Throughout the years, SIPA has impacted countless lives. Here’s the story of one of them.
In 1991, 12-year-old Johneric Concordia, accompanied by his brother and a group of friends walked into a brick building on Temple and Robinson almost by chance. Lured by the beat of drums, they turned a corner to find a group of high school girls practicing Philippine dance. It wasn’t long before the boys soon joined them. Johneric didn’t know it at the time, but their entry into this organization, Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA), would mark the beginning of long-lasting community engagement and support.
Johneric grew up in Historic Filipinotown, in a time when urban unrest and violence were everyday experiences. Most Filipino youth his age were driven to gangs. Johneric notes –at the time, in his neighborhood: “To understand a Filipino youth’s identity meant knowing what gang they were in.” Had it not been for community organizations like SIPA, Johneric may have gotten involved in gangs as well.
In fact, some of Johneric’s friends, a blend of multi-ethnic youth from working class families in LA, were affiliated with gangs. But it was the programs and services of organizations like SIPA that kept them engaged; it was the community events that kept them from doing other activities which could have negatively affected their lives.
Johneric soon became involved with SIPA’s youth program and services, building a greater consciousness of his identity as a Filipino American. This laid the foundation for the advocacy, activism, and community organizing he would continue to do through working and giving back to community organizations [such as] SIPA, [as well as] East West Partnership, People’s CORE, Tuesday Night Project, and Koreatown Youth & Community Center. “I have not done anything without the community behind my back,” says Johneric.
Consequently, Johneric attributes his success today to this community support. At present, Johneric is the founder and owner of The Park’s Finest BBQ, a business he began in 2009, with the help of SIPA’s Small Business Development Program, which provides assistance to the largely immigrant, local entrepreneurs and small business owners in the community. While he used to meet with Peer Counselors at SIPA as a youth, he now meets regularly with their Business Development Counselor. Since its inception, his business has flourished immensely, and was rated #1 on Yelp in Los Angeles!
“Technically, we (The Park’s Finest) are not supposed to exist,” he says. “We are people of color, working class, with no educational background. According to textbooks, we are not supposed to be here. But we proved them wrong.”
Thanks to organizations like SIPA, Johneric has not only gained the information and resources he needs to succeed, but a network of support that has sustained him to be an advocate for his community. Community organizations provide critical programs and services, and support for them is essential to our community’s well-being; Johneric’s story of success is living proof.