12 AAPI Advocates and Organizations You Need to Know

Highlighting Asian American and Pacific Islander activists and organizations, from Maryland and nationwide, from history to current heroes.

Celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month with us! We are shouting out different people and/or organizations that AAPI staff at ACLU of Maryland suggested. The organizations are led by AAPI folks who are advocating for their rights.

Celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage. Elizabeth Chung, executive director, Asian American Center of Frederick. Chung is standing looking at the camera with a formal suit on. She is smiling.
  1. Elizabeth Chung
    Elizabeth Chung, Executive Director of the Asian American Center of Frederick, has worked closely with Asian Americans to further their rights and has also advocated with immigrant rights groups as well. We’ve been amazed and thankful to work alongside her on issues like the Access to Care bill that would help people who are undocumented get access to healthcare in Maryland. And Chung also advocated for a multicultural curriculum bill that would give schools the opportunity to open their curriculums to different cultures.

    Celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage. Asian American Youth Leadership Empowerment & Development. Group photo outside of members of the organzation.
  2. Asian American Youth Leadership Empowerment and Development
    Asian American Youth Leadership Empowerment and Development was founded in 1998 by Sandy Dang to support the growing immigrant and refugee communities. Their mission is to support low income and underserved Asian Pacific American youth through educational empowerment, identity development, and leadership opportunities. They work to bring up the next generation of Asian American leaders in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia metro area.

    Celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage. Emma Gee (1934-unknown) and Yuji Ichioka (1936-2002). The photo of them together is in black and white.
  3. Emma Gee and Yuji Ichioka (1934–unknown, 1936-2002)
    Emma Gee and Yuji Ichioka were pioneers of Asian American studies and creators of the term Asian American. They were a pan-Asian American couple who sought to advocate for and unite Asian Americans. They were born in the 20th century. Emma was a Chinese American activist and writer who formed a future with Japanese historian and civil rights activist Yuji Ichioka. Together, they founded the Asian American Political Alliance to unify different Asian ethnic groups. The Yuji Ichioka and Emma Gee Endowment in Social Justice and Immigration Studies at the University of California, Los Angelos was established in honor of them.

    Celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage. Maryland Vietnamese Mutual Association. Group photo of members with a handing banner.
  4. Maryland Vietnamese Mutual Association
    The Maryland Vietnamese Mutual Association is the oldest Vietnamese American community-based organization in Maryland. The organization started as a mutual aid organization in 1979 during the height of Vietnamese immigration to America. Currently, they help people of all backgrounds with housing, job seeking, citizenship, and more. The organization has been striving to advance, empower and protect the rights of Vietnamese Americans and other communities in Maryland.

    Celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage. Grace Kee Boggs (1915-2015). Boggs is looking up and back over her right shoulder and smiling.
  5. Grace Lee Boggs (1915–2015)
    Grace Lee Boggs was an Asian American civil rights activist, feminist, labor rights’ advocate from Detroit, and ally to the Black Power Movement. She was a revolutionary. Grace faced significant barriers as an Asian American woman in the 1940s, searching for academic work. She took a low paying job at the University of Chicago Philosophy Library. Soon, she would join the revolutionary left Workers Party. It was from there that she began focusing on advocating for Black rights as well. New York Times wrote an obituary for her stating, she "waged war of inspiration for civil rights, labor, feminism, the environment and other causes for seven decades with an unflagging faith that revolutionary justice was around the corner."

    Celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage. Pauline Woo Tsui (1920-2018). Tsui is pictured with a purple background and she is looking at the camera, smiling, and wearing a red suit.
  6. Pauline Woo Tsui (1920–2018)
    Anti-discrimination activist Pauline Woo Tsui was born in Nanjing, China on October 2, 1920, during a time when women were considered second-class citizens. World War II forced Tsui to flee her home to escape Japanese occupation which led her to secure passage on a boat sailing from China to the United States. In 1992, she moved to Montgomery County, Maryland. Throughout her career, Tsui was a driving force for the equal treatment of women. She served as manager of the Federal Women’s Program, where she advocated for the rights of 700 women employees. She was co-founder of the Organization of Chinese American Woman, was named to the Advisory Board of the State Department for International Women’s Year and was considered a pioneer of Chinese women’s rights in the United States.

    Celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage. Baltimore Asian Resistance in Solidarity (BARS). Group photo in front of an art exhibit that says "Existence / Resistance."
  7. Baltimore Asian Resistance in Solidarity
    Baltimore Asian Resistance in Solidarity (BARS) brings together Asians and Pacific Islanders (API) in Baltimore for learning, mutual support, and radical organizing. They use educational programming to build knowledge about their identities and the systems that impact them. They advocate to dismantle oppressive systems at their core by working with people of many different backgrounds. BARS is actively inclusive of API people of all backgrounds.

    Celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage. Larry Itliong (1913-1977). The photo of Itliong is in black and white. He is speaking in a microphone.
  8. Larry Itilong (1913-1977)
    Larry Itilong was a Filipino labor organizer. He was an activist leader who is most known for his role in leading a strike and boycott against California grape growers, which led to a creation of a union. They demanded to be paid wages equal to the federal minimum wage. Larry is often described as “one of the fathers of the West Coast labor movement.” His advocacy was revolutionary. In 2015, the Governor of California signed a bill that would name October 25 as Larry Itilong Day in the state. Larry Itilong's story and spirit will live on, especially in the hearts of other labor workers, who demand to be paid fairly and have fair working conditions.

    Celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage. Katipunan – Filipino-American Association of Maryland. A person is pictured with a poster for a Philippine Festival in 2015.
  9. Katipunan of Maryland
    Katipunan of Maryland is a Filipino-American organization committed to developing social and educational programs that promote Filipino culture in Maryland. They also provide philanthropic opportunities to support charitable causes in Maryland and the Philippines. Recently, they have been advocating to stop Asian hate by organizing discussions and taking other advocacy actions.

    Celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage. Southeast Asia Resource Action Center. Group rally protest photo in Washington, DC. A person is holidng a mic and many others are holidng signs.
  10. Southeast Asia Resource Action Center
    Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) is a national civil rights organization. They advocate for communities from Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, which are often forgotten about. They seek to realize a socially, politically, and economically just society. This organization was formed in 1979. Concern over the genocide in Cambodia was growing and a large number of refugees were fleeing Southeast Asia. Their name was originally “Indochina Refugee Action Center (IRAC).” After the horrific wars ended and political persecution and violence continued, IRAC pushed the US to welcome the refugees and protect their human rights and dignity. Since then, SEARAC has been building strong and resilient communities, while providing support where needed.

    Celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage. Ying Matties is part of the Howard County Immigrant Justice Coalition and the Chines American Network for Diversity and Opportunity. She is pictured standing a a microphone at a rally.
  11. Ying Matties
    Ying Matties is a Chinese American activist who was crucial in the fight to end the 287(g) program in Howard County. She is a part of the Howard County Immigrant Justice Coalition and the Chinese American Network for Diversity and Opportunity (CAN-DO). The Chinese American Network for Diversity and Opportunity was founded in the spring of 2017 in Howard County, Maryland. The mission of CAN-DO is to promote diversity and inclusion, and to advocate for the social, political, and economic well-being of the Chinese American community in Howard County. Recently, they have been a part of organizing rallies to stop Asian hate around Maryland.

    Celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage. The Sikh Coalition. There is a group photo of Sikn people who are at a rally. There is a person standing at a podium and the steps of a building are filled with Sikh people holding signs.
  12. The Sikh Coalition
    The Sikh Coalition advocates for the realization of the civil and human rights of all people. Sikhism is a religious faith that was founded in the Punjab region of South Asia. This organization creates safe schools, promotes equal employment opportunities, prevents hate and discrimination, empowers their community, and advocates for changes in the courts and in the capital. They were founded as a volunteer group in 2001, after the post 9/11 hate and violence swept the nation. Today, the Sikh Coalition still advocates for the recognition of the community’s humanity and the humanity of all other people as well.

Nick Taichi Steiner, Olivia Spaccasi, Frank Patinella, and Nehemiah Bester contributed to this blog. Nicole McCann designed the images.