First published in the Aug. 6 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.
By Andres de Ocampo
The inaugural Celebrate Asia Festival — an event produced by the Asian Hall of Fame — was hosted last week at the Alex Theatre, bringing state and local elected officials together, along with the organization’s inductees and associates.
The Asian Hall of Fame is a philanthropic nonprofit focused on Asian representation and touted the event as highlighting contributions from Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in various career fields and calling attention to anti-Asian rhetoric and violence in recent years.
The event served as a platform for the nonprofit to announce a new program for hate crime survivors and victims of head trauma as a result of growing hate crimes against Asian Americans.
Maki Hsieh, president and CEO of Asian Hall of Fame and CEO of the Robert Chinn Foundation, said the goal of the inaugural event was for the nonprofit to find ways to expand on its philanthropic impact.
“We are not an advocacy group or justice group,” she said. “We’re a group that elevates and honors influencers and leaders but when Asian hate escalated last year, we realized that we needed to galvanize our leaders to make an impact.”
In August 2021, the FBI reported that there were 279 anti-Asian incidents in the country, which is a 77% increase from 2019. Additionally, a San Francisco-based coalition, Stop AAPI Hate, partnered with Edelman Data and Intelligence and reported 11,500 anti-Asian incidents nationwide from March 2020 to 2022.
At first, Hsieh said that Asian Hall of Fame started a GoFundMe page for hate-crime victims which was successful but, “is it enough to give a check to a hate crime survivor?” she asked. “We didn’t want to do only that.”
As a result, Asian Hall of Fame established a new brain-injury program for survivors of traumatic hate crimes.
“We wanted to have a program that created an endowment for victims of brain trauma and, every year, a percentage of the endowment will go toward finishing up the recovery for a patient that needs extra support,” she said.
As of 2021, the Asian Hall of Fame established three other philanthropic programs for reducing violence and advancing equity for Asian Americans, according to the nonprofit.
Another aspect of the program, besides supporting medical expenses, is to expand on brain injury research. Dr. Linda Liau, chair of the department of neurosurgery at UCLA and Asian Hall of Fame inductee, will be leading the brain injury research, Hsieh said.
“Dr. Linda Liau, being one of our premier and vocal inductees, got together with us to explore the idea of how to prevent hate crimes from happening, increase recovery and advance research to make future recovery faster,” she said.
Maivi Valcourt, a friend of Hsieh and L.A. County resident, attended the event in support of the Asian community.
“With a lot of the anti-Asian sentiment out there, we have to unify as a collective Asian community,” she said. “It’s time for the Asian community to have our voice heard. Through our art and culture and collective successes, it’s important to come together.
“It’s important to embrace and promote our culture,” Valcourt added, addressing the Asian American community in Glendale and Los Angeles. “It’s important to share it with the rest of the world and other communities so that we have a better understanding of each other.”
Glendale Mayor Ardy Kassakhian addressed the crowd last week in a prerecorded address. Robby Krieger, guitarist for The Doors, and Danny Seraphine, drummer for Chicago, performed at the event. Both historic and influential musicians are ambassadors with Asian Hall of Fame.
Additionally, Krieger has hosted the organization at his recording studio in Glendale.
“The Asian Hall of Fame chose Glendale to host the inaugural Celebrate Asia Festival because its residents are predominantly of another culture,” Hsieh said. “You can be of any culture to support this important cause. If we come together, we can make a difference.”
State Sen. Anthony Portantino, whose district includes Glendale, attended the event to honor the founder of Asian Hall of Fame, Karen Wong, and celebrated the nonprofit and its hall of fame inductees for societal contributions.
“Their efforts to promote cultural solidarity, support hate-crime victims, and advance social justice is important work in our state and I look forward to working with them in the future,” Portantino said.
Hsieh recounted her experience as an Asian American in the United States, acknowledging a privileged upbringing, but emphasizing the dichotomy of still feeling like an outsider.
“I realized, coming to America at the age of 15, that, when you come here from another place, you’re seen as foreign,” she said, despite being a U.S. citizen. “It doesn’t matter how many degrees you have or how many cars you have –– you’re seen as foreign. No matter where we or our families come from or what languages they speak, we belong to our communities and we should support each other.”