Hillary and SF Mayor Ed Lee Hang Out

Hillary Clinton met with San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee yesterday  for a wide-ranging discussion that included some of the most challenging issues facing urban cities and how best to address them.

During their nearly hour long tea at Red Blossom Tea Company in San Francisco Chinatown, Clinton asked questions and shared ideas about the housing challenges in the city and how to help boost the local economy.

Clinton has made clear that “one of the four big fights” of her campaign is building the economy of tomorrow, not yesterday.

“Whether it was housing, the economy, homelessness, or tech innovation, Hillary Clinton was excited to hear directly from Mayor Lee about how best to tackle the challenges facing San Francisco and similar urban centers across America, “ said Hillary for America National Press Secretary Brian Fallon.

“Throughout this campaign, Hillary Clinton will continue to sit down for conversations about the issues impacting communities and daily lives of everyday Americans.”

Among the many concerns Mayor Lee outlined, two were of critical importance to his city – chronic homelessness and high rents. Lee cited the bundling of federal and city funds for a long term program designed to house homeless veterans.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “the city has already used combined funding to renovate buildings like the Stanford Hotel, and found housing for more than 500 such veterans since 2013.”

Clinton has been a champion of urban revival throughout her career; as Senator, she introduced legislation to promote neighborhood revitalization and keep families in their homes, fought for more funding for communities, and helped spur economic growth in cities in upstate New York through projects like Artspace in Buffalo.

Source: Hillary for America media release

CAPE, Verizon Launch Mini-Docs Showcasing AAPI Talent

CAPE (Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment) and Verizon just launched Season 2 of the #IAm Campaign, a series of mini-documentaries showcasing the voices and achievements of Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders.

This is the second year that CAPE, a non-profit organization that champions diversity in entertainment and media, joined forces with Verizon to produce this #IAm digital awareness campaign.

Season 2 highlights the inspiring stories of the following seven artists:

  • Jason Chen, musician
  • Arden Cho, actress (“Teen Wolf”)
  • Cassey Ho, lifestyle and fitness guru (Blogilates)
  • Daniel Dae Kim, actor (“Lost,” “Hawaii Five-0”)
  • Ki Hong Lee, actor (THE MAZE RUNNER, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”)
  • Ted Kim, Yong Kim, and Chris Oh, founders of Seoul Sausage Co.
  • Constance Wu, actress (“Fresh Off The Boat”)

In addition to releasing the mini-documentaries, the #IAm Campaign will host two free live events, hosted by comedian Paul “PK” Kim, featuring the artists and live performances:

  • Los Angeles: Japanese American National Museum, 100 N. Central Avenue, Los Angeles, CA, 6 pm – 8:30 pm (May 27)
  • New York: Japan Society, 333 E. 47th St., New York, NY, 6 pm – 8:30 pm (June 18)

“Reuniting with Verizon and working with these seven artists on this year’s campaign was an amazing and uplifting experience,” said Michelle K. Sugihara, CAPE’s Executive Director. “This campaign reminds us all to embrace our identity, take risks, and dream big. I hope it inspires everyone to share their #IAm story.”

Jessica Shih, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility and Community Relations at Verizon stated, “Verizon is thrilled to be collaborating with CAPE to build an online platform for all individuals, not just Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders, to share their own journeys and stories. Through the mini-documentary series and live events, we hope to empower the community to inspire each other to achieve their dreams.”

To learn more about #IAm and to join the conversation online, visit http://www.iam-campaign.com. Follow and share your own story on social media at #IAm.

18MR: Support #BaltimoreUprising

The text below is from an email this morning sent by PaKou Her, campaign director at 18MR.

This morning, my 6-year old daughter caught less than a minute of television news coverage about the wave of protests in the aftermath of Freddie Gray’s death while he was in the custody of Baltimore police officers.

This morning, my 6-year old daughter caught less than a minute of television news coverage about the wave of protests in the aftermath of Freddie Gray’s death while he was in the custody of Baltimore police officers.1 She turned to me and said, “Mommy, I think the police hurt a Black person.” I replied truthfully, saying, “Yes, I think they did.”

As the nation’s eyes turn toward Baltimore, it can be easy to feel hopeless, exhausted, and spent. As Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, it can be tempting to turn away and tell ourselves that while this is horrible, we are not Black America.

But if there’s anything we’ve learned from Ferguson, it’s that Black America’s struggle against the long arm of police brutality is a struggle in which we’re all intertwined.2 As AAPIs, we can choose to be silently complicit with the status quo, or we can pick up the mantle of #Asians4BlackLives.

At 18MR, we’re doing the latter – and we want you join us.

No matter where you live, you can support the organizers and activists who are trying to make a difference in Baltimore. Here are 3 things you can do right now to help:

1. Donate to the #BaltimoreUprising legal defense fund to ensure that every person arrested during the rebellion in Baltimore has access to proper legal representation, regardless of the charges.

2. Follow and share the real stories of what’s happening from people who are living and organizing in Baltimore. We suggest you start with these folks on Twitter. You can also Tweet and post status updates using the hashtags #BaltimoreUprising, #FreddieGray, #BlackLivesMatter, and #Asians4BlackLives.

3. Demand police accountability in the death of Freddie Gray. By adding your name to Color of Change’s petition, you can help increase the pressure on Maryland’s Governor Hogan to ensure he puts in place the necessary independent oversight required to bring Gray’s killer to justice and overhaul the Baltimore police department.

Sadly, as AAPIs, we face yet another moment that demands our solidarity, support, and allyship. I urge you to join me and others at 18MR to make the right choice today by supporting those in Baltimore fighting for their dignity, humanity, and lives.

Help me tell my daughter that while it’s true that the police are hurting – and killing – Black people, many of us are fighting to make it stop.

In struggle,
18MR Campaign Director

[1] The Mysterious Death of Freddie Gray The Atlantic, 4/22/2015
[2] Why Ferguson Matters to Asian Americans RaceFiles, 8/20/2014

Profile on Maya Harris

maya-harris-hillary-clinton-policy-advisorThe Hillary Clinton campaign on April 14 announced three new policy advisors, including Maya Harris (@mayaharris_). An article calls it the campaign’s “most interesting hire yet.”

Maya is of Indian descent on her mother’s side and Jamaican on her father’s side.

She comes to the Clinton campaign after serving as a Senior Fellow at American Progress and a visiting scholar at Harvard Law School. Her focus was on promoting policies that strengthen the U.S. economy and democracy through greater inclusion of women and people of color.

Before her time at the Center for American Progress, she was the Vice President of Democracy, Rights and Justice and an officer of the Board of Trustees at the Ford Foundation, where she led a global team in investing more than $150 million annually in grants to promote effective governance, increase democratic participation, and protect human rights in the United States and in 10 countries around the world.

Maya received her bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley and graduated with distinction from Stanford Law School. After practicing law as a civil litigator at Jackson Tufts Cole and Black, LLP, and teaching law as an adjunct professor, Maya was recruited to serve as dean and chief executive officer of Lincoln Law School of San Jose—at age 29, she was reportedly one of the country’s youngest law school deans.

Maya subsequently joined PolicyLink, a national research and action institute, and later served as executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, of Northern California, where she led the litigation, public education, advocacy, and organizing efforts of the nation’s largest ACLU affiliate.

Dowa no Omatsuri: A Festival of Children’s Stories

Originally posted on San Francisco Japantown Foundation:

2015 Dowa Poster Final SMLThe children of Nihonmachi Little Friends (NLF) will present their annual theater production and auction, “Dowa no Omatsuri: A Festival of Children’s Stories” on Sunday, March 8, 2015, at the Palace of Fine Arts Theater, 3301 Lyon Street in San Francisco.

Well-known community personalities Ms. June-ko Nakagawa and Mr. Benh Nakajo will serve as co-hosts for the theater program.

Nihonmachi Little Friends is a previous grantee of the San Francisco Japantown Foundation. Ms. Nakagawa serves on the foundation’s board of directors.

Featured will be GenRyu Arts and the students of NLF. The preschoolers will present their version of the children’s tales of “Three Little Pigs, Part 2” and “Rainbow Express”. The elementary school-age children will perform an original story, “The Magic Diary”. A silent auction beginning at 12pm in the lobby will precede the 1:30 performance and will feature a special performance of live music by The Shut-Ins, a mostly…

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Guest Post by Tamlyn Tomita: UZUMASA LIMELIGHT a Must-See

UZUMASA LIMELIGHT is a Japanese movie that my mom and I absolutely loved.

The film is only playing for a week starting tonight, December 5, in Los Angeles. Screenings will only be extended if it brings in audiences. I rarely, if ever, tell people to go see a film or watch a TV show, but this one is special.

UZUMASA LIMELIGHT is a Japanese movie about a kirare-yaku, an actor who acts in samurai films and specializes in sword-fighting and dying and mentors a young actress. If you are a fan of chambara and jidaigeki, or samurai films, this film was made for you.

UZUMASA is directed by Ken Ochiai, a Japanese director who studied film at USC and stars Seizo Fukumoto, who has been acting for 50 years specializing in this cinema art form, but UZUMASA is his very first starring role. It’s also the first film for the lead actress, Chihiro Yamamoto.

The film is subtitled “Hope for the Next Generation” and is sweet, touching, and thoughtful. Very Japanese in tone and storytelling, it is beautifully telling of the Japanese heart and soul.

UZUMASA is in Japanese with English subtitles and in very limited release playing at: Laemmle Royal in Santa Monica, Laemmle Playhouse 7 in Pasadena, and Edwards Westpark 8 in Irvine. Only 20 theaters in North America are screening the film from now through December 11. Screenings after these dates will be subject to change. Check theaters for showtimes.

Please go to uzumasalimelight.com for more information. Thanks for reading, and I hope you get to see UZUMASA LIMELIGHT!

~ Tamlyn Tomita

Aarti Kohli is the new deputy director at Asian Law Caucus

Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus has a new Deputy Director. Aarti Kohli will fill the position that Chris Punongbayan vacated when he became co-director and then executive director of ALC, the nation’s first legal and civil rights organization serving low-income AAPI communities. Aarti joins the Caucus just in time to attend the 6th Annual Advancing Justice Conference in her new leadership role with one of the Advancing Justice affiliates. The conference, AAPIs Standing Together for Racial Justice, is from Sept. 25-26 in Washington, DC.

Below is text the email scheduled for release on Sept. 3.

Dear Friends,

Kohli_AartiOn behalf of our staff and board, I am delighted to announce that Aarti Kohli has joined Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus as our new Deputy Director. Aarti Kohli is an experienced nonprofit lawyer, manager and philanthropic adviser with more than fifteen years of experience in issues impacting low-income and undocumented immigrants.

In her most recent role as Principal of Kohli Strategic Consulting, Aarti managed a project on the politics of demographic change and immigration reform at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. In 2013, she analyzed and conducted advocacy on pending immigration reform legislation in Congress with various national organizations, including the National Immigration Law Center and the Emerson Collective.

Prior to starting her own consulting practice, Aarti was the Director of Immigration Policy at the Warren Institute at UC Berkeley School of Law where she led the institute’s immigration initiative on issues of equity for immigrant families, particularly access to education, employment and legal protections in the deportation process. Formerly, she worked on a range of issues, from bankruptcy to voting rights, as Judiciary Committee counsel to Representative Howard Berman (D-CA). Before working for Congress she served as Assistant Legislative Director at UNITE union in Washington, DC where she lobbied on behalf of low-income garment workers.

I am very excited about the energy, ideas, and skills that Aarti brings to Advancing Justice – ALC. Her commitment to underserved communities on the local and national level allows us to continue and expand our more than four decades of social justice advocacy. Please join me in welcoming Aarti by sending us a tweet or posting your message on our Facebook page!

In Solidarity,

Chris Punongbayan
Executive Director

APIAVote Seeking Storytellers

Christine Chen, APIAVote, on C-SPAN

The fantastic nonprofit APIAVote is looking for storytellers to help write and produce stories about Asian American and Pacific Islander voters and the impact of election laws on AAPI communities.

APIAVote is a nonpartisan national nonprofit that mobilizes AAPIs in electoral and civic participation. The organization is building a national communications team led by a professional working journalist who will also serve as the team’s editor and mentor. The team will craft and distribute pieces to various ethnic and mainstream media.

Ideal candidates are journalism students or individuals who have experience in writing for any form of media (print/audio/video/online/photography). Individuals can work remotely. The team will develop stories across the country.

Interested individuals should submit a resume and work samples to jobs@apiavote.org by August 31, 2014.

Japanese American state legislator upsets incumbent Hawai’i governor


Hawai’i Governor Neil Abercrombie (on the right) congratulates opponent State Senator David Ige (second from right) on Ige’s victory in the state’s Democratic primary on August 9, 2014.

Saturday’s primary election in Hawai’i saw AAPI candidates win impressive victories in top races. How do these races impact national AAPI politics?

Voter turnout was extremely low likely due to Tropical Storm Iselle, which hit the islands on Friday, and the impending arrival of Hurricane Julio. However, absentee voter turnout was up 12 percent.

State Senator David Ige, a veteran Japanese Amercian state legislator, upset incumbent Governor Neil Abercrombie in the Democratic primary. The last time an incumbent governor lost a primary was 1962. Hawai’i’s first governor, Republican William F. Quinn, was defeated by Democrat John A. Burns, a former Delegate to Congress. Burns led a new coalition of labor and Japanese Americans that turned the 50th state blue after years of Republican domination.

Although he chaired the powerful Senate Ways and Means committee, Ige was not a household name. Despite a campaign war chest a fraction of the size of Abercrombie’s, Ige leveraged a strong grassroots campaign to tap into constituent dissatisfaction with the governor’s style and controversial decisions. Ige notably had the support of former governors George Ariyoshi, the first AAPI governor in the U.S., and Benjamin Cayetano, the first Filipino American governor.

AAPI electoral power is still strong in Hawai’i, but voters don’t cast their ballots strictly along ethnic lines. Gov. Abercrombie counted numerous AAPIs as supporters, including former State Senator Randy Iwase, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee in 2006.

Ige will meet Republican Duke Aiona, a former lieutenant governor, in the general election. Should Ige win the general in the heavily Democratic state, he will be one of the few AAPI governors in the union. Ige hasn’t played much on the national scene before and likely lacks ambitions for higher office. One of the most tech-savvy officeholders in the country, I suspect that we will see his influence more in public sector innovation than on the national AAPI front.

Sitting Lieutenant Governor Shan Tsutsui, a Japanese American from Maui, comfortably won his primary and will join Ige on the Democratic gubernatorial ticket in the general election. It will mark the first time since 1974’s ticket of George Ariyoshi and Jean King that two Japanese Americans were the top-ticket team of any political party in Hawai’i. Governor Abercrombie picked Tsutsui as LG to replace Brian Schatz, who was appointed U.S. Senator following Daniel Inouye’s passing.

Senator Schatz faced a vigorous primary challenge from Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa. As of this writing, the race was still too close to call with Schatz leading with only 1,635 votes and a number of precincts still to vote because of polling place shutdowns due to the tropical storm.

Senator Inouye asked Governor Abercrombie to appoint Hanabusa as his successor, but the governor instead went with Schatz, his LG at the time. Inouye loyalists were shocked at the governor’s decision, but others supported Governor Abercrombie’s selection.

Abercrombie later inflamed the issue by seemingly calling into the question the validity of Senator Inouye’s wish, raising questions about whether Japanese American voters would respond with support for Ige. It’s not clear how much this issue played into Abercrombie’s defeat, or in the Hanabusa-Schatz match-up.

If Hanabusa crosses the finish line ahead of Schatz, she will join Senator Mazie Hirono, and Hawai’i would have two AAPI women Senators representing it in Washington. Hirono and Hanabusa have been comfortable appearing on the national scene, appearing at progressive gatherings like Netroots Nation.

All the top candidates for Hanabusa’s seat in Congress were AAPIs. State Senate President Donna Mercado Kim (Filipina/Korean), State Representative Mark Takai (Japanese), and Honolulu City Councilmember Stanley Chang (Chinese) ran strong campaigns and gave voters distinctly different options. Kim was the early-on favorite and the fundraising powerhouse. Takai, a 20-year veteran of the state house and a Lt. Colonel in the Hawaii National Guard, eventually prevailed and will likely win the general.

If elected, Takai will likely be quite interested in the national AAPI political movement. His previous engagements on the national scene were largely as an advocate for veterans and our servicewomen and men. But once he makes the transition from being the political majority to the ranks of the politically under-represented, Takai will quickly see roles he can play in advancing AAPI empowerment.