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Activist called the Rosa Parks of the Filipino American community

Hawaiʻi activist Amy Agbayani takes pride in her indigenous roots and is using her platform to heighten immigrant votes for the upcoming election.

Agbayani announced the Democratic delegate vote from Hawaiʻi on the second day of the Democratic National Convention on Aug. 18 with 23 votes for Joe Biden and nine votes for Bernie Sanders.

The Philippine-native spoke to her fellow immigrants and communities of color with urgency.

“I came from the Philippines to Hawaiʻi, the land of indigenous native Hawaiʻians,” Agbayani said. “Today, I want to speak to my fellow immigrants, to the essential workers on the frontlines, to the service members who wear our flag, to the parents with big dreams for their children.”

Agbayani, 77, immigrated to the Aloha State in 1964 where she received her Ph.D. at the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa, according to Asian Journal. She participated in civil-rights movements during her college years, but her activism did not stop there.

In 2014, she was arrested for protesting against inadequate treatment of local healthcare, hospitality, and food service workers in Honolulu.

Agbayani continues her activism until today.

“No matter where we came from, immigrants belong in our country’s long fight for justice. We belong in the America we are building together,” Agbayani said.

She is not a politician, but has been a prominent figure for change in the Filipino American community and at the Hawaiʻi State Capitol. Agbayani is known for her work within higher education for immigrants and local civil rights policies. She also helped establish the Hawaiʻi Civil Rights Commission and the University of Hawaiʻi’s Office of Multicultural Student Services.

Last year, Agbayani helped raise $600,000 for her alma mater to expand the programming and outreach to Filipino students, reported the Honolulu Civil Beat.

A student told the Fil Am courier, “Manang Amy is our Rosa Parks.” In a Filipino language, “manang” refers to an elder woman and serves as a sign of respect.

In an interview with Leslie Wilcox on PBS Hawaiʻi, Agbayani called for the need of more people of color and Filipino representation in politics.

“It’s self-serving and to everyone’s self-interest to really reach out and try to include people because that’s the reality,” Agbayani said. “Diversity is the reality. What we have to do is include that diversity.”

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