Mazie Hirono (1947 – )

U.S. Senator from Hawaii (D), 2013 – Present

Mazie Hirono has been serving as U.S. Senator from Hawaii since 2013. Hirono is the first female elected female senator from Hawaii, the first Asian American female senator, the first U.S. senator to be born in Japan, and the first Buddhist U.S. Senator.

Hirono founded the Patsy T. Mink PAC in 2004 to help other women running for office. Her previous elected positions include Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii (1994 – 2002), U.S. Representative for Hawaii’s 2nd congressional district (2007 – 2013), and member of the Hawaii House of Representatives (1981 – 1994).

As a member of the Senate Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Committee, Hirono works on legislation that supports Hawaii’s critical role in the Asia-Pacific region and honors Filipino World War II veterans, families of service members, and small business owners.

Sources:

“About Mazie | Mazie K. Hirono – A Voice for Hawai’i in the U.S. Senate,” http://www.hirono.senate.gov, n.d., https://www.hirono.senate.gov/about.

“Mazie Hirono,” Ballotpedia, n.d., https://ballotpedia.org/Mazie_Hirono.

Daniel Inouye (1924-2012)

U.S. Senator From Hawaii (D), 1963 – 2012

Daniel Inouye was a United States Senator from Hawaii from 1963 until his death in 2012. He was also President pro tempore of the United States Senate (third in line of presidential succession) from 2010 to 2012.

Inouye was the first Japanese American to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. He never lost an election in 58 years as an elected official.

Inouye fought in World War II as part of the 442nd Infantry Regiment, the all-Japanese American unit, and lost his right arm to a grenade wound during the War. He has received several military honors including the Medal of Honor (the U.S.’s highest military award) and posthumously the Presidential Medal of Freedom. To date, Inouye is the only senator to receive both the Medal of Freedom and the Medal of Honor.

Sources:

“Daniel Inouye | United States Senator | Britannica,” in Encyclopædia Britannica, 2019, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Daniel-Inouye.

“U.S. Senate: Daniel K. Inouye: A Featured Biography,” Senate.gov, December 3, 2019, https://www.senate.gov/senators/FeaturedBios/Featured_Bio_Inouye.htm.

Hiram Fong (1906-2004)

U.S. Senator from Hawaii (R), 1959-1977

Hiram Fong was a United States Senator from Hawaii from 1959 to 1977, one of Hawaii’s first two U.S. Senators. He is the first person of Chinese descent elected to Congress, the first Asian American elected to the Senate, the first Chinese American candidate for presidency, and only Republican Senator ever elected from Hawaii.

In 1964, Fong became the first Asian American to receive votes for President of the United States at a major party convention (Hawaii and Alaska delegations).

Fong was one of the foremost leaders in the fight to gain Hawaii’s statehood. He advocated for civil rights and voting rights legislation and immigration reform that sought to prevent discrimination against Asians.

Sources:

“FONG, Hiram Leong | US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives,” history.house.gov, accessed January 10, 2021, https://history.house.gov/People/Detail/15032451315.“U.S. Senate: Hiram Fong: A Featured Biography,” http://www.senate.gov, accessed January 10, 2021, https://www.senate.gov/senators/FeaturedBios/Featured_Bio_Fong.htm.

Patsy Mink (1927-2002)

Photo source:
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Patsy_Mink_1970s.jpg 

“We have to build things that we want to see accomplished, in life and in our country, based on our own personal experiences . . . to make sure that others do not have to suffer the same discrimination”

– Patsy Mink

U.S. House of Representatives for Hawaii (D), 1965-1977, 1990-2002

Patsy Mink served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Hawaii for 24 years (12 terms), from 1965 to 1977 and again from 1990 to 2002. She is the first woman of color elected to Congress (the second woman from Hawaii) and the first Japanese-American woman to practice law in Hawaii.

Mink frequently traveled between Hawaii and Washington D.C. to make sure she was staying connected with the issues and concerns of the populace. She successfully served on the Committees of Education and Labor, Interior and Insular Affairs, and Budget, to voice and address these concerns.

Mink focused on issues affecting Asian Americans, women, and families; co-authored and sponsored the Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act which was later renamed by President Bush the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act.

Sources:

“MINK, Patsy Takemoto | US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives,” history.house.gov, n.d., https://history.house.gov/People/detail/18329.“Patsy Mink,” National Women’s History Museum, n.d., https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/patsy-mink.

Helen Zia (1952 – )

Social & Political Activist

Helen Zia is a Chinese American journalist and activist. A graduate of Princeton University’s first coeducational class, Zia has authored several books including The Last Boat out of Shanghai, Asian American Dreams: The Mergence of an American People and the co author of My Country Versus Me with Wen Ho Lee.

Zia was a leading voice in the organization of protests after the racially motivated killing of Vincent Chin, a Chinese American, in 1982. Her activism has significantly helped fight hate crimes, organize for battered Asian American women, and she is an advocate for gay and lesbian rights.

Zia was a leading voice in the organization of protests after the racially motivated killing of Vincent Chin, a Chinese American, in 1982. Her activism has significantly helped fight hate crimes, organize for battered Asian American women, and she is an advocate for gay and lesbian rights.

Sources:

“Helen Zia,” biography.yourdictionary.com, accessed January 11, 2021, https://biography.yourdictionary.com/helen-zia.

“Women’s Media Center,” http://www.womensmediacenter.com, accessed January 11, 2021, https://www.womensmediacenter.com/profile/helen-zia.“Zia, Helen | SpeakOut,” http://www.speakoutnow.org, accessed January 11, 2021, https://www.speakoutnow.org/speaker/zia-helen.

Frank H. Wu (1967 – )

Photo source:
https://www.qgazette.com/articles/frank-h-wu-appointed-president-of-queens-college/

“Over the years, the world opened up. It has become a dizzying kaleidoscope of cultural fragments, arranged and rearranged without plan or order”

– Frank H. Wu, Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White

Civil Rights Activist and Writer

Frank H. Wu is a professor, writer, and civil rights activist. Wu’s parents migrated to the U.S. from Taiwan and his father worked and lived in Detroit, Michigan. His notable works include Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White and his op-ed article “Why Vincent Chin Matters” in The New York Times. In the op-ed Wu mentioned that “The Vincent Chin murder is why I became “Asian-American””. 

Wu is the first Asian American Dean at Wayne State University Law School, was a visiting professor at Michigan, and an adjunct professor at Columbia. He was also the Chancellor and Dean of the UC Hastings Law, and was William L. Prosser Distinguished Professor at UC Hastings Law until 2020. He is currently President at Queens College, City University of New York. 

Wu served for nine years on the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI). He was also appointed by the Defense Department to the Military Leadership Diversity Commission. In 2016, Wu was elected Chair for the Committee of the 100- a non-profit group which promotes better US-China relations and active participation of Chinese Americans in public life – then after two years as chair, he was elected as the groups first president, a title he held for another two and a half years.

Sources:

UC Hastings Law | San Francisco, “Frank H. Wu Honored for Contributions to Diverse Education,” UC Hastings Law | San Francisco, February 14, 2020, https://www.uchastings.edu/2020/02/14/wu-honored-diverse-education/.

“Frank Wu,” advancingjustice-aajc.org, accessed January 11, 2021, https://advancingjustice-aajc.org/bio/frank-wu.

“How Vincent Chin’s Murder Sparked the Asian-American Movement,” South China Morning Post, June 20, 2020, https://www.scmp.com/comment/opinion/article/3089541/how-racist-killing-vincent-chin-sparked-asian-american-movement.

Grace Lee Boggs (1915-2015)

Photo source:
https://onbeing.org/programs/grace-lee-boggs-a-century-in-the-world/

“In the middle of catastrophe, in the middle of disaster, people––particularly people who have already suffered––see an opportunity to evolve to another stage of humanity”

– Grace Lee Boggs, L.A. Times Interview

Civil Rights Activist

Grace Lee Boggs was a Chinese American activist. She and her husband became well-known for advocating against issues of labor and civil rights, feminism, Black Power.

Boggs and her husband were pulled into the Civil Rights Movement, participating in many marches and protests in Detroit. Later on, she turned her focus to questioning ethics––or lack of—and individual change. When the Asian American movement started to pick up speed after the 1960s, she also participated in advocating for proper representation and visibility.

Boggs also frequently explored and examined the role of Asian Americans in society and in communities, emphasizing the importance of alliance and solidarity with other minorities to help bring about change.

Sources:

“Grace Lee Boggs | Americans Who Tell The Truth,” Americanswhotellthetruth.org, 2015, https://www.americanswhotellthetruth.org/portraits/grace-lee-boggs.

“NPR Choice Page,” Npr.org, 2020, https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2015/06/27/417175523/grace-lee-boggs-activist-and-american-revolutionary-turns-100.

Sara Li, “The Legacy of Grace Lee Boggs Is Full of Lessons,” Teen Vogue, accessed January 11, 2021, https://www.teenvogue.com/story/grace-lee-boggs-asian-american-labor-organizer-writer-og-history.Thomas J Sugrue, “Postscript: Grace Lee Boggs,” The New Yorker (The New Yorker, October 8, 2015), https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/postscript-grace-lee-boggs.

Padma Kuppa

Michigan Representative, January 1, 2019 – Present

Born in Bhilai, India, Padma Kuppa currently represents Michigan’s 41st District in the Michigan House of Representatives.

Kuppa has served as a board member of the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, Assistant Democratic Whip in the Michigan House of Representatives, co-chair of the Asian Pacific American Caucus, historian for the Michigan Black Caucus, and is the founder of the Troy-area Interfaith Group.

Kuppa is the first Indian immigrant and Hindu in the Michigan Legislature.

Sources:

“About,” Padma Kuppa Representing HD41, accessed January 11, 2021, https://www.electpadmakuppa.com/about.

housedemsAdmin, “Rep. Padma Kuppa,” housedems.com, accessed January 11, 2021, https://housedems.com/padma-kuppa/.

Stephanie Chang

Member of Michigan Senate (D), 2019 – Present

Stephanie Chang is the representative for the 1st District of the Michigan Senate. In 2014, became the first Asian American woman elected to the Michigan legislature.

Chang is also the chair of the Progressice Women’s Caucus, a founding member of the Asian Pacific American Legislative Caucus, co-founder and past president of A/PIA Vote-Michigan, and served as a mentor with the Detroit Asian Youth Project.

Chang’s other positions include the state director for NextGen Climate Michigan, the alumni engagement and evaluation coordinator for the Center for Progressive Leadership in Michigan, the community engagement coordinator for the James and Grace Lee Boggs School, the deputy director for the Campaign for Justice, an organizer for Michigan United/One United Michigan and as an assistant to Grace Lee Boggs.

Sources:

“Stephanie Chang for State Senate,” Stephanie Chang for State Senate, accessed January 11, 2021, https://www.stephaniechang.com/.Michael Zukas, “Senator Stephanie Chang / Michigan State Senate,” Michigan State Senate, accessed January 11, 2021, https://senatedems.com/chang/.

Kamala Harris (1964 – )

Photo source:
https://www.harris.senate.gov/news#photos

“Women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality and liberty and justice for all, including the black women who are often, too often, overlooked, but so often prove they are the backbone of our democracy.”

– Kamala Harris

Vice President of the U.S. (D), 2021 – Present

Kamala Harris is the current and first female, African American, and Asian American Vice President of the United States. Of Jamaican and Indian descent, Harris is the first woman of color on a major party’s presidential ticket.

In 2017, Harris became the second African-American woman and first South Asian-American senator in U.S. history. As a senator from California, Harris served on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the Select Committee on Intelligence, the Committee on the Judiciary, and the Committee on the Budget.

Harris’s previous positions include Attorney General of California and District Attorney of San Francisco. A native of Oakland, California, Harris earned her undergraduate degree from Howard University and J.D. from the University of California, Hastings.

Sources:

“Home | U.S. Senator Kamala Harris of California,” Senate.gov, 2019, https://www.harris.senate.gov/.

“Kamala Harris: The Vice President-Elect,” President-Elect Joe Biden, n.d., https://buildbackbetter.gov/the-vice-president-elect/.“Kamala Harris: Who She Is and What She Stands For,” The New York Times, September 10, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/elections/kamala-harris.html.