Moving Mountains
 Photo credit: Stephen Bobb Photography

Photo credit: Stephen Bobb Photography

Linda Bui


Linda Bui is a Mental Health Counselor serving the API community in East Bay, CA. Linda is a passionate advocate for mental health services rooted in her direct experience of intergenerational trauma and depression through her Vietnamese refugee parents' unaddressed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. As someone directly impacted by intergenerational trauma and on her own path to healing, Linda she speaks from the heart with mental health training. Linda serves the unique role of a receiver turned provider and advocate of mental health services. During her work hours, she provides interpretation, advocacy, community outreach, psycho education, parent education, support groups and peer social emotional support to patients. When Linda isn't working or fighting for social justice, she practices self care through socialization, exercising, and therapy. Linda is currently continuing her education at Cal State East Bay, with the purpose to bring what she learned back to her community. She also is a huge fan of cats and animals.

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Diana Chandara

University of minnesota - twin cities, phd student

Diana Chandara is a PhD student in Culture and Teaching at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Her research interests are in identity development of diasporic Southeast Asian American youth, culturally relevant pedagogy, and community-based organizations (CBOs).  More specifically, she examines how marginalized youth's involvement in CBOs informs ethnic/cultural identities to combat deficit models of academic identities.  She is from Fresno, California. 

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Lian Cheun

Khmer Girls in action, executive director

Lian Cheun is the Executive Director of Khmer Girls in Action. She is a 1.5 generation refugee from Cambodia. She grew up in the Bay Area and has spent 2 decades working in low-income communities of color. Lian started out as a youth organizer on the Kids First! Campaign and has since worked for funding for youth programs, fought for educational and health justice, volunteered and trained for numerous GOTV efforts with the Alameda County Labor Council, and fought for workers’ rights regionally and internationally. In 2007, Lian helped Migrant Forum in Asia organize the very first regional, migrant domestic workers’ assembly.  Lian believes in fighting for our self-determination as women, as workers, and as creators of knowledge and culture in our communities. She was also the former director of the Movement Activist Apprenticeship Program (MAAP) at the Center for Third World Organizing (CTWO). In 2014, Lian was appointed to President Obama’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

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Vichet Chhuon

University of Minnesota, Associate Professor

Vichet Chhuon is Associate Professor of Culture and Teaching, Faculty in the Asian American Studies Program, and Interim Department Chair of Chicano and Latino Studies. His work has focused on the academic and ethnic identities of Cambodian American students. and how these identities have important consequences for relationships with peers, teachers, and other significant adults in school. 

 Photo credit: Stephen Bobb Photography

Photo credit: Stephen Bobb Photography

Montha Chum


Montha Chum is an accountant by profession. In late August 2016, she was forced to learn about organizing when her brother, Chamroeun Phan, was detained by Immigration Customs and Enforcement. Her brother, along with 7 with other Cambodian Minnesotans were abruptly taken from their families. Family members for the 8 organized in a campaign called Release MN 8 in efforts to try and stop the deportation from happening. Montha, her husband and four children live in Rosemount, MN. 

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Sokmala Chy

cambodian association of greater philadelphia, executive director


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Loan Dao

University of massachusetts - boston, associate professor

Loan Dao is a refugee of the Viet Nam war and migrated to the U.S. with her family in 1975 and grew up in Texas. She is an Associate Professor in the undergraduate Asian American Studies program and the graduate Transnational Cultural and Community Studies (TCCS) program at University of Massachusetts Boston (UMB). She received her Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, in Ethnic Studies, and specializes in Southeast Asian refugee migration and community development, immigrant and refugee youth, social movements, and Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR). Professor Dao has published on topics related to memory and war in cultural productions, Vietnamese American female leadership, and culturally competent services for elderly Vietnamese. Her current research examines the experiences of AAPI youth and Southeast Asian American youth organizing in the immigrant rights movement, including the experiences of AAPI youth in the movement for undocumented immigrant students, and a forthcoming book, Generation Rising, on Southeast Asian American youth mobilization against detention and deportation that result from the 1996 immigration reforms. She is a member of the Advisory Council for the Massachusetts Office of Refugees and Immigrants, the Massachusetts Asian American Commission, the Providence Youth-Student Movement board of directors, the UMB Office of Diversity and Inclusion advisory board, VSA and SIM-UMB chapter faculty advisor, and co-founder of the UMB Immigrant Student Task Force. 

Zachary Darrah

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Fresno Interdenominational refugee ministries, executive director

Zachary D. Darrah has served several roles in the non-profit and faith based sectors for nearly a decade. He began his career as a Program Manager for Care Fresno where he oversaw programs that worked with children and families in some of Fresno’s highest crime neighborhoods.  After spending a number of years with Encourage Tomorrow, (Services Coordinator, Parc Grove Commons/General Manager) he transitioned into a Program Manager role at the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission (Fresno EOC) Local Conservation Corps.  At Fresno EOC, he oversaw a $1.5 million Department of Labor grant program that specifically targeted 18-21 year olds that had juvenile records.  Through his leadership and vision, the program was recognized locally for their community work and was a recipient of a national award from The Corps Network.  He currently serves as the Executive Director of Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries (FIRM), which is a faith-based, non-profit organization that works predominantly with Southeast Asian (Hmong/Lao/Cambodian), Slavic, African and Syrian refugees.  FIRM has grown significantly during his tenure and has further established itself as a community leader when it comes to issues impacting the large refugee population in Fresno County.  He has also served in various positions on the pastoral staff teams of Fowler Presbyterian Church, Fresno First Baptist Church and the First Baptist Church of Madera.  Zachary holds a B.A. in Business Administration from Fresno Pacific University (2007) and an M.A. in Theological Studies from Liberty University Theological Baptist Seminary (2013). 

Quyen Dinh

southeast asia resource action center, executive director

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Quyen Dinh is the Executive Director of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC). Originally formed in 1979, SEARAC was founded by a group of American humanitarians as a direct response to the refugee crises arising throughout Southeast Asia as a result of U.S. military actions. Today, SEARAC represents the largest refugee community ever resettled in America as a civil rights organization and works to empower Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese American communities to create a socially just and equitable society through policy advocacy, advocacy capacity building, community engagement, and mobilization.

As Executive Director, Quyen has advocated for Southeast Asian Americans on key civil rights issues including education, immigration, criminal justice, health, and aging.  Under Quyen’s leadership, SEARAC has authored national legislation and passed California legislation calling for transparent, disaggregated data for the Asian American community. Quyen has also extended SEARAC’s coalition presence and leadership in other civil rights and social justice movements through her leadership roles with the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), Detention Watch Network (DWN), the Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC), RISE for Boys and Men of Color, and Allies for Reaching Community Health Equity (ARCHE) Action Collaborative. Prior to SEARAC, she built lasting infrastructure for the International Children Assistance Network (ICAN) in San Jose, California serving Vietnamese immigrant parents, grandparents, and youth.

Born to Vietnamese refugees, Quyen identifies as a second-generation Vietnamese American.  She holds a Masters of Public Policy from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley.  Quyen was born in New Orleans, LA, and grew up in Orange County, CA and San Jose, CA.  She currently resides with her husband in Washington, DC.


Jeannie Do

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Jeannie Do currently works on Quality Program Oversight at a health plan organization in Boston, Massachusetts. Prior to this role, she received her Bachelors in Health Science and Masters in Public Health from Boston University. Jeannie is proud to be born and raised in Dorchester, where her family immigrated to from Vietnam and stayed since the late 1980's, and is a place where many other Vietnamese immigrants have settled. With the strong ties to the community, she is also involved in the Dorchester Organizing Training Initiative (DOT-I) which focuses on mobilizing the Vietnamese community in Dorchester. Jeannie participated in the first cycle of DOT-I’s fellowship, a leadership and organizing development program for Vietnamese young adults, and now serves on DOT-I’s Organizing Committee. She also currently serves on the Board of Directors at the Vietnamese American Initiative for Development. Jeannie is also active in the New England Intercollegiate Vietnamese Student Association, where she has held many leadership roles including her current role on the Board of Advisors. 

Tuyet Duong

U.S. Department of justice, visiting fellow

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Tuyet Duong is an Adjunct Professor teaching the Asian American Social Policy and Community Advocacy course this fall. Currently, she serves as a Visiting Fellow at the Office for Victims of Crime within the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs. Ms. Duong has close to 15 years of experience in the government and nonprofit sectors with human rights, civil rights, and immigration law and policy. Most recently, she led a local nonprofit and victim service provider, Asian/Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project. Before that, Ms. Duong served as a Senior Advisor for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, leading philanthropic engagement, private sector engagement, small business capacity building, and immigration and civil rights policy work. She also served as Policy Advisor at the Department of Homeland Security Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. There, she received the Officer’s Inaugural Distinguished Award of Merit for her work on the Department language access and civil rights response after the BP Oil Spill. She previously led immigration policy and campaigns at Asians Advancing Justice - Asian American Justice Center and managed legal assistance programs for survivors of violence and trauma at BPSOS-Houston. There, she aided coalition partners on a historic disaster response effort for Hurricane Katrina evacuees. She holds a J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law and a B.A. in English from the University of Texas. Ms. Duong lives in Bowie, Maryland with her husband, three sons, and her mother-in-law.

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Sophal Ear

Occidental college, associate professor

A Board Member of SEARAC, Sophal Ear is an elected Councilor of the Crescenta Valley Town Council encompassing 22,000 residents in unincorporated Los Angeles County, California. An Associate Professor of Diplomacy & World Affairs at Occidental College, he is author of “Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy” and co-author of “The Hungry Dragon: How China's Quest for Resources Is Reshaping the World”. Dr. Ear also serves as a Trustee/Board Member of the Nathan Cummings Foundation, Refugees International, Partners for Development, the Southeast Asia Development Program, the Center for Khmer Studies, and the International Public Management Network. A graduate of Princeton and Berkeley, he moved to the United States from France as a Cambodian refugee at the age of 10. 

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Denise Hanh Huynh


Denise is pursuing a PhD in Education at the University of Minnesota focused on culture, teaching, and literacy. She is interested in how children's literature and poetry plays a role in culture and language revitalization, relationship formation, and identity to inform development of moral philosophy. Denise is an artist, activist, and graduate instructor. She is also an adviser with the Minnesota State Advisory Committee at the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

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Lee Her

Stone soup fresno, parent engagement coordinator

Lee Her is the Parent Engagement Coordinator for Stone Soup Fresno.  She leads the education advocacy efforts for the organization and provides parents in their early childhood education programs the resources to become advocates for both their own children and the community.  As a mother herself, Lee has worked to strengthen the voices of Southeast Asian community members around issues involving early childhood education, data disaggregation, and English Language Learners.  She has a bachelor’s degree in Communications and master’s degree in Political Science.

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Tomeka Hart

Bill & melinda gates foundation, senior program officer

Tomeka Hart serves as a senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, leading policy and advocacy grant making for Civil Rights & Equity Organizations. Prior to the Gates Foundation she served as VP of strategic partnerships and development at the Southern Education Foundation, VP of African American community partnerships for Teach For America, and as the president/CEO of the Memphis Urban League. She is a former teacher and lawyer.

Hart served two terms on the elected Memphis City Schools Board of Education, serving 2005-2013. She served as Board President 2008-2009. In 2010, Hart joined with a colleague and led the efforts to merge the Memphis City and Shelby County school systems.

In 2011 Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam appointed Hart as a Commissioner of the Education Commission of the States, a national non-partisan organization that helps states develop education policies. Former Tennessee Governor, Phil Bredesen, selected her for Tennessee’s Race to the Top team, and he appointed her to the state’s Teacher Evaluation Advisory Committee, and the First to the Top Advisory Council.

Hart is an Aspen Institute Rodel-Fellowship in Public Leadership fellow and a Pahara-Aspen Institute Education Fellow, and has served on several non-profit boards.

Tomeka Hart holds a B.S. degree in Marketing Education from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; an M.B.A. from Kennesaw State University; and a J.D. from the University of Memphis.

Bochan Huy


Bochan has dedicated her life to spearheading and continuing to sow the seeds of the Neo-Cambodian musical breakout movement. By collaborating with adept pianist and producer, Arlen Hart, Bochan effortlessly bridges the East West gap with an inimitable, soulful yet sweet indie-pop vibe. She authentically draws on her dual country upbringing; combining influences from the ultra urban Oakland scene, coupled with her deep rooted Cambodian inspiration and fellowship, to create her infectious new sound. Bochan grew up singing in her father’s Cambodian American bands. The evolution that Bochan witnessed (and took an active part in) is audible today in the ardent Cambodian music circuit, which has moved from Rock Roots to its current inception. Honoring, yet stepping bravely away from traditional style, she attempts to usher in a new musical age. Bochan's music has been featured globally in an array of music festivals, venues, media and conferences. Her single “Chnam Oun 16” (or, “I am 16”), featuring Raashan Ahmad from Crown City Rockers, shakes up convention, by remaking the classic Cambodian rock anthem about women coming of age. The new version retains textures and tones of the original Farfisa organ, while the lyrics alternate between English and Khmer. Listen to this catching and artful remix, along with other Bochan singles like “The Music” available on iTunes now. View the powerful, culturally sensitive yet exposing music video for “Chnam Oun 16” live on VEVO. Her solo debut album, "Full Monday Moon" was officially released January 2012. Her latest single "Hello HI" (released February 2014) is a fusion of Khmer Psychedelic Rock with Urban Soul and features remixes by Los Angeles based Electronic Duo Indradevi and Chicago beatmaker/producer OkayTonyBeats. and is available on iTunes. Her latest EP "Hello Hi" is available for download on iTunes, Amazon, and all other major digital music retailers.

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Channapha Khamvongsa

Legacies of war, founder and executive director

Channapha Khamvongsa is founder and executive director of Legacies of War, an organization that seeks to address the problem of unexploded ordnance in Laos, to provide space for healing the wounds of war, and to create greater hope for a future of peace. The organization uses art, culture, education, and community organizing, especially among the Lao diaspora, to create healing and transformation out of the wreckage of war. Legacies has successfully advocated for an increase in U.S. funding for bomb clearance in Laos, from an annual average of $2M in 2008 to $30M in 2016. In September 2016, President Barack Obama acknowledged Channapha’s advocacy efforts in Laos, where he became the first U.S. President to visit the country. Channapha has written and spoken widely about the secret war in Laos and its aftermath and has appeared in the New York Times, Democracy Now!, CNN, ABC, PBS and CBS News. She previously worked at the Ford Foundation and NEO Philanthropy on immigrant rights, civil society, civic engagement, capacity building, and transformational leadership. She has served on the Seattle Women’s Commission, as well as on the boards of the Refugee Women’s Alliance and the Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership (CAPAL). She was born in Vientiane, Laos and came to the U.S. as a refugee at the age of seven. Channapha received her Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Public Administration from George Mason University. She received her Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Georgetown University. 

Kevin Lam

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Kevin Lam works with the Asian American Resource Workshop (AARW) in Boston, MA, as the Organizing Director coordinating the Dorchester Organizing & Training Initiative (DOT-I), a leadership and organizing development program for Vietnamese young adults, and creates opportunities through programming efforts to engage AARW members and the broader Asian American community. Previously, Kevin served as the Program Manager with the Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM), a grassroots community organization developing the leadership and organizing skills of Southeast Asian young people fighting for social change. Currently, Kevin is serving on the Board of Directors for the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA), and on the Steering Committee for the Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (QAPA). He received his Master's Degree in Humanistic & Multicultural Education from the State University of New York at New Paltz. 

 Photo credit: Stephen Bobb Photography

Photo credit: Stephen Bobb Photography

Dianne Le


Born in Los Angeles, Dianne is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture with a background in Mechanical Engineering at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ and serves as Co-President of the university's Asian Student Council. She has worked with VietLead as a Program Assistant and facilitator of the Resilient Roots Summer Internship Program in Camden, NJ and has interned at OCA National during the summer 2016 in Washington, DC. In 2010, she co-founded BCUBED, a breakin' and social justice youth group under the advisory of Nancy Nguyen, the current Executive Director of VietLead. 

Kay Lee

hmong cancer coalition, chair

Kay Vu Lee became Chair of the Hmong Cancer Coalition (HCC) in 2015 when the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society hired her on as a Patient Access Coordinator serving the Hmong population in the Central Valley. Prior to her involvment with HCC, she was an education program manager for at-risk students at Merced College & California State University, Sacramento. She has extensive experience in outreach at UC Davis Law School and Fresno State. Kay received her Bachelors ('94) and Master's Degrees ('97) in English from California State University, Fresno and was the first Hmong Central Valley English instructor at a college. 

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Souvan Lee

Southeast Asia resource action center,

education policy Manager

Souvan Lee is an education policy associate for the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) in Washington, DC. Born and raised in St. Paul, MN, Souvan is the son of Hmong refugees, one of five children, and enjoys kayaking, camping, fishing, and hunting. Prior to joining SEARAC, he worked for the Asian American and Pacific Islander commission for the state of Minnesota. He has also served as a Congressional Page and worked on various state and local campaigns. Souvan holds a Bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of Minnesota. 

Lee Lo

southeast asia resource action center, policy associate 

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Lee leads SEARAC’s health and education advocacy to address health and education disparities within the Southeast Asian American community. Lee also expands the policy advocacy capacity of SEAA-serving organizations and individuals by coordinating advocacy campaigns, building coalitions, and providing resources around health and education policy.  

Lee graduated from the University of California, Davis with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science: Public Service and a Bachelor of Science in Community & Regional Development with a minor in Education. Lee first began working in the SEAA community as a Youth Advisory Member to Hmong Women’s Heritage Association’s youth program, leading community events to address issues facing Hmong youth in Sacramento. As a Youth Advisory Member, Lee contributed the implementation of Prevention and Early Intervention Cultural Competence component of California’s Mental Health Service’s Act. Lee continued her passion for community organizing and led the UC Davis Southeast Asians Furthering Education (SAFE) department throughout her undergraduate career. Through SAFE, Lee coordinated conferences, community workshops, and leadership pipelines through a holistic, culturally relevant, and progressive lens to recruit and retain Southeast Asian Americans in higher education.

Katrina Dizon Mariategue

Southeast asia resource action center, immigration policy manager

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Katrina leads SEARAC’s immigration policy and mass incarceration work. Previously, Katrina worked in the labor movement for six years at the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). In 2011, she was elected to serve as DC chapter president of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), the only national Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) union membership organization. In this capacity, she led the chapter’s local advocacy campaigns and organizing work around immigrant workers’ rights, coordinated civic engagement programs for the 2012 elections, and strengthened local networks through extensive coalition building efforts.  She also served on APALA’s National Executive Board and co-chaired the organization’s Young Leaders Council.

Katrina holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the University of Maryland, College Park, where she also served as Graduate Coordinator at the Office of Multicultural Involvement and Community Advocacy (MICA) to advise, mentor, and educate AAPI students on campus. She is a 1.5 generation immigrant and a recent naturalized U.S. citizen.

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Jenna McDavid


Jenna McDavid is the National Managing Coordinator for the Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC), a national policy advocacy coalition working to improve aging for racially and ethnically diverse people, American Indians and Alaska Natives, and the LGBTQ communities. Jenna's primary role with the DEC is to formulate policy and advocacy strategies to respond to challenges faced by diverse elders, and communicating those strategies with internal and external stakeholders. She has an extensive background in communications and training, having worked previously as the Program Director for the National LGBT Cancer Network and as a Marketing Manager for Schoolwide, Inc. When not at work, Jenna can usually be found riding her bike, making and sharing vegan food, or volunteer teaching in New York City public schools.

Bethanie Mills

The leukemia and lymphoma society, senior manager - patient access

Bethanie Mills has worked for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society since 2009. With a grant from a Central California foundation, Bethanie founded the Hmong Cancer Coalition with key community partners in Fresno. She has worked to educate underserved communities about cancer and health information. Bethanie earned a Master's in Public Health from Emory University in 2008. 

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Tung Nguyen

Asians and Pacific Islander Re-Entry of Orange Country, Founder 

Tung Nguyen is a 42 years old Vietnamese immigrant from Orange County, who was sentenced to a 25 to life sentence at the age of 16. In 2011, Tung received a Governor's commutation and was released from prison. Tung was detained by ICE and given final removal order to Vietnam. Tung currently resides in Orange County, California, with his wife, Annie, and stepson Steven. Since released, Tung dedicated his passion toward establishing a support system for the formerly incarcerated AAPIs in Orange County, California. Orange County has little to none re-entry resources to assist formerly incarcerated individuals, their families, and victims of crimes. Tung is the current founder of APIROC (Asians and Pacific Islander Re-Entry of Orange County). Tung received numerous recognitions for his community works, including “Unsung Hero” award for his work with SB260 and “Inspiration Community Member”.

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Catherina Nou

California asian pacific islander legislative caucus, chief consultant

Catherina “Cat” Nou has been a public policy leader for a decade. Cat is Chair of the Board of Directors for the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) and currently serves as the Chief Consultant for the California Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus. She previously served as Chief of Staff for a California State Assembly member. Prior to joining the California State Assembly, Cat worked as the California Policy Advocate for SEARAC where she focused on policies impacting Southeast Asian Americans in California. Cat is the daughter and sister of refugees from Cambodia and was recognized for her work advancing the human rights of Cambodian women and girls with the Courage and Leadership Award by Devata Giving Circle. She graduated from the University of California, Davis and later obtained a Master of Arts in Higher Education at Sacramento State.

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Vattana Peong

The Cambodian Family, Executive Director

Vattana Peong is the Executive Director of The Cambodian Family (TCF) Community Center, a 37-year-old nonprofit, multi-ethnic human services agency, providing services to low-income children and families in Orange County, California. Vattana has had over 15 years of experience working with non-governmental organizations both in the United States and abroad and has been a strong advocate for health equity. Prior to his current position, he served TCF as the Health Program Director, overseeing multiple federally-funded community health programs and services to reduce health disparities in the areas of mental health, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease for low-income communities in Orange County. Previously, he worked for the Japan International Cooperation Agency as a Health and Training Program Assistant and served as a special youth fellow at the United Nations Population Fund in New York. He is bilingual in English and Khmer and has a Master’s Degree in Public Health from California State University, Fullerton. Currently, Vattana serves as a Co-Chair of the Cultural Competency Committee for Orange County Health Care Agency’s Behavioral Health Services. Vattana’s community and volunteer work has gained him several awards, including Asian Pacific Islanders Outstanding Graduate Student Award and Kathryn T. McCarty Scholarship for Scholastic Achievement Award.

Ay Saechao


As a Mienh American, Ay's experience growing up in a refugee community inspired him to advocate for all students, especially those who do not have access to opportunities of our society. He currently serves as the founding President of the nonprofit Southeast Asian American Education (SEAeD) Coalition, and the Associate Dean for Student Development as well as TRiO Director at Highline College. He has dedicated 20+ years addressing the educational opportunity gap at both the local and national levels as an educator, community organizer and activist.

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Christine Su


Dr. Christine Su currently serves as an international retention specialist at the College of San Mateo in California, USA. She is also the founder of the Khmer Generations Project and is active in the Cambodian communities in the San Francisco Bay Area and Long Beach, California. She previously served as the Director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Ohio University, where she spearheaded new study abroad and exchange programs with institutions in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Cambodia in addition to managing the everyday operations of the Center, including administering the master’s program in Southeast Asian Studies. Christine earned her Ph.D. from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, a master’s degree from Bowling Green State University, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame. 

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Sarath Suong

Providence youth student movement, executive director

Sarath Suong is the co-founder and Executive Director of Providence Youth Student Movement, a community based organization whose mission is to mobilize Southeast Asian youth, queer and trans youth of color, and survivors of police violence build grassroots power and organize collectively for social justice. Born in the Thai refugee camp, Khao I Dang, his family fled Battambang, Cambodia during the civil war and eventually immigrated to his hometown of Revere, Massachusetts. To cope with the violence, pain, and injustices facing Southeast Asians, he became a community organizer, centered around the unique intersections of race, class, gender, and sexuality. Sarath moved to Providence, Rhode Island in 1998 to attend Brown University. He majored in Ethnic Studies with a specific focus on Southeast Asian resettlement, resilience, and resistance. Sarath lives in Providence, Rhode Island and is also Board Co-Chair of the Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education and Youth Development Chair of the Cambodian Society of Rhode Island.

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Nathaniel Tan


Nate Tan is a core member of Asian Prison Support Committee and coordinator for the Restoring Our Original True Selves (ROOTS) program in San Quentin State Prison. The mission of the Asian Prisoner Support Committee (APSC) is to provide support to Asian & Pacific Islander prisoners and educate the broader community about the growing number of Asians & Pacific Islanders in the United States being imprisoned, detained, and deported. The ROOTS program, modeled after an Ethnic Studies curriculum, seeks to increase knowledge about AAPI culture, immigration/refugee history, health, and racial justice. Born into a Cambodian refugee family, Nate became familiar with institutional racism from seeing his family members come in and out of the criminal justice system. After receiving a degree in Ethnic Studies from UC Berkeley, he sought to provide support services for people impacted by incarceration. His current work includes anti-deportation campaigns and facilitating Ethnic Studies workshops in San Quentin State Prison.  

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Pheng Thao

Manforward, FOUNDER AND director

Pheng Thao works at the intersections of building community, organizing community, and mental health. He is committed to creating new masculine and male practices that will not marginalize women, girls, LGBTQ folks and limit boys and men’s full expression. He has done numerous trainings and technical assistances to several local, national, and international organizations on gender based violence including domestic violence, sex trafficking, and sexual assault and engaging men and boys. Pheng is the statewide coordinator for the Men and Masculine Folks Network, a collaborative project of many community organizations and individuals. He is also the founder and director of ManForward, a local organization based out of the Twin Cities, MN that works toward developing new practices of brotherhood among men, boys and masculinities to end gender violence and promote gender equity. As a mental health practitioner, Pheng supports and works with -- LGBTQ youth, families and couples; Hmong men who have committed sexual abuse; and founded a domestic violence Hmong men’s program called Txivneej Yawg. Lastly, he serves as a trustee on the MN Women’s Foundation. 

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Master of Ceremonies:

Mike Tran

Michael Tran is from West Oakland, California and sees the world through an Ethnic Studies lens. For the past 17 years, Mike has served hundreds of multi-racial youth from Oakland providing academic, employment, mental health and reproductive health counseling. Mike Tran believes in each in every youth he's worked with, empowered them to stay on their own individual path, be themselves, try new things, and most importantly, he's helped enabled self-love and hope within these youth. He values liberation, self-determination, wisdom, and love above all else. Knowledge is cool too. He just finished serving as the Program Coordinator for Asian Health Services Youth Program at the Spot Youth Center in Oakland Chinatown. Nowadays, you can catch him walking his poodles, rocking an Oakland Warriors poncho, eating Al Pastor tacos, and playing Street Fighter while listening to 90's Bay Area rap in Sacramento, CA.

Many Uch

formerly incarcerated group healing together (fight)

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Many Uch is a Cambodian refugee who has been fighting his order of deportation for almost 20 years. Many was born in Cambodia in 1976, in the middle of the genocide orchestrated by the Khmer Rouge. Just as the regime was being driven out in 1979, remaining Khmer Rouge soldiers took Many’s family hostage in the jungle for another year before they escaped to the Thai border. Like so many other refugee families, Many’s family eventually resettled in the U.S. and struggled in neighborhoods plagued by poverty and violence, and schools not equipped to support bright, young, English learner refugee kids like Many.

By the time he was 18 in 1994, Many was convicted of driving a getaway car during a robbery. He took responsibility for his actions and pled guilty, never imagining that in 1996, laws would be passed that would retroactively make his guilty plea a deportable offense. During his years in prison, Many taught himself immigration law in the prison library and mentored other Khmer and Asian American prisoners. When he was released from prison in 1997, he was immediately detained for two more years in immigration detention. Many fought his detention and joined a Supreme Court case that eventually ruled that indefinite immigrant detention was unconstitutional. He was finally released, but he lives in limbo with a final order of deportation. 

Today, Many is a proud husband and father, a dedicated mentor, and a nationally recognized advocate. He has a pardon from the governor of Washington and has been appointed to a statewide commission on prisoner reentry. In 2015, he started a group called F.I.G.H.T. (Formerly Incarcerated Group Healing Together) that brings an Asian American studies-based curriculum and support group to Clallam Bay prison. Through Many’s vision, F.I.G.H.T. aims to support both current and formerly incarcerated Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders through mentoring, advocacy, outreach, and political education.

 Photo credit: Stephen Bobb Photography

Photo credit: Stephen Bobb Photography

Phitsamay Uy

university of massachusetts - lowell, associate professor

Phitsamay Sychitkokhong Uy is Associate Professor in the College of Education and co-director of the Center for Asian American Studies at University of Massachusetts - Lowell. She has over 20 years of teaching experience ranging from kindergarten to graduate students. Dr. Uy has also worked as a diversity trainer for the Anti- Defamation League and professional development facilitator for school districts. She is the current associate editor of Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement. Her research focuses on Southeast Asian American educational experiences and family and community engagement. Her recent publications include Unpacking racial identities: The salience of ethnicity in Southeast Asian American youth’s schooling experience published in Race, Ethnicity, and Education and College and career readiness among Southeast Asian American College Students in New England in the Journal of College Student Retention. Dr. Uy also serves on several community board of directors of the SEARAC, Institute for Asian American Studies at UMass- Boston, and the Nisei Student Relocation Commemorative Fund (NSRCF). She is the president of the National Association for the Education and Advancement of the Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese Americans (NAFEA). 

Cha Vang

hmong innovating politics, co-founder and executive director

Cha Vang is the co-founder and Executive Director of Hmong Innovating Politics (HIP), whose mission is to strengthen the power of disenfranchised communities through innovative civic engagement and strategic grassroots mobilization. Founded in 2012, HIP set out to address the lack of representation and voices at the decision making table. Prior to being the Executive Director of HIP, Cha work tirelessly as a community organizer to improve outcomes for children and families in the Sacramento region. Cha has worked on issues ranging from education to food justice. In addition, Cha has worked on multiple candidate campaigns, civic engagement and voter education projects through Sacramento. HIP is one of 6 steering organizations for AAPIs for Civic Empowerment in California, who set out to advance state and local policies, campaigns and issues that support low-income and working class Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders through a three-pronged strategy: (1) Create a statewide network comprised of high capacity organizations with a history of organizing low-income Asian Americans Pacific Islanders (AAPI) and a commitment to increase AAPI electoral power through an integrated voter engagement model, (2) Build a progressive pole within AAPI electorate through multilingual and culturally competent direct voter contact strategies as part of a winning coalition with other communities of color, labor and LGBTQ allies, and (3) Increase statewide AAPI civic engagement infrastructure by providing training, coaching and strategic planning to AAPI organizations throughout the state. 

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Tony Vo


Tony is the son of Vietnamese refugees. His parents fled Viet Nam from political persecution to provide the family a brighter future. His upbringing, Tony realized, was a pattern seen in many Southeast Asian communities; low-income, first-generation, and limited English. As an undergraduate at the University of Washington, Tony founded a student organization named Asian Coalition for Equality that highlights invisibilities of the Asian community. He also advocated at local, state, and national levels for resources and data that captures the realities of Southeast Asians and organized panels and presentations debunking the “model minority myth.”

Tony believes in the power of communities to heal themselves. From 2009 – 2012, he took part in participatory action research for the Vietnamese community and learned their strengths and needs, culminating in a report used to advocate for resources for his community. In 2012, he founded an annual 5K walk/run with neighborhood friends to foster health, build community, and raise money for local nonprofits. This belief in communities led him to student leadership work in the community college system where he advised the Queer Straight Alliance and other organizations. From there he pursued an Ed.M. at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. He plans to continue work in higher education providing pathways for underrepresented students to enter, graduate, and leave as critical leaders. 

Oanh Vu

RELEASEMN8, Organizer

Oanh Vu is a youth organizer, artist and founding member of Rad Azns, a community group of radical Asians organizing in Minnesota seeking systemic social change rather than reform and challenging Asian American complicity in the oppression of other communities, making solidarity an integral aspect of their work. Oanh began helping the ReleaseMN8 families early on in the campaign, by providing much needed support, helping with action organizing and bringing art into the campaign. 

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Chanda Womack

Alliance of rhode island southeast asians for education, executive director

Chanda Womack is the Founding Executive Director of the Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education (ARISE). ARISE’s mission is to prepare, promote, and empower Rhode Island’s Southeast Asian students for educational and career success. Chanda has over a decade of experience in serving underrepresented communities in college access and success. She served 3 years as Co-Chair of the Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM) Board and currently serves as the President of the Board for the Cambodian Society of RI, Inclusive Excellence Commission for Rhode Island College, Community Advisory Board for United Way, and is a founding member of the Racial Justice Coalition.

Chanda was born in a refugee camp in Thailand and immigrated to the United States at 8 months old in 1980 with her family. She earned her B.A. and MPA from the University of Rhode Island, and a graduate certificate in Non-Profit Leadership from Rhode Island College.

ThaoMee Xiong


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ThaoMee Xiong is an experienced legal and legislative advocate, public policy researcher and community organizer.  She has worked on issues related to health equity, economic development, immigration, refugee resettlement, domestic violence, and affordable housing.  Currently, she is the Government Relations Consultant and provides technical expertise and legislative strategy. She works closely with the Coalition of Asian American Leaders and Release Minnesota 8.

ThaoMee has also held leadership roles at the Center for Health Equity at the Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota Housing Partnership, and Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women.  She has international experience working for the International Organization of Migration and the United Nations High Commissioner’s for Refugees. 

She received her Juris Doctor degree from the University of Pennsylvania. She also has a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a B.A. 


KaYing Yang

coalition of asian american leaders, policy director

KaYing is a social justice advocate who has built and led community development efforts in Colorado, Minnesota, Washington, DC, Thailand and Laos. Between 2004 and 2013 she lived and worked with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Thailand managing the cultural orientation program for refugees who were being resettled to the US and other countries. In Laos, she worked for the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank Group where she managed projects to improve the business environment for local and international investors.

KaYing began her career as a community organizer and executive manager providing social services and advocacy for the protection of refugees and immigrants. In the mid-1990s, she served as executive director for the only national Southeast Asian American advocacy organization in the US based in Washington, DC. Nationally, KaYing has worked in coalition with Asian American civil rights groups to address alarming gaps in educational achievements, lack of desegregated data, economic and health disparities that plagued large sectors of the Southeast Asian American community. To ensure that these issues were addressed at institutional levels, she co-founded several organizations, such as the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF), and worked closely with the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI).

KaYing has also intensified her work to end gender-based violence and creating gender equity through movement building among the Southeast Asian refugee and immigrant diaspora. Related to this work, in 2008 she founded the first Hmong woman’s organization in Laos to help women and girls access educational and economic opportunities. She also co-founded and serves as President of RedGreen Rivers (, a social enterprise working with women and girls in the Mekong Region to bring their handcrafted products to a global market.

Today, she is the policy director for the Coalition of Asian American Leaders - CAAL (, a network of more than 500 individual leaders representing diverse sectors. CAAL's mission is to harness our power to advance equity by connecting, learning, and acting together to improve lives.

Pao Yang

fresno center for new americans, executive director

Mr. Pao Yang, as the Executive Director of Fresno Center for New Americans, has more than 18 years of working experience in the non-profit and education sectors and has provided an array of social services, advocacy and leadership training, and educational services to the unserved and underserved communities of Fresno County. 

Nkauj Iab Yang

southeast asia resource action center, director of california policy and programs

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Nkauj Iab Yang is the Director of California Policy and Programs. She oversees SEARAC's California health, education, and immigration equity advocacy, as well as the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) young men's work. She works with various coalitions to identify and advocate for policies to support Southeast Asian American (SEAA) communities and provides training and technical assistance to community-based partners throughout California to advocate for their community's needs and demands at the local and state level.

Prior, Nkauj Iab spent the last 11 years committed to youth organizing and youth development work both in Sacramento and Oakland. Before coming to SEARAC, Nkauj Iab served as the Program Manager with Banteay Srei, overseeing programs and direct services for Southeast Asian American young women impacted by sexual exploitation. Through Banteay Srei, Nkauj Iab led a small collaborative to pass the resolution to expand and report disaggregated Asian American and Pacific Islander data at Oakland Unified School District. In the mid-2000s, Nkauj Iab was an education justice organizer with Youth Together, building the leadership of young people to fight for education equity.