In an effort to prioritize the safety and economic stability of our community, we are saddened to make the decision to cancel this year’s Unity Dinner. We are working with the venue to select a date for year 2021 and hope to share updates as soon as possible.
Sea Kay Leung
Assistant Youth Coordinator
Policy and Communications Coordinator
Diana Li is a third-year student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where she is pursuing a degree in English and Linguistics. She has worked with the UMass Asian-American Student Association since her first year on campus, and currently serves as secretary. Her passions include Asian-American advocacy, policy/communications, diaspora literature, and creative writing.
Hannah Ku (she/her) is the Regional Coordinator Intern for the AAPI Commission. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2021 with a BA in History, a minor in Chinese,
and a certificate in East Asian studies. Currently, she is a master’s student studying Asian American history, public history, and critical adoption studies.
Hannah is a transnational Chinese adoptee raised by a Korean immigrant family. She is incredibly passionate about AAPI activist efforts in both academic and public spaces. Hannah is extremely excited to work with the AAPI Commission and looks forward to aiding and advocating alongside the AAPI community in Massachusetts.
Youth Council Member
Youth Council Member
Youth Council Member
Soomin Lee (she/her) is a senior at Commonwealth School in Boston. She is planning on majoring in neuroscience and/or psychology in college, with a possible minor in public health or health policy. She is passionate about bridging racial inequities in healthcare, as well as speaking out about the struggles and experiences of Asian-Americans through her stories and poems. As a first-generation Korean-American, she is especially excited to continue exploring her culture and identity through this love for writing.
Soomin is excited to be part of the Youth Council and continue advocating for the AAPI communities in Massachusetts. When she isn’t busy with school or extracurriculars, you will find her trying to catch up on her never-ending to-be-read list, working out, or spending too much money at overpriced coffee shops.
Youth Council Member
Amy Zhou (she/her/hers) is currently a high schooler at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School and identifies as a queer, second-generation Chinese American. She is a lifelong Cambridge resident and has been participating in local activism for several years now. Amy is currently a commissioner on the Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ+ Youth and a member of the Massachusetts GSA Student Leadership Council. When she’s not doing advocacy work, Amy is often reading, writing, or playing ultimate frisbee.
Amy has a deep passion for learning, especially history—there’s always something more to uncover and connect to the present day and future. She is dedicated to using history and education as tools for empathy, solidarity, empowerment, resistance, and liberation.
Youth Council Member
Maggie (she/they) is currently a senior at Milton High School who hopes to major in Political Science. Maggie is passionate about boosting civic engagement and DEI initiatives in her community and will continue to as a member of the Youth Council. During her free time, she enjoys participating in debate tournaments, hanging out with animals, and playing video games.
Youth Council Member
Will Hesp (he/him) is a junior in high school who attends the Noble and Greenough School. He is of biracial descent as his mother was born in Japan, and his father was born in England. He draws inspiration from both of his ethnic backgroundsx which is what has led him to be interested in supporting every community that he is a part of. He has interests in various types of humanities, in addition passions for journalism, sports, and supporting the AAPI community. He is excited to join the AAPI Youth Council with goals such as promoting Asian marginalized groups.
Youth Council Member
My name is Sofia Hom and I thrive on learning which leads me to loving collaboration and exploring new ideas. I love getting involved in school, clubs, and sports, and will always offer my help to anyone.
Dr. Marilyn Park is a queer Korean-American who is passionate about anti-racism work in the field of mental health. They are serving the United States as a Lieutenant Commander in the Public Health Service. Currently, they are stationed in the Boston Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) working as a clinical psychologist treating Veterans with addictions. Prior to the VA, Dr. Park was a program supervisor in the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) for over 18 years, serving the vulnerable and marginalized population of incarcerated adults. Dr. Park strives to be a change agent in their sphere of influence. While in the BOP, they created and implemented anti-racist trainings for clinicians and trainees to recognize inequities, assess the impact of structural racism, and promote anti-racist practices in treating a significantly marginalized and vulnerable population.
Dr. Park proudly served on the town of Natick’s Equity Task Force. Their work specifically involved assessing multiple municipal DEI-related committees, which led to the creation of a Chief Diversity Officer position for the town of Natick. Dr. Park took specific interest in elevating the voice of the AAPI community in Natick, which is the largest racial minority group in town, yet has the least involvement in town government. Dr. Park strives to ensure AAPI folks feel empowered to engage in government and leadership in community spaces, and advocates tirelessly for AAPI community members to have seats around decision-making tables.
Bethany Li has used a movement lawyering model to fight for social justice in Asian American communities and advance racial equity. Using an innovative and multi-faceted approach in collaboration with community organizers, Bethany has litigated cases and led advocacy work on a range of civil rights issues, including housing and displacement, workers’ rights, immigration, education equity, language access, and hate crimes. Bethany represented Southeast Asian communities fighting against deportation, including the first Cambodian American to return to the East Coast after deportation. In collaboration with community organizers, she co-produced the documentary “Keep Saray Home” about Southeast Asian families fighting deportations. She served as co-counsel to a multi-racial coalition of organizations and families intervening in a lawsuit in support of Boston Public Schools’ shift in exam policy. Bethany has won millions in back wages for low-wage workers along the Northeast corridor. She has led a variety of initiatives to increase low-income and limited- English proficient Asian Americans’ access to resources. She also published a report documenting the gentrification of Chinatowns on the East Coast and guided the launch of RAISE, the first undocumented Asian American youth group on the East Coast. Bethany started her legal career at AALDEF as an Equal Justice Works Fellow and staff attorney. She then taught and supervised cases in Yale Law School’s Veterans Legal Services Clinic as the Robert M. Cover Fellow. Bethany was also the Director of the Asian Outreach Unit at Greater Boston Legal Services. Bethany taught as an adjunct professor at Hunter College on Asian American civil rights and the law. Bethany graduated from Georgetown University Law Center and Amherst College. She serves on Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court Standing Committee on Well Being and the Massachusetts Governor’s Task Force for Hate Crimes.
Saatvik Ahluwalia is an award-winning digital marketer who is a Senior Campaign Manager at Zebra Technologies and Digital & Communications Director at Asian Texans for Justice. He is a Public Voices Fellow of The OpEd Project and a New Leadership Council Fellow. His work has been covered in the Boston Globe, Austin American-Statesman, Austin NPR, Ms. Magazine, and more. He has won a Platinum MarCom Award, received public-speaking awards through Toastmasters International, competed in multiple Bollywood dance championships, and was profiled in the book “Those Immigrants!: Indians in America: A Psychological Exploration of Achievement” by journalist Scott Haas.
Christopher Huang is a photographer and videographer with extensive experience in creating impactful visual narratives. He works with artists, public figures, leaders, companies, C-level executives, entrepreneurs, educators, politicians, performers, organizations, and students, among others, capturing their stories.
Christopher grew up knowing how frustrating and harmful it is to have Asian and Asian American stories told inaccurately, in a dehumanizing manner, by a media and entertainment industry that is white male dominated. Experiencing this developed his empathy for other marginalized and dehumanized people, and motivated him to tell these stories responsibly and accurately with a meticulous eye for detail. Those experiences have motivated him to continue creating cross-cultural bridges between communities.
Some of his career highlights include being hired to photograph some of the Asian American public media figures who helped inspire him to pursue a creative path. He is especially proud of inspiring younger POC storytellers to take control of their own narrative.
Christopher also gives keynotes and leads workshops on creating more empathetic and effective leadership with body language, both at the interpersonal and marketing level of the organization, promoting a culture that stresses equity, inclusion, and belonging. Even among those who do the basic step of talking about the importance of DEIB and show images with “diversity” in their organization’s branding, which is not as common as it should be, there is often a glaring disconnect in what they say and write compared to what they convey in body language.
His work can be seen at christopherhuang.com
Jennifer Rubin has practiced labor and employment law since her graduation from the UCLA School of Law. Ms. Rubin received both her B.A. and her J.D. from UCLA. She is a member of the State Bars of Massachusetts, California, and Washington, D.C. She is also a member of the bars of the United States Courts of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, First Circuit, Second Circuit, Fifth Circuit, Sixth Circuit, and Ninth Circuit.
Ms. Rubin is the co-author of “Employment Discrimination Law” in “Employee and Union Member Guide to Labor Law: A Manual for Attorneys Representing the Labor Movement” (2008 and 2009 eds). Ms. Rubin has taught seminars, participated in panels, and led discussions on labor relations and contract negotiations. She also served as a judicial extern for federal District Judge Robert M. Takasugi of the United States District Court for the Central District of California. In 2014, Ms. Rubin was named a Massachusetts Super Lawyer Rising Star in Boston Magazine and has been listed in the Top Women Attorneys in Massachusetts in Boston Magazine for 2015 and 2016.
Before practicing in Massachusetts, Jennifer practiced at a firm in Washington, D.C., where she represented national and local labor unions in contract negotiations, litigation, hearings, and arbitrations.
In her free time, Ms. Rubin likes to write letters by hand and visit her local post office (she does not have a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram account and refuses to give up her paper planner).
Amy Goh (she/her) is as a Certified Nurse-Midwife and PhD candidate. She is also Adjunct Faculty at Thomas Jefferson University’s Midwifery program. As a child of immigrants from South Korea, her decade long career as a midwife in the Boston area has focused on providing quality midwifery care for immigrant communities and communities of color. Most recently she received a grant to undertake an analysis of Asian American birth outcomes from the American Association of Birth Centers’ Perinatal Data Registry. Previous to her midwifery career, Amy worked to improve and better understand the complexities of health and rights in global communities. After her stint as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Cape Verde, she completed her MPhil thesis in International Development on the socio-political aspects of maternal mortality in Brazil. Amy is a Fellow of the American College of Nurse-Midwives and is on the Board of Directors of the American Association of Birth Centers. She was a former Health Equity Fellow through Cambridge Health Alliance’s Center for Health Equity Education and Advocacy and a previous Duke-Johnson and Johnson Nurse Leadership Fellow.
Governance and Policy Coordinator
Benjamin Wang (He/Him) is the Governance & Policy Coordinator of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Asian American & Pacific Islanders Commission. Benjamin identifies as a second-generation Chinese American and grew up in Northern Virginia. He graduated from New York University in May 2022, where he studied Political Science and minored in Creative Writing. He specialized in contemporary Chinese Political Philosophy and wrote his Senior Thesis, titled Internal and External Factors in the Evolution of “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics”. Throughout undergrad he was also interested in and took a number of classes related to digital media and technology art. Benjamin is currently in law school at New England Law | Boston.
Siale Vaitohi Teaupa
Public Health and Pacific Islander Coordinator
Siale Vaitohi Teaupa (she/her) graduated from Brigham Young University in 2018 with a B.S. in Physiology & Developmental Biology. Siale is a medical student at the University of Utah School of Medicine, but is currently taking a 1-year leave of absence to obtain a Master in Public Health degree at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. As her MPH program emphasis is in Health Policy, Siale will be working with the commission to identify current needs in the AAPI community, specifically targeting health-related issues. Upon completion of the MPH program, Siale will return to medical school in Utah and apply to Internal Medicine residency programs.
As a Tongan and Latina woman, Siale is passionate about working in underserved communities. She lived in the Philippines for eighteen months as a full-time volunteer for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Siale later led a 1-month humanitarian trip in Guatemala. At home, Siale is active in the Polynesian community serving in many community organizations such as the Utah Pacific Islander Health Coalition and Utah Polynesian Professionals where she has headed several outreach programs, especially during the Covid-19 Pandemic. Siale is also one of the creators and current President of Pasifikas in Medicine, an organization that mentors Pacific Islander students interested in pursuing medicine. She is passionate about health equity and increasing the number of students of color in the health sciences.
Policy & Communications Director
Jennifer Best (she/her) graduated from Tufts University in May 2022, where she studied Political Science, International Relations, and History. She specialized in migration, 20th century history, activism, and national security. She spent her senior year writing her Senior Honors Thesis in Political Science, titled Youth Activism: Who Becomes Involved in Youth Activism and Why? A look into the demographics and opinions of youth activists in comparison to older activists. She used statistical analysis to determine the effects that race, gender, education, and income had on participation in activism among 60,000 respondents, in addition to fielding a survey of former Ed Markey for U.S. Senate Campaign Fellows. Throughout her studies, she prioritized investigating and highlighting the real world effects of policies, regimes, and events on normal people, rather than just political elites.
Jennifer has experience in advocacy both through campaigns and in government. She worked as a Policy and Communications Intern for MA State Representative Erika Uyterhoeven, where she wrote testimonies, created and executed communications campaigns, researched policy, worked on the budget, and much more. She has also worked on multiple Massachusetts-based campaigns, including the Hicks for District Six Boston City Council Campaign, where she was a Finance and Events Fellow, in addition to writing official policy platforms for the candidate. She also worked as a Field and Communications Fellow on the Ed Markey for U.S. Senate Campaign, where she spent many hours writing speeches and remarks for the Senator, hosted in-person and virtual events, and trained hundreds of volunteers. Jennifer will bring her knowledge of communications and advocacy through both intra-governmental and extra-governmental pathways to her work at the AAPI Commission.
When Jennifer is not working, you can find her involved in theater, cooking a new recipe, or curled up with a good book. She is excited to be joining such a passionate team and to continue advocating for AAPI communities in Massachusetts.
Esther Hwi-Young Kim
Program & Research Director
Esther Hwi-Young Kim (she/hers) is the Program & Research Director of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Asian American & Pacific Islanders Commission. Esther identifies as a second-generation Korean American queer woman who grew up in southeastern Massachusetts on the land of the Wompanoag people. Her career journey involves wearing multiple hats as counselor, K-12 educator, and non-profit program coordinator, and she is proud to be a dedicated advocate for youth and community empowerment, with a particular focus on co-creating spaces of belonging and lifting up individual and collective histories of struggle and resistance.
At Tufts University, Esther focused her undergraduate studies on child development and ethnic studies coursework, and she wrote her family oral history as an entrypoint to begin researching how forces of migration, colonialism, systemic oppression, and trauma shaped the relational dynamics between her first-generation Korean immigrant family members and self. During this time, Esther was also introduced to grassroots community organizing via the Seeding Change National Fellowship Program for Asian American Organizing and Civic Engagement. As a Seeding Change Fellow, Esther interned at Chinese Progressive Association – Boston and co-coordinated the Chinese Youth Initiative’s summer leadership program.
After graduating from college and working internationally in K-12 education and program administration roles as part of the Fulbright Korea Commission, Esther proceeded to complete the Certificate of Advanced Study (C.A.S.) in Counseling program at Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she developed her counseling skills and was selected by her peers and faculty to receive the 2018 Intellectual Contribution Award. For the past three years, she has worked as part of the Lexington High School counseling staff and also supported student-faculty collaborations related to DEI initiatives, ethnic studies, and responding to community needs in light of COVID-19. Esther is excited to work together with the Commission and its constituents to celebrate and promote the well-being of AAPI communities across Massachusetts.
Ziyi ‘Billy’ Zeng
Policy Coordinator Intern
Ziyi ‘Billy’ Zeng (he/him) is a current undergraduate at Tufts University interested in studying the intersections of political science, history, and RCD (race, colonialism, and diaspora) studies. Billy grew up in the Greater Boston area and got involved with local community advocacy work in his hometown of Malden. He is excited to expand his advocacy knowledge and work with AAPIC Commissioners and local elected officials to create better policies that benefit the lives of AAPI communities across the Commonwealth.
Currently, he serves as the Youth Programming Subcommittee Chair on the Greater Malden Asian American Community Coalition (GMAACC)’s Board of Directors. In this position, he works with other GMAACC Board Members and the Greater Malden community to create programming that helps promote the healthy development of AAPI youth. Last summer, Billy served as the Campaign Manager for Nate Bae Kupel, current Vice-Chair of AAPIC, and his Malden Ward 8 City Council race.
Billy loves exploring new restaurants, analyzing political theories, and listening to his favorite artists in his free time.
Richard T. Chu
Richard T. Chu was born and raised in the Philippines where he received his A.B. from Ateneo de Manila University, and completed his M.A. from Stanford University, and his Ph.D. from University of Southern California. His research and numerous publications focus on the history of the Chinese and Chinese mestizos in the Philippines and of the different Chinese diasporic communities in the world, centering on issues of race, ethnicity, gender, empire, and nationalism. He has also co-edited an anthology of LGBTQ studies pertaining to the Philippines.
He teaches courses on US empire and Philippine colonial history, as well as on the history of the Chinese diaspora and of Asian Americans. In 2018, he received the Community Hero Award from the Asian American Commission of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for the work he has done in collaborating with Asian American communities in Western Massachusetts through the oral history project that his students conduct when taking his Asian American history course. In 2021, UMass Amherst conferred on him the Provost’s Distinguished Civic Engagement Teaching Award.
Leo L. Hwang, Ph.D
Dr. Leo L. Hwang is the Assistant Academic Dean in the College of Natural Sciences at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Dr. Hwang is particularly interested in using participatory action research and asset based community development as a model for enhancing how we engage in racial justice work in higher education. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts in Geosciences, an M.F.A. in fiction writing from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and his B.A. in English and Fine Arts from the University of the South.
His work has appeared in The Racial Equity & Justice Institute Practitioner Handbook, The Handbook of Diverse Economies, Human Being & Literature, The SAGE International Encyclopedia of Travel and Tourism, Route Nine, Rethinking Marxism, Solidarity Economy I: Building Alternatives for People and Planet, Meat for Tea, The Massachusetts Review, Glimmer Train Stories, Rivendell, Fiction, Gulf Coast and other journals and publications. He has taught at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Mount Holyoke College; Greenfield Community College; and Westfield State University; and he served as Dean of Humanities, Engineering, Math, and Science at Greenfield Community College.
Yasmin Padamsee Forbes
Yasmin Padamsee Forbes is an accomplished leader with a track record of delivering results in management positions across multiple countries and organizations. As the Executive Director of the Asian American and Pacific Islanders Commission at the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, she has continued showcasing her strategic planning, management, and resource mobilization skills.
Yasmin’s passion for social justice, human rights, and climate change activism has driven her career. She has previously served in senior leadership roles with non-profits and the United Nations in Papua New Guinea, India, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and the United States. Her experience has given her a deep understanding of cross-cultural collaboration and the importance of building strong partnerships to
drive positive change.
In recognition of her outstanding work, Yasmin has been awarded numerous honors and awards, including the 2019 All-Star Award by the Harvard Kennedy School for her contribution to the film festival, “Pride and Progress”; Harvard also awarded her the 2018 Julius E. Babbitt Memorial Volunteer Award for exemplary public service.
Yasmin holds a Masters in Communications and Film production from New York University, where she received a scholarship, and a second Masters in Public Administration from Harvard University. She has served as the Harvard Alumni Representative in Myanmar and on the Alumni Board of Directors for the Harvard Kennedy School.
Yasmin is also actively involved in community service, serving as the Chair and Commissioner for the Cambridge Human Rights Commission. She is committed to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion, working with communities across Massachusetts to create a force for positive and sustainable change. Yasmin believes in the power of connection and collaboration to create a better future for all.
Ekta Saksena is a first-generation Indian-American, proud daughter of immigrants, intersectional feminist, and public health enthusiast. She grew up in Massachusetts, with strong ties to the local Indian community and culture.
Ekta received her Master’s degree in Public Health from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in 2018 and her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Public Health from Boston University in 2014. She has a broad range of expertise pertaining to healthcare marketing, strategic communications, and research-based advocacy and is deeply passionate about racial justice, women’s empowerment, community health, and health equity. As a public health practitioner, Ekta strives to put equity and justice at the forefront of all that she does.
Currently, Ekta is a Senior Health Communications Specialist at FHI 360, an international non-profit organization dedicated to improving lives in lasting ways by advancing integrated, locally driven solutions. As part of the Social Marketing & Communications team, Ekta provides communications strategy and support for various chronic disease prevention efforts through the CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. She is also collaborating on a number of racial equity projects, with both internal and external partners.
Previously, Ekta worked at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, as a Health Communications Specialist within the Bureau of Community Health and Prevention. In her role, she managed all health communications efforts for a number of statewide chronic disease management and prevention programs, including Diabetes, Hypertension, Cardiovascular Disease, Stroke, and Community Health Workers. During her time at DPH, Ekta was a leader within the Department’s Racial Equity Movement, serving as an active member/facilitator of the Racial Equity Leadership Team, Racial Equity Strategic Planning Team, Racial Equity Policy Work Group, and Racial Justice Lunch & Learn.
Dimple’s advocacy for Revere, Massachusetts spans across neighborhoods, sectors, and generations of Revere residents. As Director of the City’s Department of Healthy Community Initiatives and Co-Director of Revere On the Move, she has worked with residents, businesses, and stakeholders to increase access to opportunities for active living, healthy eating, civic engagement, and youth leadership. She is a recent graduate of Tufts University’s, with a Master in Public Policy from the Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning program. Dimple’s commitment to building a vibrant, engaged, and active Revere also extends to her work as a champion of small businesses and a longtime civic leader.
Dimple is the first woman of color to run for office in Revere. She ran in 2017 for 1 of 5 seats as Councillor At-Large. She will run again in 2019 and is hopeful in being elected.
A first generation Indian American, Dimple grew up in Revere, attending public schools and working in her family’s small, independent convenience stores in the North Shore. At the stores, she learned the value and struggles of a small family-owned business, from the unique perspective of immigrant families. In high school, she worked as a peer leader at a youth organization that fostered her love for youth leadership and organizing. After graduating from Hofstra University in Community Health and Education in 2002, she returned to Greater Boston and became a community organizer, working with many organizations focused on HIV/AIDS prevention, and LBGTQ and immigrants rights.’
From 2001 to 2010, she worked independently with grassroots and advocacy organizations as a community organizer and leader on the issue of deportation of Cambodians, other green card holders, and refugees within the National Immigration and Anti-Deportation Movement.
In 2012 she returned to Revere and founded a youth leadership organization, Revere Youth in Action, where young people worked to ensure they had opportunities to grow, lead, and promote a safe, and inclusive community in Revere. In 2016, the Revere Chamber of Commerce named her Youth Mentor of the Year.
In 2013 she joined the Women Encouraging Empowerment, Inc. board where she continues to serve as the Vice-Chair. WEE is the only organization in Revere that works with immigrant and refugee women and their families through organizing, leadership development, and service delivery.
Also, in 2016 she was appointed by House Speaker Robert DeLeo as a commissioner to the Massachusetts Asian American and Pacific Islanders Commission. In 2018, she served as the Secretary of the AAPIC. Currently, Dimple is serving her second term with the AAPIC.
Dimple loves and is deeply committed to her family, especially her young niece and nephews. Dimple looks up to the older and younger people around her who continue to push, ask questions, challenge the status quo, and who are the change we want to see in our world.
Her passion for organizing and grassroots change is expressed through a quote by Audre Lorde “If I cannot air this pain and alter it, I will surely die of it. That’s the beginning of social protest.”
Megha Prasad is an undergraduate student at Northeastern University studying Political Science and Business. As a second generation Indian American, Megha grew up experiencing many of the struggles surrounding identity and adaptation that minority families often face. Through her education, she gained familiarity with critical race literature and public policy, the intersection of which prompted her to become involved in electoral politics.
She previously served as an intern to Senator Ed Markey in his Washington, DC office and aided in his re-election campaign in 2020. As Megha gained more campaign experience, she also became acutely aware of the issues impacting AAPI communities in the Commonwealth and looks forward to finding ways to push for legislation in the State House. Primarily, she seeks to reduce barriers to voting and make other public services more accessible to English-language learners. Recently, Megha worked alongside fellow Northeastern students to increase support for AAPI individuals on campus. This involved working with university administrators to begin the development of an Asian American Studies program as well as increase financial support for the Asian American Center on campus.
Megha is excited to begin her second year on the Asian American and Pacific Islanders Commission and have the opportunity to focus on AAPI issues in the Commonwealth.
Nina Liang is the first Chinese-American City Councilor in her hometown of Quincy. Born in Quincy and raised by immigrant parents, she has experienced first hand the challenges minority children and families face. Over the years, she has had the opportunity to be a part of community organizations dedicated to addressing the needs of those who are new to both the language and customs of American culture. Having worked as the office manager and helping to manage operations with her family’s restaurant group, Nina also has the experience and perspective of a small business owner, creating jobs and opportunity in the communities in which they operate. Nina understands that it takes collaborative efforts among these local organizations, businesses and public service facilities to better address the needs of the diverse residents Quincy has.
Gary Y. Chu, OD, MPH, FAAO
Dr. Gary Y. Chu is the Vice President of Professional Affairs at the New England College of Optometry. He received his Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree from the New England College of Optometry in 1995 and his Masters of Public Health (MPH) in 2002 from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
He has been in practice and optometric education for over twenty-five years and is involved in the changing landscape of eye care, health care and public health during this span of time. Dr. Chu has been in the forefront of eye care innovations through the development of collaborative partnerships with health systems, federally qualified health centers, social service agencies, local and state government, school systems, health payors, ophthalmic industry and optometry employer groups.
Dr. Chu has been involved in issues of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging for over ten years and has served on the diversity and cultural competency committee for the Association of Schools and College of Optometry (ASCO) from 2011-2020. He is the founding chair of ASCO’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) SIG and was the Guest Editor for the Journal of Optometric Education’s theme issue on diversity and cultural competency in 2017. In 2021, he was presented the ASCO’s Dr. Jack Bennett Innovation in Optometric Education Award.
Mary K. Y. Lee
Mary K. Y. Lee is a litigation attorney based in Boston. An immigrant of Indonesian-Chinese ancestry, advocating for the interests of Asian Americans is among her passions. She served on the Commission to Plan, Develop, and Implement Strategies to Support and Promote Minority-Owned Real Estate and Financial Services Organizations in the Commonwealth; Co-Chaired Immigration Section of the Boston Bar Association; served on the MA Trial Courts Language Access Advisory Committee and named by Super Lawyers from 2015-2019. She is a regular lecturer at Asian Community Development Corporation of Boston and an active Board Member of Central Boston Elder Services..
Nate Bae Kupel
Nate is in his second three year term as an Attorney General appointee, and served as the Vice Chairperson of the AAPIC in 2022.
Over the course of Nate’s career, he has worked primarily in the nonprofit sector at organizations with missions dedicated to addressing racial and economic inequities through education, leadership development, healthcare and mental health and more. He has worked and served at organizations such as YouthBuild USA, the Institute for Nonprofit Practice, Friends of the Children, The Institute for Asian American Studies, and Crescendo Consulting Group. Currently, Nate serves as the Director of Youth Programs at YouthBuild Just A Start, an organization that works with out of school youth to finish their high school educations, build job readiness skills, as well as leadership and career development.
Mr. Kupel has held a number of community leadership positions including serving as President of Boston Korean Adoptees, Inc., President of the Greater Malden Asian American Community Coalition, and Board member of the International Association for the Advancement of Social Work Groups – Massachusetts. Presently, he is a board member of Boston Post Adoption Resources.
In 2021, Nate ran for the City of Malden City Council in Ward 8 and despite coming short of securing a seat on the council, was instrumental in the development and passage of the city’s first Racial Equity Commission. He is currently the Mayor of Malden’s appointee to the City of Malden’s Racial Equity Commission.
Nate received his BA in Sociology and Certificate in Asian American Studies from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and holds a Master of Social Work from Simmons University (formerly Simmons College), and a Certificate in Nonprofit Management and Leadership from the Institute for Nonprofit Practice, in affiliation with Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life.
Nate currently lives in Malden, Massachusetts with his wife, QJ and their cat Cookie Dough.
Betty Lim King (Chinese name: Kong Mei-ling) is author of “Girl on a Leash: The Healing Power of Dogs, a sociological memoir” about how her Chinese Confucian leash became a lifeline in the company of abandoned dogs. She also wrote “Healing with my Dogs,” “From America to Africa, Voices of Filipino Women Overseas” about how dogs break down barriers of race, class, gender, religion, politics, and other human distinctions, making us share our humanity with each other.
She is co-founder of AAPI Action Group, a coalition of diverse, grassroots Asian American and Pacific Islander groups promoting a common American culture based on fairness, understanding and humanity. She is Executive Director of Seniors Helping Seniors, a creative and innovative program where senior people give comfort to senior animals and receive comfort at the same time. As a DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) speaker, Betty believes that E pluribus unum is the true American way.
She was Development Director and Board member of various community-based nonprofits. She was moderator of “Finding the Gold Mountain: Lessons Learned From Failures,” for the First annual Asian American Pacific lslander Civic Forum held at the Federal Reserve Plaza. She was restaurant critic for the Charlotte Observer, lifestyle columnist for the Catawba Valley Neighbors and a sociology instructor at the Lenoir Rhyne College in North Carolina. While living in Paris for 10 years, she was President of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization UNESCO International Cooking School. She has a certificate from La Varenne French culinary school and Acadamie du Vin oenology.
Betty graduated magna cum laude in economics and obtained two Master degrees: Asian Studies from the University of the Philippines and Development Economics from the University of Manchester, England. She also studied agricultural economics at the University of Tokyo, Japan and did graduate studies on nonprofit management at Harvard University and Boston University. At Harvard, she was awarded the prestigious Derek Bok Public Service Award and Citation for Management of Nonprofit Organizations. She was also Class Marshall, graduating top three.
Among her numerous published academic papers are: Japanese colonialism and Korean Economic Development, 1970 Sino-American Rapprochement, Art As Cultural Identity.
Above all, Betty is extremely proud of her lifelong work in promoting respect for all sentient beings and nature. Towards this goal, she has been rescuing and adopting homeless and disposable 4-legged sentient beings. Her animal family includes 6 rescue
dogs, a farm pig who escaped a slaughterhouse, and 3 rescue horses including a Mustang.
Mr. Pralhad KC is the Partner/Consultant of Equiserve, Inc. Environmental Engineering Consultant and also the Owner / CEO of Prem-La, the oldest and first Himalayan Region Art Gallery of New England. Mr. KC holds, MBA, (Master in Business Administration), in Finance and Marketing Management, BSCE, (Bachelor in Science in Civil Engineering) in Water and Wastewater management.CDA, (Carrier Discovery Architecture) in Urban planning.
Mr. KC is a Project Manager with an extensive experience in leading national and international economic development projects and Water and Wastewater projects. He has worked with multi-national staffs thought the US and Southeast Asia. His skills include institutional capacity building, strategic planning, program designs, evaluations, training and technical assistance.
Mr. KC has led several International and National projects with the ADB (Asian Development Bank), UNDP (United Nation Development Program) and NGOs. Mr. KC also has significant expertise in establishing an effective network with decision-makers at all levels and in building the capabilities of international staffs to assume full project management responsibilities.
Mr. KC is a Social and Community leader has led many national and International Non–Profit organizations such as, MIND, Inc, Nepal America Foundation, ANA (Association of Nepales in America), NRN NCC of America, IHO, (International Health Organization) and GBNC (Greater Boston Nepalese Community), etc.
Mr. KC has received numerous Honors, Recognitions, Awards and Gold Medals for his social and community activities especially working to improving lives of the immigrant communities, such as , New American Appreciation Award, from Commonwealth of Massachusetts, City of Cambridge “Key of the”, Gold Medal from the King of Nepal and several “Citations” and “Honored recognition” from, Governors, Mayors Legislatives Leaders and International Dignitaries.
Cinda Danh, born and raised in Lynn, MA, a public school graduate and a graduate of UMass Boston, began her journey in politics after experiencing housing insecurity in 2010. Through this hardship, she and her family worked with organizations that fought against unjust foreclosures and evictions. This unfortunate situation became her call to action and her journey into politics, organizing, and advocacy.
In 2013 Cinda was a fellow with the Asian American Women’s Political Initiative, where she gained hands-on experience working as an intern at the Massachusetts State House. After her internship ended, she was offered a Legislative Aide position and then a few short years later became the Staff Director to another State Representative. From there she served as a Government Relations Specialist at a lobbying firm.
In 2019 Cinda became the first AAPI woman to run for office in Lynn. She won her hotly contested preliminary and lost her general election. Cinda’s committed to her community and currently sits on the board for Lynn Main Streets and Raw Art Works and serves as a mentor with the Asian American Women’s Political Initiative.
Mary Chin is a longtime community leader with extensive experience in human services and a strong track record of service in Boston and beyond. A native of Lowell, Massachusetts, Mary is the daughter of immigrants and understands the struggles immigrant families face firsthand.
Mary is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker in private practice and has served as Vice Chair of the Massachusetts Board of Registration for Social Work. She has led social service departments and psychiatric programs in Boston and the North Shore. Mary served on AACA’s Board of Directors as President and oversaw the organization’s growth, including the construction of the building at 87 Tyler Street, the expansion of workforce training, education and social service programs, as well as the addition of the Mandarin immersion Reggio Emilia daycare, Buds & Blossoms.
Mary completed her graduate studies in social work at Simmons College and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Massachusetts. Mary has also served on the boards of Action for Boston Community Development, Urban College, American Cancer Society, Mothers for Justice and Equality, Company One, South Cove Community Health Center, Eastern Bank, and the Asian American and Pacific Islanders Commission.
In 2017, a Citation for her service to Massachusetts was bestowed upon her by Governor Charlie Baker.
Meena grew up in New Delhi, India and moved to the United States two decades ago. Hopkinton, Massachusetts, is home and she enjoys getting to know people, their interests and passions. She is a strong believer in our shared common humanity. She focuses on this belief and her guiding principles of dharma and karma, in the community building work that she does every day.
Meena has many interests. Education and impact of sound education in the lives of young people and society is of deep interest to her. She has served on local, regional and state level educational bodies. She is a strong advocate for personalized education plans for all learners, celebrating strengths, building supports, and varied paths to learning. She has served in many volunteer capacities including as Chair, DESE’s Gifted & Talented Education Advisory Council; Chair, Hopkinton Public School Committee; Member, Education Committee, Christa McAuliffe Charter School; Member, The Education Cooperative (TEC). Through all these roles, she has had an opportunity to learn, collaborate with many wonderful people, and influenced hearts, minds and policies for better outcomes. She takes great pride in her contribution in the formation of AAPI Commission’s first Youth Council, which elevates youth voices and promotes civic engagement.
Meena currently works in the financial industry as a Program Manager. She is very grateful for her family, life experiences and support of her friends and community which have made her life rich and fulfilling.
Danielle Kim is a proud second-generation Korean American, intersectional feminist, and community activist. She is the inaugural Director of the Asian Community Fund at The Boston Foundation — a permanent endowment that is designed to build the visibility and capacity of diverse AAPI communities in the region, especially low-income and immigrant communities.
Danielle previously served as Director of Public Policy at the United Way of Massachusetts Bay, where she organized state and federal advocacy efforts, stewarded relationships with city and state lawmakers, and managed a portfolio of grantmaking. Prior to that, she was the Director of Communications at Scholars Strategy Network, where she shaped messaging, oversaw research and publications, and advanced data-driven policymaking. She also worked as the Director of Policy and Communications for Boston After School & Beyond, a city-wide coalition of after school and summer learning programs serving students in Boston Public Schools.
She began her career as a Fulbright Fellow in South Korea, and then served as a community organizer in her home state of New Jersey—most notably as a Regional Field Director for the 2012 presidential campaign. She continued on as a Communications Specialist in the New Jersey State Legislature, where she managed media relations for six state senators.
Danielle earned a Master’s degree in Education Policy and Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a Bachelor’s degree in Government and Psychology from Smith College. Committed to expanding access to power and opportunity, Danielle serves as a Commissioner on the Massachusetts Asian American and Pacific Islanders Commission and a member of the Chelsea Cultural Council.
Philjay Somera Solar is currently a Privacy Officer at Mass General Hospital | Mass General Brigham protecting the health information privacy of state and federal HIPAA laws. Prior, he was an investigator at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights. Philjay is also chair of the Commission’s Young Leadership Symposium. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Lasell University (’13) and his Juris Doctor Degree from New England Law | Boston (’19). At New England Law, Philjay was President of the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association and the Executive Treasurer of the Student Bar Association.
Before attending law school, Philjay dedicated two years of public service with the AmeriCorps Program, City Year. Through City Year, he served the Boston Community working with a team of young individuals striving to close the education gap within inner city public schools.
Philjay has received numerous accolades most notably, being a 2018 Forbes 30 Under 30 Scholars Program recipient for Law and Government and a representative of the 2019 Filipino Youth Leadership Program (FYLPro) where he was picked by the Philippine Consulate of New York and Philippine Ambassador to the United States, Jose Romualdez.
He is also the founder of Fil-Lennials of New England which features young professionals of Filipino-American descent to inspire and connect other Filipino-Americans across New England. Philjay currently sits as President of the Philippine Dance and Culture Organization (PDCO), a Regional Advisor for the National Federation of Filipino Americans Association (NaFFAA) and Board Director for the Philippine American Mainstream Advocacy for Non-Partisan Associations, Inc. (PAMANA) Through PAMANA, Philjay has contributed to their annual Philippine Independence Day Celebrations and Filipino-American Highs School Leadership Workshop.
In his spare time, Philjay volunteers with multiple non-profit organizations like the Massachusetts Youth Leadership Foundation and BosFilipino. He is also an active liaison with the Philippine Consulate of New York where he communicates the needs of the Filipino-American Community in New England to the Consulate office.
Prior to serving on the Asian American and Pacific Islanders Commission as a Commissioner, Sam had worked for Massachusetts House Speaker, Robert DeLeo for four years. He is also the Communications Manager for Hate Is A Virus. Further, Sam is pursuing his Masters of Public Policy with a concentration in Poverty Alleviation, as well as a Masters in Business Administration with a focus on Social Impact, both at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management.
Sam is an active advocate for the Asian American community. The mission is to bring unification and prosperity among the diverse community, while building solidarity with other communities as well. Sam is dedicated to social justice and racial equity. His goal is to create opportunities and ensure that society is a just and equitable world for all. That with love, empathy and compassion, in collaboration with uplifting people, we can and will work in harmony in order to build the society we’ve always dreamt of into our reality.
Development & Communications Coordinator
Bonnie is the Development and Communications Coordinator at AAPI Commission. She is a current undergraduate at Brandeis University studying Sociology and Asian American Studies. In the past, she has worked with a community initiative dedicated to promoting arts programming and youth education and a literary organization nurturing Asian American and BIPOC writers. She is passionate about education, grassroots organizing, and migration studies. Bonnie is interested in the intersection of social justice, and arts and design as a means of inspiring and advocating for social change. In her free time, Bonnie loves exploring new eating spots and has a love for mango green tea.
Abdul Haseeb Hamza
Abdul Haseeb Hamza is a senior at Bard College at Simon’s Rock double majoring in Chemistry and Social Action/Social Change. Haseeb is really passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion work. He has done a lot of work for the Council of Equity and Inclusion and the department of campus life at his college. In his work, he has advocated for the marginalized by influencing policy decisions, promoting communication between administration and students, programming to address inequality and injustice, and by creating spaces for students with marginalized identities.
At his institution, he founded and led the South Asian Student Association on campus as a space to foster community and solidarity as well as to promote cultural awareness of diverse communities on campus. As someone who is passionate about both the natural and the social sciences, Haseeb believes in the power of education and public health programs to promote equity and inclusion across society. He has been involved in mentorship and teaching for youth in his career and is also looking to pursue public health and education opportunities for his postgraduate life.