Asian American business leaders seek to fight discrimination


Asian American business leaders are launching a foundation to challenge discrimination through what they call the largest philanthropic commitment in history by Asian Americans geared to support members of their own community.

The Asian American Foundation, which announced its launch on May 3, said it has raised $125 million from its board members to support Asian American and Pacific Islander organizations over the next five years. The foundation has also raised an additional $125 million from individual and corporate donors through its “AAPI Giving Challenge.”

Donors include founder Sheila Lirio Marcelo; Li Lu, the founder and chairman of the investment firm Himalaya Capital; Joseph Bae, the co-president of the investment firm Kohlberg Kravis & Roberts; Jerry Yang, the co-founder of Yahoo; Joseph Tsai, the co-founder and executive vice chairman of the Chinese technology company Alibaba; and Peng Zhao, the CEO of the financial services firm Citadel Securities.

The announcement coincides with Asian American Heritage month and with the aftermath of the March killings of eight people, including six Asian women, in Atlanta, which led to a spike in philanthropic pledges and donations to Asian American groups and causes.

Experts cautioned that it was unclear whether those donations would be sustained for Asian American and Pacific Islander organizations. Though Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders make up about 6% of the population of the United States, organizations that focus on those communities have historically been neglected in philanthropy. One report from the advocacy organization Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy shows that just 0.2% of contributions from U.S. foundations went toward these communities in 2018, the latest year for which the group has adequate analysis of awarded contributions.

The Asian American Foundation says its giving will focus on three areas: supporting organizations and leaders who are measuring and challenging violence against Asian American and Pacific Islanders; developing a common data standard that tracks violence and hate incidents; and helping create K-12 and college curriculums that “reflect the history of Asian American and Pacific Islanders as part of the American story.”

It has already made some grants. Before its launch, the foundation contributed a total of $3 million to Asian Americans Advancing Justice, National Asian American Women’s Forum and Stop AAPI Hate, a group that has reported an increase in hate crimes targeting Asian Americans in several cities across the U.S. since March 2020.

Asian American and Pacific Islander communities “need systemic change to ensure we are better supported, represented, and celebrated across all aspects of American life,” said the foundation’s President Sonal Shah, who previously served as a deputy assistant to former President Barack Obama. She added in a statement that the foundation “plans to spark that systemic change and help fundamentally transform AAPI empowerment and support well into the future.”

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