5 Asian American Sheroes Who Inspire Us
For Women’s Herstory Month, here are 5 Asian American activists you should know.
This Women’s History Month, we celebrate the social, political, and cultural achievements of women all over the world. Here are some Asian American sheroes and current activists you should know who inspire us today and every day.
Helen Zia is the ultimate social justice warrior. Her influence spans so many issues in the Asian American and civil rights community. As an award-winning activist, author, and journalist, she has advocated for human rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, and countering hate violence and homophobia.
When Chinese American Vincent Chin was killed in 1982, she organized the Asian American community to raise funds for legal expenses and campaigned against anti-Asian violence. She wrote “Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People,” about the contemporary struggles of Asian American communities to be full participants in our American democracy. She is the former Executive Editor of Ms. Magazine, a founding sister of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, and serves as the board chair of the Women’s Media Center.
Ai-jen Poo is the executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and a leading voice in domestic workers’ rights and family care advocacy. She created the campaign Caring Across Generations, which works to ensure access to affordable care for the nation’s aging population and access to quality jobs for caregivers. Today, Caring Across Generations is a national coalition of 200 advocacy organizations. Ai-Jen got her start in organizing domestic workers in the 1990s with CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities, and founded Domestic Workers United in New York, a group that was part of the effort that passed a bill to guarantee domestic workers labor protections like overtime pay and legal protections from harassment and discrimination. And fun fact: She was Meryl Streep’s guest to this year’s Golden Globes!
Representative Pramila Jayapal is the first Indian American woman in the House of Representatives, and represents Washington’s 7th District, which encompasses most of Seattle and surrounding areas. For the last twenty years, she’s worked in various sectors in both the U.S. and internationally advocating for women’s rights, immigrant rights, voting rights and challenging the system to end institutionalized racism. She founded the nonprofit Hate Free Zone (now called OneAmerica), which does immigration advocacy and helps new American citizens register to vote. She serves as the first vice chair of the Congressional Progress Caucus and continues to be a civil and human rights champion in Congress.
Channapha Khamvongsa is founder and executive director of Legacies of War, an organization that seeks to address the problem of unexploded bombs in Laos and how Vietnam War-era bombings continue to impact Laos. Legacies of War uses art, education, and advocacy and creates spaces to heal. The organization advocated for an increase in U.S. funding for bomb clearance in Laos, from an annual average of $2 million in 2008 to $30 million in 2016. In the same year, President Barack Obama acknowledged Channapha’s advocacy efforts in Laos and became the first U.S. President to visit the country. Channapha has written and spoken extensively on the Secret War in Laos and has served on the Seattle Women’s Commission, as well as on the boards of the Refugee Women’s Alliance and the Conference of Asian Pacific American Leadership.
Aquilina Soriano Versoza is the executive director and co-founder of the Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California, located in Historic Filipinotown, Los Angeles. Through this work, she provides programs to help with the immediate needs of workers and their families, including domestic workers, caregivers, and undocumented Filipino Americans. Every day, she embodies the mission of the Pilipino Worker Center: to increase visibility for issues Filipino workers face in their daily struggles to work and put food on the table and provide for their families.
Who are your Asian American and Pacific Islander sheroes? Share who they are and why they inspire you with #AAPISheroes on Twitter, and tag us @AAAJ_AAJC!