and during one semester, Sallie worked on immigration policy in Washington, DC. She collected the stories of undocumented immigrants and supported the preparation of their testimonies for Senate hearings on comprehensive immigration reform.

After college, she worked on impact litigation to stop discrimination in the workplace at Advancing Justice Southern California. When she returned to the Bay Area, she was an elections supervisor in San Mateo County. Sallie and her co-workers also volunteered to start a program to reach eligible voters in the county, focusing on marginalized, underrepresented neighborhoods.

“I wanted to promote voter participation and run registration drives in immigrant communities. I began to outreach in places like East Palo Alto, Millbrae, Daly City, where there are large communities of immigrants, so they could participate in elections. I find that you don't always have to provide direct services, but any type of work that enabled me to connect to my community was meaningful enough for me.”

In 2019, Sallie joined ALC’s Housing Rights program as a community advocate to defend the rights of San Francisco tenants during the pandemic. Sallie and the other community advocate on the team, Flora Kuang, helped Chinese and other Asian low-income immigrants threatened with eviction and harassed by landlords. In this tough job, Sallie and her teammates were overwhelmed by the extent and severity of the housing crisis experienced by clients and community members and struggled with the vicarious trauma that comes with this type of work.

“The work of a community advocate is so important. They are the eyes and ears of the community since the crux of their work is communicating directly with impacted folks. We saw a need for a leader to provide counseling, provide space for us to talk about the challenges we were facing, and be a mentor for us. It was an idea that blossomed during my time as a housing rights advocate. Our community advocates tend to be young professionals deeply passionate about social justice and public interest. We need to figure out how to make this work sustainable so that we can be in it for the long haul.”

Sallie, Nicole, and Tatiana sitting on steps laughing together.

Sallie sits with Nicole and Tatiana, community advocates in the Criminal Justice Reform program.

Sallie joined ALC once again to be this much-needed leader. She aids community advocates in their collective work towards equitable housing, fair workplaces, and safe communities, and providing knowledge and resources to Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. On any given day, this could include organizing bi-monthly free legal clinics, developing know-your-rights materials for tri-lingual bulletin for San Francisco seniors, or talking to local in-language media.

Sallie seeks a supportive culture within the team and encourages self-care to ensure the team is prioritizing their wellbeing. Since establishing the team, community advocates have been engaging in more collaboration outside of their program and issue areas, including outreaching together in different neighborhoods, supporting each other’s work by showing up or providing language assistance, and celebrating each others’ wins, big and small. Their monthly team lunches have also become a time to exchange ideas and information, as well as joke and laugh.

“The reason my position exists is to support the incredible work that the community advocates are doing. They have a diverse array of backgrounds, areas of expertise, and bring different perspectives that are critical to our work. My goal is to serve them and help them be the best they can be. They are creative, resourceful, and work so hard day in and day out doing community outreach, education, and advocacy. The work is not easy, but they make it possible.”

At a museum, Sallie and Adil speak to each other.

Sallie speaks to Adil, a Community Advocate from the National Security and Civil Rights team.