Don Kao, Asian gay man, parent of a 45-year old daughter, Amber, who he has been raising with his former lover since she was 2, a person living with AIDS (tested + in 1992, probably HIV+ for 39 years), who grew up with professional, immigrant parents in an overwhelmingly white, blue-collar, working-class community of 3,500 people in rural Maryland, is the Director of CPC Project Reach, a youth and adult-run, multiracial, multi-gender, community-based counseling, advocacy, anti-discrimination and youth organizing training center. An anti-war activist and labor support organizer, Don’s work began over 52 years ago, at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he founded one of the earliest Midwest Asian American student organizations, initiated unionizing efforts resulting in worker control at the Community Store, organized against the Vietnam War, and initiated a coalition of Black, Latina/o, Native American, Asian, and progressive white communities to protest the closing of the African American and Native American centers. Co-founder of Tri-Base Collective (1977), a Third World gay men’s organization bringing together Asian/Black/Latino/ Native American gay men, GAPIMNY, Gay Asian and Pacific Islander Men of New York (1989), and +API, a support group for Asian and Pacific Islanders living with HIV/AIDS (1992), Don also conducts trainings and provides technical assistance on inter-group conflict, discrimination issues, coalition-building, community organizing, and staff/organizational/board development to youth/community organizations, public/independent schools, parent/ teacher associations, colleges/universities, professional organizations, and city/state agencies. He has been a member of the Boards of Directors of Asian and Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV and AIDS, the Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, the Audre Lorde Project, the only center in the country for lesbian/gay/bisexual/Two Spirit/transgender and intersex people of color communities, The GRIOT Circle, an organization serving senior citizens of color, who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender and presently sits on the board of the Youth Activist/Youth Allies Network
Don Kao, Director, CPC Project Reach, has been an educator, social justice advocate, supporter of youth empowerment and anti-oppression community activist for the past 52 years. Don came to Project Reach 38 years ago and has guided the organization to its current position as one of the most unique anti-discrimination agencies in the country, devoted to youth self-sufficiency, empowerment and community involvement. The changes Don has effected at Project Reach include: expanding beyond the immediate Chinatown community to serve all young people from the Lower East Side and city-wide, including young people who are multi-gender (lesbian, gay, bisexual, Two Spirit, transgender, intersex, questioning and heterosexual) and multiracial (African American, Native American, Latina/o, Dominican, Arab/Middle Eastern, Caribbean, Asian and Pacific Islander, South Asian and White); implementing a youth empowerment model which places young people at the center of addressing how to resolve crises in their lives; and establishing a 5-7 week, city-wide, cross-community anti-discrimination/youth organizing institute training over 70 young people every summer as well as the annual, week-long, out-of-the-city, Social Justice Boot Camp, an anti-militaristic social justice training retreat bringing together over 60 young people from over 20 youth organizations around the city and upstate New York. At Project Reach, he has created an “organizing readiness” curriculum where young people at risk look at the forces (racism, sexism, homophobia, heterosexism, classism and adultism) that impact their lives and communities; gain crisis counseling and inter-group facilitation skills; and work with young people onsite and with other youth organizations to explore ways they can work together to take social action on social justice issues. Recently a recipient of the Union Square Awards and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Don is a gay man living with AIDS and is grandfather of his 3 grandchildren Hamish, Charlie and Finn.