KQED Honors APA Local Heroes, Offers Heritage Month Programming

KQED Public Television and Union Bank held their annual Asian Pacific American Heritage Month celebration and Local Hero awards ceremony on May 4, honoring four outstanding community members.

Jeff Mori is currently executive director of Asian American Recovery Services Inc., (AARS), a nonprofit community-based organization that provides specialized substance abuse services to Asian and Pacific Islander communities in San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

Before joining AARS, Mori served as director of the Mayor’s Office of Children, Youth and Their Families for the City and County of San Francisco under Mayor Brown. Prior to that, he served as executive director of the Japanese Community Youth Council (JCYC), an organization that he helped co-found. JCYC is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

Vane Feuy Chao has served as a mental health counselor for the last 24 years at Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI), the largest community-based organization focused on the health and well-being of Asians in Santa Clara County.

As a leader of the Mien people in Laos, Chao became a political refugee and lived in a refugee camp in Thailand from 1975-1979. He arrived in the U.S. in 1979 and relocated to San Jose in 1981. He has dedicated his career in San Jose to community service and he has helped thousands of community members since then.

Kennith Lee started his career in education as a counseling intern with the Oakland Unified School District and as a teacher with the Teacher Corps Program in Atlanta during the mid-1970s. In the 1980s, he worked in the private sector at Southern Pacific Transportation Company and Itel Rail Corporation.

He re-entered the education field in the 1990s as a classroom teacher at Commodore Stockton Elementary School (now Gordon J. Lau), counselor at Marina Middle School, and counselor and dean at Presidio Middle School prior to his current position as the assistant principal at Francisco Middle School. He is a third-generation San Franciscan and a product of the San Francisco Unified School District, having attended Francisco when it was a junior high school.

Sue Lee began her public service at San Francisco City Hall in 1981 as a legislative aide to Supervisor Nancy Walker, then as a specialist on small business issues under Mayors Dianne Feinstein and Art Agnos. Under Mayor Willie Brown, she was the director of economic development during the booming tech years and most recently was on the Planning Commission, serving as president during her six years there.

Lee became executive director of the Chinese Historical Society of America Museum (CHSA) in 2004 and is responsible for its stewardship of the Chinese American community narrative through its on-site and traveling exhibits, public programs, publications and treasured collections.


LOCAL APA HEROES HONORED — David Seymourf Mori, Vane Feuy Chao, Kennith Lee and Sue Lee photos courtesy of KQED


“Independent Lens: The Cats of Mirikitani” — An intimate exploration of the lingering wounds of war and the healing powers of friendship and art. May 2, 1 p.m.

“Independent Lens: Wings of Defeat” — What were the Japanese kamikaze thinking just before crashing into their targets? Through rare interviews with surviving pilots, Risa Morimoto retraces their journeys. May 5, 11 p.m.; May 6, 5 a.m.; May 6, 10 p.m.

“California’s Gold: Little Tokyo” — A look at the history of the Japanese American community in downtown Los Angeles. May 11, 2 p.m.

“Spark: World Premieres” Focusing on the agony and the ecstasy of presenting new works, Kent Nagano and the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra premiere Naomi Sekiya’s unusual concerto for double guitar. May 12, 7:30 p.m.; May 13, 1:30 p.m.; May 14, 11:30 p.m.; May 15, 5:30 a.m.

“Nova: Secrets of the Samurai Sword” — The art and science of making the perfect sword. May 15, 6 p.m.

“California’s Gold: Manzanar” — Uncovering the internment camp’s complex history. May 19, 2 p.m.

“California’s Gold: Songbird of Manzanar” A profile of Mary Kageyama Nomura, who became a popular singer while interned at Manzanar. May 26, 2 p.m.

“Spark.” Violinist Midori makes an appearance at San Francisco Performances. May 26, 7:30 p.m.; May 27, 1:30 a.m.; May 28, 11:30 p.m.; May 29, 5:30 a.m.

Select KQED Public Television APA Heritage Month programming on KQED Channel 9HD (Comcast 709, digital 9.1):

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