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Building Black and Asian Solidarity: Women Leading Across Race, History, and Culture

October 8, 2020 @ 6:30 pm 8:00 pm


Thursday, October 8, 2020
6:30 p.m. Moderated Discussion
7:10 p.m. Audience Q&A — Questions welcome via Vimeo
For more information or to register go to https://asiasociety.org/texas/events/webcast-bank-america-womens-leadership-series-0


The Black Lives Matter movement that erupted following the death of George Floyd has forced our nation to confront systemic racial biases and to effect immediate change. People from all races, religions, and genders have been inspired to come together in solidarity and in support of Black lives. The U.S. also has a complicated history of anti-Asian discrimination which includes the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, the U.S.’s first federal law suspending immigration of an entire ethnic group, and the Japanese Internment Act of 1942, which led to the internment of thousands of Japanese residents and Japanese American citizens during World War II.

The dynamic of Asian and Black American communities in history is often overlooked. The Asian American movement and many of its grassroots organizations were inspired by the Black liberation movement. Often, Asian American women were at the forefront of building coalitions for civil rights across racial lines. Prominent examples are Yuri Kochiyama, who famously allied herself with the Civil Rights Movement and became a friend to Malcolm X, and Ina Sugihara, a civil rights organizer who became a founding member of the Congress of Racial Equity (CORE) and created multiracial coalitions through the Japanese American Citizens League. Sugihara emphasized the importance of multiracial alliances to fight discrimination, and has been quoted as saying “The fate of each minority depends upon the extent of justice given all other groups.”

During the current challenging times, solidarity, support, and strength between all communities are imperative to move the nation forward in the right direction. Join Asia Society as inspirational women leaders explore the depth of Black and Asian American experiences in the country, discuss how to overcome racial conflict and division between communities, and share their hopes for cross-racial understanding and collaboration as we build a just and equitable future together.


Ruth J. Simmons serves as President of Prairie View A&M University. She was President of Brown University from 2001-2012. Under her leadership, Brown made significant strides in improving its standing as one of the world’s finest research universities.

A French professor before entering university administration, President Simmons held an appointment as a Professor of Comparative Literature and Africana Studies at Brown. After completing her Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literatures at Harvard, she served in various faculty and administrative roles at the University of Southern California, Princeton University, and Spelman College before becoming president of Smith College, the largest women’s college in the United States. At Smith, she launched a number of important academic initiatives, including an engineering program, the first at an American women’s college.

Simmons is the recipient of many honors, including a Fulbright Fellowship to France, the 2001 President’s Award from the United Negro College Fund, the 2002 Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal, the 2004 Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal, the Foreign Policy Association Medal, the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, and the Centennial Medal from Harvard University. Simmons is a member of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Council on Foreign Relations, and serves on the boards of the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the Holdsworth Center. She also serves on the Board of Directors of Square. Awarded numerous honorary degrees, she received the Brown Faculty’s highest honor: the Susan Colver Rosenberger Medal in 2011. In 2012, she was named a ‘chevalier’ of the French Legion of Honor.

Helen Zia is an activist, author, and former journalist. After twelve years in the making, Last Boat out of Shanghai: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Fled Mao’s Revolution is out! Helen’s latest book traces the lives of migrants and refugees from another cataclysmic time in history that has striking parallels to the difficulties facing migrants today. She interviewed more than 100 survivors of that exodus and countless others. Helen’s essay in the New York Times reveals her mother’s secret that inspired her to write this book.

In 2000, her first book was published: Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People, a finalist for the prestigious Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize. She also authored the story of Wen Ho Lee in My Country Versus Me, about the Los Alamos scientist who was falsely accused of being a spy for China in the “worst case since the Rosenbergs.” She was Executive Editor of Ms. Magazine and a founding board co-chair of the Women’s Media Center. She has been active in many non-profit organizations, including Equality Now, AAJA, and KQED. Her ground-breaking articles, essays, and reviews have appeared in many publications, books, and anthologies, receiving numerous awards.

The daughter of immigrants from China, Helen has been outspoken on issues ranging from human rights and peace to women’s rights and countering hate violence and homophobia. She is featured in the Academy Award-nominated documentary, Who Killed Vincent Chin? and was profiled in Bill Moyers’ PBS series, Becoming American: The Chinese Experience. In 2008 Helen was a Torchbearer in San Francisco for the Beijing Olympics amid great controversy; in 2010, she was a witness in the federal marriage equality case decided by the US Supreme Court.

Helen received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of San Francisco and an honorary Doctor of Laws from the City University of New York Law School for bringing important matters of law and civil rights into public view. She is a Fulbright Scholar and a graduate of Princeton University’s first coeducational class. She attended medical school but quit after completing two years, then went to work as a construction laborer, an autoworker, and a community organizer, after which she discovered her life’s work as a writer.

Juju Chang is an Emmy Award-winning co-anchor of ABC News’ Nightline. She also reports regularly for Good Morning America and 20/20.

Chang has been recognized for her in-depth personal narratives set against the backdrop of pressing national and international news. Her exclusive television interview with transgender solider Chelsea Manning, after seven years in prison, explored issues of national security leaks and LGBTQ military service. Her profile of former firefighter Pat Hardison – after a groundbreaking face transplant – highlighted the crisis of organ donation. She also interviewed transgender teen Jazz Jennings and her journey towards getting gender confirmation surgery and advocacy for other young transgender people. Additionally, Chang anchored a special edition of Nightline, “Consent on Campus,” from Penn State which tackled complex issues surrounding sexual assault.

Chang has also covered major breaking news for decades for ABC News, including Superstorm Sandy, the Orlando nightclub massacre and the Boston Marathon bombing. She has traveled around the world to report on global issues including a three-country trip through Central Africa on the front lines against Boko Haram in the latest on #bringbackourgirls, and to Honduras for “Femicide: the Untold War,” an eye-opening look at rampant violence against women.

Chang has profiled newsmakers like Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, former Vice President Joe Biden and Oprah Winfrey as well as entertainers like Chris Pratt, Channing Tatum, Nicki Minaj, and Bella Thorne. Her extensive feature reporting covers parenting dilemmas, digital addictions and social media moguls like Dude Perfect and Esther the Wonder Pig.

A former news anchor for Good Morning America, Chang joined ABC News as an entry level desk assistant in 1987 and rose to become a producer for World News Tonight. Her first on-air job was reporting for KGO-TV in San Francisco. After a year in Washington, D.C. covering the White House, Capitol Hill and the presidential election for NewsOne, she co-anchored the overnight show World News Now. Chang’s work has been recognized with numerous awards including multiple Emmy’s, Gracie’s, a DuPont, a Murrow and Peabody awards.  In 2017, she was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Front Page Awards.

Born in Seoul, South Korea and raised in Northern California, Chang graduated with honors from Stanford University with a B.A. in political science and communication. She is married to WNET President and CEO Neal Shapiro and together they have three sons. Chang is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a founding board member of the Korean American Community Foundation.



October 8, 2020
6:30 pm – 8:00 pm
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