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“This is the Future” | Volunteer Spotlight: Ryn Miake-Lye

Date: January 11, 2022


Ryn Miake-Lye at an Upstander Intervention Training with NP and AAF in Sunset Park, October 2021 | Photo: Neha Gautam
Ryn Miake-Lye at an Upstander Intervention Training with NP and AAF in Sunset Park, October 2021 | Photo: Neha Gautam

Ryn Miake-Lye at an Upstander Intervention Training with NP and AAF in Sunset Park, October 2021 | Photo: Neha Gautam

Meet Ryn Miake-Lye, science-driven co-founder of People are Different, and now one of hundreds of New Yorkers you've supported in taking part in Community Safety Trainings with NP and the Asian American Federation

Finding Her Place in the Movement

When Ryn Miake-Lye heard about the devastation of Hurricane Sandy in parts of New York City in 2012, she drove from New England to help with the recovery efforts. “If something like Sandy ever hit New England, I hoped a few New Yorkers would come help us.”

Arriving in New York City, she met a young organizer, West Dakota, who was coordinating the effort, managing volunteers and directing services. West Dakota's effectiveness and commitment to community compelled her to participate regularly in post-Sandy recovery work.

A couple years later, amidst the uprising for Black lives in New York City and beyond, Ryn came across West Dakota in a different type of community work. This time, West had convened a number of organizers in an historic march and rally for Black Trans lives known as the Brooklyn Liberation March. Ryn reached out to ask if there was a role that would authentically support this powerful work, recognizing that she was neither Black nor trans. West asked Ryn help create a safe space for the speakers before the rally, a protective space that would allow them to share their words and experiences.  

Ryn agreed and on the day of the event, while preparing to provide protective presence rooted in solidarity, she came across Kalaya’an Mendoza, now NP's (Nonviolent Peaceforce) Director of U.S. Programs, facilitating a safety training for the march’s safety volunteers.   

“The safety training was empowering and I thought, this is the future,” Ryn recalls of that day.

Participants mirror one another at an in-person NP and AAF training in September 2021. | Photo: Asian American Federation
Participants mirror one another at an in-person NP and AAF training in September 2021. | Photo: Asian American Federation


Now, a year and a half later, Ryn participates in safety trainings with NP as part of the Asian American Federation’s Hope Against Hate campaign. Aiming to bring immediate safety to Asian New Yorkers, the campaign will establish safety ambassador programs, set up services to support victims and provide safety trainings in multiple languages.

Throughout the pandemic, we've all seen neighbors and friends come together to take care of one another, whether buying groceries for elderly and immunocompromised neighbors or picking up medications for roommates.

And now, New Yorkers are coming together to support and protect one another to show zero tolerance for anti-Asian attacks and violence.  

“We are trying to create a culture of safety in NY,” expressed Joo Han, the Deputy Director of the Asian American Federation. All New Yorkers deserve to feel safe going to work, getting on the subway to meet friends, or taking their kids to school.

Upstander Intervention Training with NP and AAF | Photo: Neha Gautam

Safety for All

From her early years as a biomedical scientist, Ryn Miake-Lye understands the importance of safety: "We share a responsibility to protect public health. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's mission is to assure the safety and efficacy of food and drugs. The Hippocratic oath that physicians take is to 'do no harm.'"

But living in an urban environment, particularly during a global pandemic, gave safety new meaning. For Ryn, urban environments mean personal autonomy is linked to community. During the pandemic personal safety and community safety became very closely related, demonstrating our decisions impact those around us. And living in a tight-knit, dense community like the Bronx meant Ryn had to think more critically about her boundaries, about what is safe behavior and what is safe communication.

“We know that when we create safety for one marginalized community, we create safety for all,” adds Joo Han, Deputy Director of the Asian American Federation. While white supremacy tries to divide us, efforts to address our concerns cannot be infiltrated by Anti-blackness or other forms of bias. Instead, community safety must be rooted in solidarity and community consent, in keeping ALL of us safe.

“Shared safety has always been a part of our collectivistic cultures. Our ancestors have survived through colonization, occupation and were able to survive and pass these on to us in cultural ways, but also our ability to keep ourselves and our communities safe is built into our DNA,” reflected Kalaya’an Mendoza.

You also have instincts and practices that keep you safe. That's why the trainings support participants to recognize their own instincts and ancestral knowledges, and practice concrete skills to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. In addition to building self-awareness around how we might respond to various situations and circumstances, you support trainings that include strategies to help bystanders intervene safely when they see someone being harassed.

Empowering Communities, Building Solutions

There are things I know in my mind and my heart, but until I did an in-person training, I wouldn’t know what my vulnerabilities are,” Ryn recalled of her first opportunity to participate. “I didn't know what my role was until I did an in-person training."

And that is exactly what the trainings aim to do, empower participants to see themselves in building solutions and finding their own roles to protect their communities rooted in consent and solidarity.

Ryn reflects, “If every community had access to an all-day training like that, it would change the dynamic.”

When you support NP, you equip communities around the country with safety strategies to protect themselves and one another.

But for now, Ryn is motivated by her three-year-old grandson and the world that he will inhabit. “I hope that he can participate in something like NP,” she added.

 * * *

Kalaya'an Mendoza stands with a mask and a yellow vest that reads "Nonviolent Peaceoforce," holding a flyer announcing the Community Companion program.
Kalaya'an Mendoza, Director of US Programs, at a training in Sunset Park, October 2021. | Photo: Neha Gautam.

This work is made possible by the Asian American Federation and generous supporters like you.

The Hope Against Hate Campaign is bringing together a powerful coalition, drawn from 70 community organizations and the pan-Asian communities they serve, mental health providers, and allies, to keep Asian New Yorkers safe. Together, We have an opportunity to not only ensure the immediate protection of our communities but also build a safer, more hopeful future for the 1.3 million Asian Americans who call New York home.

NP has partnered with the Asian American Federation to provide safety trainings in upstander intervention, situational awareness, community mapping and verbal de-escalation in multiple languages to ensure all community members are equipped to watch out for themselves and each other.

Do you know someone who wants to help keep their friends and neighbors safe? Are they currently located in the New York City area? Learn more and apply here.

You can protect civilians who are living in or fleeing violent conflict. Your contribution will transform the world's response to conflict.