Reflections on 2021: Top 10 Highlights

As we close on 2021, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC reflects on the ways we worked with our communities to rise to the challenges we faced this year.

It is impossible to reflect on our work without acknowledging the devastating impact of COVID-19 on our community — and other communities of color. And at this point of reflection, we look back on the tragedies and the remarkable resilience of our communities in the face of anti-Asian hate. On March 16, six women of Asian descent were murdered in an act of abhorrent hate. Just weeks later, four members of our Sikh community were murdered in the Indianapolis shooting. In our lowest points and times of despair, there was an outpouring of support that we have never seen before, spurring our community and the nation into action.

Thanks to you, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC protected, empowered, and advanced our communities nationwide this year. Please consider making a contribution as we head into 2022 and continue to fight for the civil and human rights of Asian Americans and beyond: Donate Today.

  1. Passage of Historic COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act
President and Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, John C. Yang, shaking President Joe Biden’s hand at the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act signing on May 20, 2021.

In a historic move this Spring, Congress passed, and President Biden signed into law, the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act after months of critical advocacy from Advancing Justice | AAJC and allied civil rights organizations. Passage of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act addresses anti-Asian hate by improving hate crimes data collection, reporting, and connection to support services. This bill also marked a much-needed step forward in prioritizing language access and culturally competent outreach to our communities in reporting and addressing anti-Asian hate, while also giving the communities power to allocate resources for community solutions to hate and discrimination, including non-law enforcement support services for victims and communities.

2. Empowered Over 120,000 Individuals in All 50 States to Take Action Against Anti-Asian Hate Through Joint Bystander Intervention Trainings With Hollaback!

Advancing Justice | AAJC first joined forces with Hollaback! in April 2020 to address anti-Asian American harassment in the wake of COVID-19, and have now trained over 120,000 people to safely intervene and stand up to hate through public and private sessions.

These trainings allowed our community and allies to act when confronted with hate. The tremendous interest pushed us to launch in-language trainings with simultaneous interpretation in Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), Korean, Vietnamese, Hindi, Tagalog, and Thai. We also have created videos that can be used to teach young children how to confront bullying and harassment. This collaboration became a model for additional partnerships with the Asian American Advancing Justice affiliation and several other organizations in need of addressing hate and bias.

3. Strengthened and Expanded Our Support to Community-Based Organizations Nationwide

This year, we re-doubled our efforts to support Asian American communities nationwide through partnerships, trainings, and subgrants to build the capacity of community-based organizations serving Asian American communities. Advancing Justice | AAJC has already committed to investing over $4.5 million — including an initiative funded through an Advancing Justice | AAJC and Kaiser Permanente’s partnership — to allow over 40 Asian American Pacific Islander organizations to tackle issues such as anti-Asian hate, redistricting, digital empowerment, and misinformation/disinformation. These relationships between national, state, and local groups will be fundamental to bring about sustainable, long-lasting change.

4. Served as a Leading National Voice on Asian American Issues Through Exponential Growth in Social and News Media

Advancing Justice | AAJC has served as a national voice for Asian Americans during the pandemic and in response to increased attacks on our community. We have voiced the needs of our community in mainstream and social media, before corporate leaders and the highest levels of the government, and with national and local community leaders. During the year, we have been quoted or cited in over 5,800 articles/news programs, including primetime on CBS, CNN, and NBC, and print media as diverse as Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Rolling Stones, and Teen Vogue. We have testified 8 times before Congress, spoken at over 150 different events, with a total audience of over 150,000 viewers. Across social media in 2021, we have garnered over 335,000 engagements and 12.1 million impressions.

5. Led Advocacy Against the Government’s Racial Profiling of Asian Americans and Supported 70 Targeted Community Members

Since the launch of the Anti-Racial Profiling Project in October 2020, Advancing Justice | AAJC has led advocacy efforts in response to the government’s racial targeting and profiling of Asian Americans and Asian immigrant scientists, researchers, and scholars. We spearheaded advocacy calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to end the “China Initiative” as well as other practices and programs in other agencies engaging in race-based targeting of Asian Americans for surveillance and investigations. Efforts include meetings with the White House and Executive agencies, litigation support, and deep engagement with Members of Congress for congressional oversight.

Advancing Justice | AAJC established the first bilingual legal referral service on this issue in the country. Along with our advocacy efforts, we helped nearly 70 impacted persons in 24 states, connecting them to specialized experienced attorneys and providing them with advocacy support.

6. Spearheaded Advocacy for the Inclusion of Reuniting Families Act in President Biden’s U.S. Citizenship Act

Together with the Value Our Families campaign, Advancing Justice | AAJC advocated for and won the inclusion of Representative Judy Chu’s Reuniting Families Act in President Biden’s Day One immigration bill, which would modernize and fix the family immigration system. Through advocacy throughout the year with Congress and the administration, provisions to clear family immigration backlogs were passed by the House, and are under consideration in the Senate.

7. Defended Our Community’s Right to Fair and Accurate Representation Through Census, Voting, and Redistricting

This year, we successfully advocated for the immediate repeal of the 2020 Presidential Memorandum, which sought to exclude undocumented individuals in the apportionment count, and Executive Order 13880 (issued in July 2019), which sought the creation of a block-level citizen-voting age population dataset. Advancing Justice | AAJC was also a key partner in the effort to secure a bipartisan Congressional response with the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4), which would restore and modernize essential provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that were gutted in the Shelby v. Holder Supreme Court decision, and serve as an important first step to counter discriminatory voting laws.

In an initiative to empower more Asian Americans to participate in redistricting, the process of redrawing political district boundaries, Advancing Justice | AAJC provided funding to local partners in 11 states and also worked with the Asian Americans Advancing Justice affiliation to create four factsheets, three of which are translated into 13 Asian languages.

8. Pioneered a Path for Greater Access to Technology as the Leading Organization in Asian American Tech Policy

Advancing Justice | AAJC is the first Asian American civil rights organization to have a program dedicated specifically to advocating for greater equity in telecommunications and technology for Asian Americans. The Telecommunications, Technology and Media team worked with the FCC by providing in-language resources on the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program on the FCC website to help get low-income Asian American families online, and they have also hosted free webinars to promote media literacy and protect Asian American and Asian immigrant communities from mis/disinformation.

9. Advocated for Equity Through Involvement in Key Landmark Cases

Throughout 2021, Advancing Justice | AAJC played key roles advocating for equity and justice in several landmark court cases, most notably in the areas of education, voting rights, and reproductive rights. In the lawsuit Asian Americans Advancing Justice — Chicago et al. v. White et al. (N.D. Ill.), we represented the Advancing Justice — Chicago affiliate as well as other plaintiffs and successfully settled, ensuring efficient in-language voter registration services through driver services in Illinois.

Our litigation team also filed numerous amicus briefs this year, notably in the cases of Coalition for TJ v. Fairfax County School Board in support of equitable access to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology and Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, in which Advancing Justice | AAJC and NAPAWF represented 29 community and civil rights organizations advocating for the reproductive rights of Asian American and Pacific Islander women.

10. Celebrated 30 Years of Protecting and Advancing the Civil Rights of Asian Americans at the 2021 American Courage Awards

While we celebrated this year’s American Courage Awards online, our event was nothing short of impactful and moving for the hundreds who tuned in. With the help of some special friends, we honored CBS News Senior White House Correspondent Weijia Jiang with the American Courage Award, our partner Hollaback! with the Changemaker Award, and Bank of America with the Bridge Builder Award.

In commemoration of our 30-year anniversary, we reflected on how our organization has grown and evolved through staff reflections and a staff fireside chat featuring President and Executive Director John C. Yang, Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives Marita Etcubanez, and Manager of Immigration Policy Daishi Miguel Tanaka. We also heard from impacted community members on how they have been moved to combat anti-Asian hate and enjoyed exclusive performances from Bay Area rapper Ruby Ibarra and NYC Youth Poet Laureate Serena Yang.

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Fighting for civil rights for all and working to empower #AsianAmericans to participate in our democracy.

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