The Asian-American community, while still growing, continues to be a marginalized group. Last year shootings at three Atlanta-area spas claimed the lives of eight people, six of them women of Asian descent, magnifying a need for increased protection for the community. In the wake of the mass shooting, The Asian American Foundation (TAAF) was established as a means to provide funding for a number of focus areas that impact the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities.
Just two weeks after its May 2021 launch, the organization's board, composed of members Li Lu, Joe Tsai, Joseph Bae, Peng Zhao, Sheila Lirio, and Jonathan Greenblatt, announced it raised nearly $1.1 billion through its "Giving Challenge" on top of its initial $125 million board commitment. The funds were a welcome boost, particularly after a report by the Asian-Americans Pacific Islander in Philanthropy group found that just 0.2 percent of all U.S. grantmaking is designated for AAPI communities.
"First and foremost, more voices than ever before are standing up and demanding change. Upon TAAF's launch, we introduced the AAPI Giving Challenge — inviting foundations, corporations, and individuals to support AAPI communities and causes," TAAF CEO Norman Chen told Cheddar.
He noted that over the next five years, 85 percent of funds raised by the Giving Challenge partners, which are expected to be revealed in the coming weeks, will be distributed directly to impacted AAPI communities.
The priority for TAAF, according to Chen, is to help members of the AAPI community truly become equals in American society and not be an invisible group.
During the height of the coronavirus pandemic, members of the Asian community were unfairly targeted and blamed for spreading the sickness after elected officials like former President Donald Trump referred to COVID-19 as the "Chinese virus." Chen said that while remarks like the ones issued by the former president exacerbated hate toward the AAPI community, "that hate is rooted in generations upon generations of anti-AAPI sentiment in America." He also called for a framework to be implemented so attitudes and misconceptions about the community are changed.
"There are already many organizations across the country supporting those impacted by anti-AAPI hate, and we see our role at TAAF as being the builder of the infrastructure that can better connect those efforts in order to achieve lasting change. That's why we launched our Anti-Hate National Network last year, which includes local AAPI Action Centers in Oakland, Chicago, and New York," Chen said.
One initiative that the foundation rallied behind was getting more AAPI history added to school curriculums. Earlier this year, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation that mandates an AAPI-inclusive curriculum is taught in each school in the state, and New York City schools will add AAPI history programs in the fall of this year. In 2021, Illinois became the first state to pass similar legislation.
"We hope more states will follow suit. And just last week, the Senate unanimously passed legislation to establish a commission to study creating a National Museum of Asian Pacific American history and culture in Washington — a long overdue initiative to honor the numerous contributions AAPIs have made to this great nation of ours," Chen added.
This article was updated at 12:35 pm on Monday, May 31 to clarify that $1.1 billion was raised by TAAF's "Giving Challenge."