HomeCommunityActivists, politicians and changemakers at TAAF Summit

Activists, politicians and changemakers at TAAF Summit

By Randall Yip, Executive Editor

Issues of identity, coalition building and solidarity dominated the opening day of The Asian American Foundation (TAAF) Heritage Month Summit, being held Thursday and Friday in New York City.

High profile speakers such as actor Darren Criss, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and former U.S. Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta highlighted the event’s first day.

“I didn’t face the obstacles others faced because of how society saw me,” said Darren Criss, who described himself as “blatantly White passing” having been raised by a Filipina American mom and an English, German and Irish dad. “I was unaware of the privilege I had” growing up, he said during a panel on identity and belonging.

Fellow panelist Ryan Alexander Holmes, an actor and content creator of Black and Chinese heritage said: “It wasn’t until four years ago that I came out as Chinese” to speak out against anti-Asian hate. He said while he took part in Chinese culture at home, most on the outside saw him as solely African American.

Actor Maulik Pancholy said he grew up wondering “why he wasn’t invited to the party” while composer Ari Afsar acknowledged as an Indian American she didn’t identify as AAPI until the tent expanded.

“Within our community it’s important to understand why we are grouped together,” Pancholy said. “We have annoying aunties, share the immigrant experience, and experience racism,” he said.

A panel on countering digital hate addressed that racism as well as the immigrant experience.

“We are fractured. It’s so painful,” said Remaya Campbell of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. “Everyone deserves a place here. Allyship must exist to overcome the divides in this country,” she said.

She sat next to Murad Awadeh, a Palestinian American with the New York Immigration Coalition.

“Having anyone here should not be controversial,” he said perhaps in reference to activists’ opposition to ADL Director Jonathan Greenblatt’s membership on the TAAF board. Awadeh called White supremacy the biggest terrorist threat facing the country.

Imran Ahmed of the Center for Countering Digital Hate said “lies underlie hate.” He called out X for not checking hate speech or misinformation. He referred to the Center’s study that found that 12 individuals are responsible for 65 percent of anti-vaccine misinformation on social media platforms.

Sung Yeon Choimorrow of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum pointed out that women experience hate two times more than men.

“It’s misogynistic, stupid,” she said. “Women are leaving home every day not knowing what assault is coming at them.”

In a separate but related conversation, former U.S. Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said she identifies with the current student protests across campuses as she herself engaged in civil disobedience as a student.

“My hope is there is room for dialogue,” she said adding that the goal should be to “bring more people in than to exclude.”

Mayors Aftab Pureval of Cincinnati, Sheng Thao of Oakland and Michelle Wu of Boston sat on the stage together for the first time — all as people who have made history.

Pureval is Tibetan and Indian American and the first Asian American mayor of his city, Sheng Thao is the first Hmong American mayor of any major city in the U.S., and Michelle Wu is the first minority mayor of Boston.

“Asians can run and win anywhere in this country,” Pureval declared. In Cincinnati, Asian Americans make up only 2 percent of the population.

“This is a moment of time for us,” Thao said. “We are no longer going to duck our heads,” she added, imploring Asian Americans to get out and vote.

Wu said she grew up translating for her immigrant Taiwanese parents and got into city services to help people like her parents.

“When you most needed services or help is when you’re most invisible because those services are not set up for families like us,” she said.

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on FacebookX, InstagramTikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.


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