I sat in a plastic chair in the fluorescent-lit conference room, leaning on the small tablet desk attached to my seat. The chairs were arranged in a circle around the edge of the room, filling one by one as people trickled in. Eighteen. Nineteen. Twenty. I could hardly believe it.
It was the first San Francisco Bay Area meetup of Progressive Asian American Christians, an online community I had inadvertently helped to start. Less than two months prior, I had written a piece about how lonely it is to be a progressive Asian American Christian. At the end of it, I linked a then-empty Facebook group that a new friend of mine, Lydia Suh, had created. It would be a place, I imagined, where people who resonated with the piece could go to see that other people like them existed — where they would see a bunch of profile pictures and feel validated and maybe post the occasional article.
Neither Lydia nor I expected what followed: Three hundred people joined the group the day after the piece went up; less than six weeks later, we had two thousand. But it wasn’t just the numbers that surprised us — it was the energy and enthusiasm that these folks brought with them. They immediately started sharing their stories, discussing controversial topics, asking when we could start meeting in person. The first meetup took place a month after the group started (in Minneapolis, impressively enough); within the next three months, eight more cities would start their own.
On this sunny Saturday afternoon in February, on the fourth floor of an office building in the city, the first Bay Area meetup about to begin. As I watched people rolling in — peering around, introducing themselves, finding seats — I noticed an unfamiliar feeling in my chest.