The California Asian American and Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus Celebrates Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month

The California Asian American and Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus Celebrates Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month

SACRAMENTO, CA — Earlier this week, the Asian American & Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus (AAPILC) began its celebration of 2024 AAPI Heritage Month.

AAPI Heritage Month was first signed into law in 1992. The month of May was chosen to commemorate the first Japanese immigrants into the United States on May 7, 1843, and the anniversary of the transcontinental railroad being completed on May 10, 1869.

This May, the AAPILC presented House Resolution 91 (Assemblymember Low) and Senate Resolution 81 (Senator Min) to recognize AAPI Heritage Month and the contributions of the AAPI community to California and the United States. In celebration of AAPI Heritage Month, the AAPILC held a welcome events for honorees on May 13, 2024.

During the Floor ceremonies, the AAPILC honored 15 distinguished AAPI leaders and resolutions were presented to each honoree to acknowledge their demonstrated excellence in their craft and uplifting the greater AAPI community.

This year’s 2024 California AAPI Heritage Month Honorees are:

  • Jason Chan, Board member, National ACE and APAICS

Jason Chan serves both as Chief of Staff to Ken McNeely, AT&T’s President of the West Region, and as Director of External Affairs, where he leads AT&T’s national Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander engagement. Prior to joining AT&T, Jason held multiple government appointments with the City and County of San Francisco including Appointments Secretary for Mayor Gavin Newsom and served as the Political Director for the Ed Lee for Mayor Campaign. Jason currently serves on the board of the National Asian Pacific Islander Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship and the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies.

  • Chun-Yen Chen, Executive Director, Asian Pacific Community Fund

As Executive Director of the Asian Pacific Community Fund, Chun-Yen Chen provides executive leadership and directs operations and grantmaking for the organization. Under her leadership, APCF has grown from 12 AAPI nonprofits in 1990 to over 80 AAPI nonprofits within its network in 2024. Together, APCF and its network provide programs and services in 43 API languages to over 1,250,000 people. In her role as the Gateway and Resources consultant for AAPI philanthropy, Chun-Yen worked closely with individuals, families, and entrepreneurs in establishing the Donor Advised Fund, Giving Circle, and Customized Scholarship Program to create their philanthropic legacy and centralize AAPI giving power.

  • Kenneth Fong, Founder & Chairman, Kenson Ventures

Dr. Kenneth Fong is a civic leader, philanthropist, biomedical entrepreneur, and cultivator. He served as the Trustee of the California State University system for seven years and witnessed the installation of three new Asian American Presidents in the Bay Area California State University campuses. He supported scholarships including the annual Trustee Fong Scholarship and the endowed annual Kenneth S. Fong Translational Research Award for faculty and students at San Francisco State University. His contributions have awarded him the Alumni Hall of Fame (1998) and Alumni of the Year (2006). Dr. Fong founded his first biotech company, Clontech in 1984 and grew it to 400 employees (the largest of its kind by an Asian American at the time). Then, he turned to seeding and cultivating over 15 biotech companies over the years, the last being Turning Point Therapeutics.

  • Audra Ibarra, Judge, Santa Clara County Superior Court

Governor Jerry Brown appointed Judge Audra Ibarra to the Santa Clara County Superior Court in December 2018. She is the first Filipino-American judge in Santa Clara County and the first female Filipino-American trial judge in the Bay Area. Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye appointed Judge Ibarra as a pro tem justice on the Second District Court of Appeal from June 2021 to January 2022. Judge Ibarra is a former president of the California Asian Pacific American Judges Association and a former voting member of the Judicial Council. She currently serves on the Judicial Council’s criminal law advisory committee and is a founding member and treasurer of the California Women Judges.

  • Phong La, Assessor, Alameda County

Phong La champions Asian American empowerment causes and his work has motivated others to embrace his ideas. Phong built a reputation for developing political alliances, building political strategies, incubating community relationships, and strengthening community programs. Through various community and political activities, Phong established strong relationships with federal, state, and local leaders throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

  • Danvy Le, Associate Professor, California State University East Bay

Dr. Danvy Le is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at CSU East Bay. A child of refugees, Dr. Le was born and raised in Little Saigon, Orange County, CA, where she was inspired by the political activity of Vietnamese Americans. A first generation college graduate, she earned her doctorate at UC Irvine and centers her work around community, inclusion, and empowerment. Her research examines mobilizing communities of color towards political incorporation and appears in several academic journals. In the community, Danvy has volunteered with organizations including AAPI Women Lead, Initiate Justice, and the Ella Baker Center to uplift communities.

  • Patrick Lee, Co-Founders, Rotten Tomatoes

Patrick Lee is an entrepreneur best known for being a Co-Founder and the founding CEO of Rotten Tomatoes, a leading entertainment website focused on movie reviews and news. He is the Co-Founder and CEO of Fanverse, a curated community of the best builders, creators, and talent around the comic con fandom. Prior to that, he was a Co-Founder and Managing Partner of PKO Investments, a syndicate of notable investors investing in the next generation of founders at the intersection of tech and entertainment. He is an active advisor to a number of startups and also mentored and/or supported programs at 500 Startups, SOSV, Berkeley SkyDeck, Blue Startups, Founder Institute, and more.

  • Frances Lujan, Museum Director, Pacific Islander Ethnic Art Museum

Fran Lujan is the first CHamoru (the Indigenous people of the Mariana Islands) to hold the position of museum director in the continental US. She is the guardian of the Pacific Islands’ beloved ancestral pieces at Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum (PIEAM). Her practice of care is rooted in re-Indigenization, radical joy, and intergenerational curation. She holds space to illuminate the multiplicities of Pacific Islander artists and cultural practitioners’ presence and practices in roots and in routes. She is known among Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities as Aunty Fran. She is a recipient of the Ernest M. Pon Memorial Service Award from the National Association for Ethnic Studies, which recognizes Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders dedicated to human rights and equal justice.

  • Raj Mathai, Lead News Anchor, NBC Bay Area

Twelve-time Emmy award winner Raj Mathai is the weeknight news anchor for NBC Bay Area. Raj anchors the nightly 5:30 p.m., 6 p.m., 7 p.m., and 11 p.m. news and is among the Bay Area’s most well-known journalists. In 1995, Raj became the country’s first Indian sportscaster. Prior to his career in television, he served as a public relations assistant for the San Diego Chargers for five seasons. Raj is on the Board of Governors for the San Francisco Symphony and Board of Directors for the Asian Pacific Fund. He and his family contribute to various Bay Area charities.

  • Billy Ngo, Founder & Chef, Kru Contemporary Japanese Cuisine

Chef Billy Ngo is the Founder, Chef, and Partner of Kru Contemporary Japanese Cuisine, Fish Face Poke Bar, Healthy Hounds Kitchen and Kodaiko Ramen and Bar in Sacramento, CA. Billy was born in a refugee camp in Hong Kong and moved to Sacramento when he was eight months old. Billy has been a featured Chef at Pebble Beach Food & Wine and Los Angeles Food & Wine and has made several television appearances on popular culinary shows including Glutton for Punishment, Man Fire Food, Cutthroat Kitchen, and Chopped. Billy was named a finalist for the “Best Chef California” James Beard Awards 2024, the results of which will be coming out on June 10th.

  • Teresita Santiago, First Filipina Mayor in the U.S. and California, City of Delano

Born and raised in the Philippines, Tess Santiago migrated to the U.S. in 1965 at the age of 14. For her service and leadership roles in various boards and organizations, she was a recipient of the 1994 Legislature’s Woman of the Year Award. She served as councilmember for the City of Delano for six years and as Mayor for two years. She is the first female mayor in the history of Delano and the first U.S. female Mayor with Filipino ancestry.

  • Greg Sarris, Chairman, The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria

Greg Sarris received his Ph.D. in Modern Thought and Literature from Stanford University, where he was awarded the Walter Gore’s Award for excellence in teaching. He is serving his 16th consecutive elected term as Chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria. In addition to serving as Chairman of his Tribe, he serves as President of the Tribe’s Economic Development Board. He was appointed by Governor Newsom in June 2023 to the University of California Board of Regents. He has published several books, including Grand Avenue, an award-winning collection of short stories, which he adapted for an HBO miniseries and co-executive produced with Robert Redford. His forthcoming book The Forgetters was released in April 2024.

  • Kim Tavaglione, Executive Director, San Francisco Labor Council

Kim Tavaglione was born in Seoul, South Korea, to a U.S. military father and a South Korean woman. As a first- generation student, Kim attended City College of San Francisco and later graduated from San Francisco State University. Kim became involved in the Labor Movement in 2002 when she joined the staff of SEIU 250 as a union rep. She then moved on to be the community and political director of the National Union of Healthcare Workers. During this time Kim served as an Executive Committee member of the San Francisco Labor Council for nearly a decade. Kim Tavaglione joined the Council as Campaign Director in September of 2018 and in 2020, assumed the role of Executive Director of the Council, becoming the first woman to lead the Council.

  • Jeremy Tran, Executive Director, COO, & Co-Founder, Gold House

Gold House is the leading cultural ecosystem that unites, invests in, and champions Asian Pacific creators and companies to power tomorrow for all. Their innovative programs and platforms include membership systems and events to fortify relationships among the Asian Pacific community and with other marginalized communities; first-of its-kind investment vehicles and accelerators to propel the next generation of top Asian Pacific founders, creatives, and leaders; and industry-leading research, consulting, and marketing to promote authentic and affirming portrayals. Jeremy Tran is receiving the award on behalf of Gold House.

  • Late Alan Nishio, Former Board President, Little Tokyo Service Center

Alan Nishio was a dedicated and respected leader in the Southern California Asian and Pacific Islander community who had spent more than five decades working with multiple generations in social and civic engagement programs. Alan served as the President of the Board of Directors for the Little Tokyo Service Center – the leading Asian Pacific American community development corporation in the region – for over 12 years, totaling 36 years as a member of the Board. Alan was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun (Kunsho) award from the Japanese Government for his work with the Japanese American community and for his efforts to strengthen relations between Japan and the United States.

The California Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus represents and advocates for the interests of the diverse API communities throughout California. It seeks to increase Asian Pacific Islander participation and representation in all levels of government.

Website of the California API Legislative Caucus:


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