Meet Jonathan Tran


What would your walk out song be?

Why did you join HIP?

When HIP first started in 2012, I had my doubts. "Why on earth do we need another non-profit organization," I thought to myself. At the time (still am), I was fed up with non-profits or consultants who claim to serve the community but lacked the ambition and strategic wherewithal to challenge the systems that create the problems in our community. It was bewildering to be surrounded by organizations that used the same old-tactics, reinforced a culture of patriarchy and told young people to “wait your turn people” or “don’t rock the boat.”

To my surprise and delight, HIP turned out to be none of those things. We were young, we were passionate, we were dedicated and we shared many of the same progressive values. Not satisfied with being typecast as angry young activists, we sought to build political capital in a strategic, thoughtful and deliberate manner. I also loved that HIP practiced collective leadership. Each organizer could bring his/her own unique skill sets to contribute to a greater whole. Some of us had lots of policy experience; some of us were excellent organizers; some of us are artistic; some of us naturally connect with elders; some of us are excellent in mobilizing youth—whatever your skill set, there would always be a place for you in HIP.

“My HIP family became my roots. These roots kept me grounded in a community, nourished me through difficult times and grew me into the man I am today.”

How has being a part of HIP impacted your life?

HIP helped me recognize that Sacramento is now home. When I moved to Sacramento from Los Angeles in 2007, I figured my time here would be short—learn what I have to learn and then move back to LA. In my first couple of years in Sacramento, I made some of my closest and dearest friends but a part of me always felt fleeting because I was missing roots. Of course, my parents and my sister will always be my actual home--but that meant that home would always be hundreds of miles away. More than I could possibly have ever imagined, my HIP family became my roots. These roots kept me grounded in a community, nourished me through difficult times and grew me into the man I am today.

Why should someone join HIP?

You should join HIP if you answer YES to ANY of the following questions:

  • Were you a student activist in college and now must “enter the real world”?
  • Do you currently or have you ever worked for a non-profit organization and wondered if the “work” could be done more effectively?
  • Do you want to serve or give back to your community but aren’t really sure what that looks like?
  • Do you believe our communities should be at the table when important decisions about our community are being made?
  • Are you looking for a supportive space to express yourself and learn skill sets to elevate your organizing game?
  • Are you a fan of Star Wars, Harry Potter, the West Wing, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Disney Movies or comic books? (Please say yes so we can be friends.)

What is your favorite moment from your time in HIP?

I don't know if it is a favorite memory, but the memory that resonates with me was the night SCUSD voted to close seven neighborhood schools. The clock was creeping towards 1AM and I remember looking around the room. There were school kids completely asleep on ground and parents with tired sadness etched in their faces. That night, parents and community members pleaded with the school board to not close their neighborhood school. But each speech felt like it was delaying the inevitable. The Board and Superintendent's scheme had already been hatched and the closures were a foregone conclusion.The school board members knew it, most of the parents knew it, we as organizers knew it.

Does it make looking feel better? NO.
Does that mean we’ll always win? HELL NO.
But it does give us a chance to health, a chance to get back up; a chance to learn and come back stronger than ever.”

But what I remember most about that night was the thoughtful and heartbreaking testimony from the students and young people who had not been tainted by the cynicism that permeated among the adults. Each of them testified with conviction and sincerely believed that their story would make a difference. After each of their speeches, I felt a tinge of hope--not that the board would change its mind--but hope that a new generation would be energized to be engaged in their community.

There are times when I catch myself being cynical about our ability to impact the world around us. Sometimes it just feels like the cards are always stacked against us. That night taught me that cynicism can be contagious, paralyzing and demoralizing. But it also taught me that cynicism is a choice--that we can counter cynicism in our lives with authenticity and sincerity. Does it make losing feel better? No. Does that mean we'll always win? Hell no. But it does gives us a chance to heal, a chance to get back up, a chance to learn and a chance to come back stronger than ever.

Where do you think the Hmong community will be in 5 years? in 20?

In 5 years, I hope there will be more Hmong women in prominent leadership roles within the Hmong community. I also hope that the Hmong community will grow its political clout alongside other Southeast Asian Americans and communities of color (not separate from them).

In 20 years, I hope the health, economic, educational and social disparities that plague the Hmong community will dissolve and in its place, the Hmong community will recognize its role in helping to lift other communities up along the way. I hope that the Hmong community will have developed a strong voting base and continue to insert themselves in different spaces to make meaningful change.

When I'm not hustling for HIP, you can find me...

listening to the golden voice of Vin Scully calling the play-by-play for my Dodgers OR explaining to everyone why Tim Duncan should be considered one of the G.O.A.T. OR rooting for UCLA to win its 113th National Championship.

If it's not sports related, then you'll also find me making old fashions, drinking Belgian ales, sewing pocket squares, eating elaborate meals, listening to "meka" music and singing along to every Disney movie.