A new foundation formed by prominent Asian-American business leaders announced on Monday a US$250 million initiative to fund work on a range of problems affecting the community including a rise in violence and harassment tied to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Asian American Foundation (TAAF), founded recently to address a “long-standing lack of investment and resources” for Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities, will channel its initial funding of US$125 million to anti-hate programmes, education, as well as data and research.
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Chaired by Li Lu, founder of hedge fund Himalaya Capital, the TAAF board includes billionaires Jerry Yang, the co-founder of Yahoo, and Joseph Tsai, co-founder of Alibaba Group Holding, among other executives. Alibaba is the owner of the South China Morning Post.
The investment is crucial, TAAF said in a press release, “particularly as anti-AAPI hate and violence persist at alarming rates”.
Li, in a statement to the Post, said: “We are proud to join all of the leaders and organisations that have been working on behalf of AAPI communities for years.
“Together, we can take action against hate and violence, and build the infrastructure needed to promote AAPI’s advocacy, power, and representation in every facet of American society.”
The US$125 million funding was the largest philanthropic commitment in history by Asian Americans for the AAPI community, Li added.
Yang, in comments to the Post, said discussions to form TAAF began more than a year ago.
“We understood that our challenge for the AAPI community in the US to pursue ‘belonging and prosperity’ [would be] a long-term mission.
“Yet, we believe through proper resourcing, funding, convening and incubating, we can galvanise the tremendous power and energy that exists already in the AAPI community and create a powerful force moving forward.”
Stop AAPI Hate, a project launched last year to keep track of physical and verbal attacks against Asians, as well as cases of shunning and civil rights violations, documented 3,795 racially motivated incidents from last March, when coronavirus cases began to spike in the US, to February this year. Stop AAPI Hate is one of TAAF’s beneficiaries, having received US$1 million already, according to the foundation’s announcement.
Underscoring the rise in violence, the launch of TAAF’s initiative coincided with a report of another attack against an Asian woman walking in midtown Manhattan, which the local police are investigating as a possible hate crime, little more than a month after a Filipina woman was kicked to the ground and stomped near Times Square.
An online launch event scheduled for Tuesday will feature former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to help call attention to what TAAF sees as insufficient funding for a rapidly growing demographic group.
“Historically, AAPI communities have received less than 0.5 per cent of charitable giving from foundations,” said TAAF, which vowed to “address this severe underinvestment by offering funding and resources to the ecosystem of advocates and organizations committed to AAPI causes”.
America’s Asian population nearly doubled to 23.2 million by 2019 from 11.9 million in 2000, according to a study published by Pew Research Centre last week. Asians now make up about 7 per cent of the US population, and this group is projected to surpass 46 million by 2060, Pew said.
An Atlanta-area mass shooting in March, which included six women of Asian descent among the eight dead, further galvanised national advocates.
The organisation’s board includes Joseph Bae, co-president of private equity firm KKR & Co; Peng Zhao, CEO of market maker Citadel Securities; Sheila Lirio Marcelo, founder of Care.com; and Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League.
Sonal Shah, a former Obama administration official, will serve as the foundation’s president and hold a board seat.
The group will support organisations that combat hate; help create school curricula that reflect the AAPI community’s historical contribution to the United States; finance efforts in the arts, film and media to ensure the Asian-American experience is included; and invest in data-driven research to produce better policymaking and advocacy.
Yang, the Yahoo co-founder, said the group would showcase their initiatives in more details in the months to come.
In an interview, Shah said the foundation will counteract the “model minority myth” that Asian-Americans are successful and do not need help. Only 1.5 per cent of US corporate officers are of Asian descent, she noted, and many Asian-Americans face discrimination, poverty and marginalisation.
“We want our communities to be seen,” Shah said. “We want to make sure they have a voice.”
The foundation has lined up an advisory board of prominent AAPI figures who will help promote its work, including former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, actor Daniel Dae Kim and CNN hosts Lisa Ling and Fareed Zakaria.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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