Happy Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month from Mission Graduates! We’re paying tribute to the generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders who have enriched America’s history and are instrumental in its future success.
This month we compiled a list of 11 leaders, activists, creatives, and teachers who work to better San Francisco and our country for future generations. In the spirit of community, we’d like to share the stories and accomplishments of these people with you today. Click on their Instagram handles next to each name to stay connected to their work and learn more.
Dr. Russell Jeung, in collaboration with the Asian Pacific Planning and Policy Council (A3PCON) and Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA), launched Stop AAPI Hate in 2020 through the Asian American Studies Department of San Francisco State University. He currently researches the sociology of race, the sociology of religion, and social movements while also conducting community-based participatory research with Asian American Communities. He received a B.A. in Human Biology and a M.A. in Education from Stanford University. After working in China and in the Mayor’s Office of San Francisco, he obtained his Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley.
Eungie Joo (@eungiej00)
Eungie Joo is the curator of contemporary art at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). Born in Pennsylvania, Joo earned her BA in Africana Studies from Vassar College, Poughkeepsie and a PhD in the Department of Ethnic Studies from UC Berkeley. She currently lives and works in San Francisco.
At SFMOMA, Joo organized the group exhibition Soft Power (2019-2020) which looked at the role of artists as citizens and social actors. She previously served as the Director of Art and Cultural Instituto Inhotim, Brumadinho, Brazil and Keith Haring Director and Curator of Education and Public Programs, New Museum, New York. She’s also received the Walter Hopps Award for Curatorial Achievement, Menil Collection, Houston.
Cecilia Chung (@smallglimpses)
Cecilia Chung is an internationally recognized civil rights leader who advocates for HIV/AIDS awareness and care, LGBT equality, and social justice. An immigrant from Hong Kong, Cecilia has called San Francisco home since 1984. Cecilia has broken ground in a number of ways including: being the first transgender woman and first Asian to be elected to lead the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Celebration; the first transgender woman and first person living openly with HIV to Chair the San Francisco Human Rights Commission; and, an architect of the nation’s most ambitious publicly funded program addressing economic justice within the transgender community through the city’s Transgender Discrimination Task Force.
Cecilia has continued her advocacy work as a board member of the Asian Pacific Islander Wellness Center, a founding producer of Trans March, the first Deputy Director of the Transgender Law Center (@translawcenter), and on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS after being appointed by President Barak Obama.
Connie Wun (@seewun)
Dr. Wun‘s work is a reflection of her lifelong commitment to ending racial and gender-based violence. Her areas of expertise include community-driven research, violence against women and girls of color, school discipline and punishment. She’s the founder and director of Transformative Research: An Institute for Research + Social Transformation, which partners and trains community-based organizations in community-driven research, and is the co-founder of AAPI Women Lead.
Dr. Wun is a former high school teacher, advocate for sex workers, and anti-sexual assault counselor. She received her Master’s in Women Studies from SFSU, holds a Ph.D. in Education from UC Berkeley, and recently completed her postdoctoral fellowship at Mills College in Oakland, CA.
Eric Toda (@toda)
Eric Toda acts as the Global Head of Social Marketing at Facebook, previously holding leadership roles at Gap Inc, Airbnb, Snapchat, and Nike. He attended the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where he studied Political Science and Criminal Justice, and then San Francisco State University, receiving his B.S. in Political Science and Criminal Justice/Psychology. Since then, Eric has advised numerous organizations, leveraging his natural abilities for storytelling, creative strategy, and leadership. He sits on the Advisory Council for the Asian American Foundation (@taaforg), is an investor in Hyphen Capital (@hypencap), a firm that backs Asian American entrepreneurs, and is the Board Director for LAAUNCH (Leading Asian Americans to Unite for Change) (@go_laaunch). Eric’s also an advisor and angel investor to disruptive startups, such as Yumi, Wardrobe, Upaway, Fyllo, and others.
Terry Valen (@lmnterry)
Terry Valen received his B.A. in Environmental Science and Policy from Duke University and his Master of Public Health with a focus on Environmental Health Sciences from the University of California, Los Angeles. Valen acts as a national advocate and local community leader for his Filipino peers. He has served as the President of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (@nafconusa), an action-oriented alliance promoting the rights and well-being of Filipinos, for nearly a decade and as the Executive Director of San Francisco’s Filipino Community Center (@filipinocommunitycenter) for over 16 years. Under his leadership, the Filipino Community Center has grown to provide culturally competent programs and services, help community members access free and low-cost resources, and connect families to grassroots organizations and advocates.
Jessie Nguyen (@eatbanhmi)
Jessie Nguyen is the owner and operator for two well-loved San Francisco restaurants: Little Window and Bicycle Bánh Mì. After graduating from UC San Diego with her B.S. in Management Science, Nguyen partnered with her mother to bring their love for healthy and flavorful Vietnamese cuisine to a warm and cozy restaurant, tucked inside an alley in Telegraph Hill.
Her LinkedIn shares a quote from an interview with author Lillian Li, in which Jessie says Lillian identifies why sharing and learning about Viet food feels important. “Growing up with immigrant parents, there’s an understanding at a young age that we might not hear or understand all of our parents’ stories and experiences, but we can always ask them for recipes. And cook those recipes to better understand where they came from and what makes them think of home.”
Cynthia Choi (@cynthiachoi1)
Cynthia Choi serves as the Co-Executive Director of Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA) (@caasanfrancisco), a 50 year old community based civil rights organization based in San Francisco which aims to advance racial justice, economic justice, education equity and immigrant rights; CAA is one of the three founding partners of Stop AAPI Hate. Most recently she was the Vice President of Philanthropic Partnerships at Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy where she was responsible for leveraging strategic opportunities to advance AAPI social justice issues and philanthropic investments.
Prior to CAA, she led initiatives at Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP) focused on leveraging strategic opportunities to advance social justice issues and philanthropic investments. Cynthia has led local, state and national community based organizations working on a range of issues from reproductive justice, gender violence, immigrant/refugee rights and environmental justice issues. She received her B.A. in Ethnic Studies from UC Berkeley.
Jon Osaki (@jtosaki)
Jon Osaki is a native San Franciscan and has served as the Executive Director of the Japanese Community Youth Council (@jcycsf). Under Jon’s leadership, JCYC’s programs have received national recognition for achieving outstanding outcomes for youth and the organization is frequently called upon by the City of San Francisco to implement new initiatives for children and youth. He graduated from SFSU with a B.A. in Business Administration and Management.
Jon has been honored by the Western Association of Educational Opportunity Personnel, and is the recipient of KQED/Union Bank Bank of California Asian Pacific Heritage Month Local Heroes Award, the Silver SPUR award from San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, and several film awards. His most recent film, Alternative Facts: The Lies of Executive Order 9066, explores the false information and political influences which led to the WWII incarceration of Japanese Americans.
Kelly Huang (@kellyahuang1)
Kelly Huang studied Cultural Studies and Critical Theory and Analysis at Indiana University Bloomington before receiving her M.A. in Arts Administration and Policy from the School of Art Institute of Chicago. She relocated to San Francisco in 2009 where she worked at Zlot Buell + Associates, an art advisory firm, for a decade. In 2019, Gagosian gallery named Kelly Huang director of its San Francisco location alongside Charlie Spalding.
In 2020 Kelly established KCH Advisory (@kchadvisory), a Bay Area art advisory dedicated to building meaningful art collections aligned with individual and family goals, personal interests, and passions. KCH Advisory also works to build support and create opportunities for Asian American artists and collections, with the firm belief that representation and community matter.
Manohar Raju (@sfpublicdefender)
Manohar Raju is the San Francisco Public Defender and a founding member of Public Defenders for Racial Justice. His parents emigrated from a farming village in India to raise their son on the East Coast of the United States. Raju completed his undergraduate degree at Columbia University, and holds a Master’s degree in South Asian Studies from U.C. Berkeley, where he also earned his law degree. He worked as a Deputy Public Defender in Contra Costa County for seven years before joining the SF Public Defender’s felony unit in 2008.