I was walking the halls of the State Capitol last week, working with a coalition called “College for All” and trying to get the Legislature to reinvest in Senate Bill 1050. But while there, I went to a reception sponsored by the Asian Pacific Islander (API) Legislative Caucus, which I chaired for three years when I served in the Assembly, honoring several API women leaders as a part of Women’s History Month.
What a strong, fierce and dedicated group of women leaders. Mona Pasquil, past appointments secretary for Gov. Brown and newly appointed to the State Personnel Board; Gov. Brown’s Labor Secretary Julie Su, who’s been reappointed by Gov. Newsom; labor leader Angie Wei, newly appointed policy advisor for Gov. Newsom; Genevieve Shiroma, newly appointed to the California Public Utilities Commission; Jodie Fuji, chief of staff to Sen. Bill Monning; Sophia Kwong Kim, chief of staff to Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell; and several others were honored at the reception.
All of these leaders, in fact any API elected official, appointee or staffer, owe a huge debt of gratitude to two other women leaders who are considered the “godmothers” of APIs in California politics. Maeley Tom and Georgette Imura single-handedly opened the doors to the State Capitol as staffers when there wasn’t any API elected officials.
Like Maeley and Georgette, API women have had and will continue to have a huge impact on California politics and policy. BTW, the state’s controller and treasurer, Betty Yee and Fiona Ma, respectively, are API women.
As I said, I was walking the halls of the Capitol and I was on a team with two young up-and-coming women leaders from Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ), Nikki Dominguez and Liza Chu. Recently I’ve worked with quite a few younger generation API women leaders.
Also with AAAJ, which currently is led by three API women vice presidents, I’ve worked with an extraordinary young woman named Natalie Bui, who does voter outreach for the organization and through that work I’ve met, worked with and have been impressed by several others.
The executive director (E.D.) for the Korean Immigrant Workers Association (KIWA) is Alexandra Suh; the E.D. of the Pilipino Worker’s Center (PWC) is Aquilina Soriano Versoza; the E.D. for the Filipino Migrant Center (FMC) is Joanna Concepcion; the E.D. for Center for Asian Americans United for Self-Empowerment (CAUSE) is Kim Yamasaki; the E.D. for Kizuna is Stephanie Nitahara and Kizuna’s board chair is Amy Watanabe; the E.D. for the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council is Manjusha Kulkarni; and I’m sure there’s more.
These women have followed in the footsteps of other leaders like Chancee Martorel, founder and E.D. of the Thai Community Development Center (Thai CDC); Erin Pak, founder and E.D. for the Korean Health Education Information and Research Center/Clinic (KHEIR); Mary Ann Foo, founder and longtime E.D. for the Orange County Asian Pacific Islander Community Alliance (OCAPICA); and Nobuko Miyamoto, founder and president of the iconic cultural and performing arts organization Great Leap. I could go on and on.
All of these leaders are dedicated to the social justice missions of their respective organizations, all of these leaders exemplify the tireless and committed work ethic it takes to make social change, and all of these leaders are visionary women of color and on the rise.
At this reception I was at, the first speaker was State Sen. Connie Leyva, who declared a proven truth: “If you wanna get something done, have a woman do it!”
Yeah, from my vantage point, they’re doing it and getting it done!
Warren Furutani is a former member of the State Assembly and served on the Los Angeles Unified School District and Los Angeles Community College District boards. The Rafu Shimpo’s management and staff continually strive to maintain high editorial standards for professionalism as well as accurate and balanced news coverage. The inclusion of a particular piece, including columns and op-ed submissions by contributing writers in print and/or digitally, does not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the owners, management, individual staff members, and editors. The Rafu Shimpo welcomes responses to any article published in print or digitally. Responses may be sent to author directly or emailed to [email protected]