Yasmin Padamsee Forbes
Yasmin Padamsee Forbes (she/her) was selected as the Executive Director of the Asian American Commission at the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in April 2021. She is a proud first-generation immigrant, intersectional feminist, and climate change activist.
Yasmin has had a distinguished career with non-profits and the United Nations, serving in various senior leadership and management positions in Papua New Guinea, India, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and the US. She brings extensive experience in strategic partnerships, resource mobilization, management, and sustainable tourism.
In 2019, she was awarded an All-Star Award by the Harvard Kennedy School for co-curating “Pride and Progress,” a film festival showcasing artists and activists working on LGBTQ+ human rights struggles from around the globe. She was also awarded the 2018 Julius E. Babbitt Memorial Volunteer Award by Harvard for her exemplary public service with Kennedy School alumni in Myanmar and beyond and her ability to help alumni forge connections.
Yasmin received a full scholarship and graduated with a Masters in Communications and Film production from New York University and has a second Masters in Public Administration from Harvard University.
Yasmin served as the Harvard Alumni Representative in Myanmar and on the Alumni Board of Directors for the Harvard Kennedy School.
Yasmin proudly serves as the Chair and Commissioner for the Cambridge Human Rights Commission. Working across Massachusetts, Yasmin has been working with groups to promote sustainable tourism and mitigate climate change.
She firmly believes in the need to connect leaders and activists from multiple cultures and sectors so they can “work together to create a force for positive and sustainable change.”
Jessica ‘Jay’ Wong
Jessica ‘Jay’ Wong (she/her) is a second-generation bi-racial/Chinese American. Jay serves as the Director of Programming for the Massachusetts Asian American Commission (AAC). She is originally from Fall River, MA. Her career in public service began in high school where she was an advocate for gang violence prevention, youth voice, and women empowerment through Peaceful Coalition. In 2015, Jay achieved her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science at UMass Amherst.
Prior to joining the AAC, Jay served as an AmeriCorps member for two years with Social Capital, Inc. Through her service with AmeriCorps, Jay founded a women’s empowerment group called W.A.V.E (Women. Action. Voice. Empowerment). The mission of this group was to “create waves of change, one woman at a time”. With WAVE, Jay facilitated discussion groups in three different high schools in Fall River. Jay was also the lead facilitator of “Confronting Discrimination” with the Fall River Youth Violence Prevention Task Force. Additionally, Jay works as the Community Engagement Specialist with the Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence.
Sarah Lin is a first-year Master’s in Public Policy student at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), where she is concentrating in social and urban policy. At HKS, Sarah serves as a Gleitsman Fellow for Social Change at the Center for Public Leadership, Co-Founder and Co-Chair of the HKS Taiwan Caucus, and Managing Editor of the Asian American Policy Review. She is passionate about civil rights and policy advocacy for the AAPI community, as well as increasing AAPI representation in government, politics, and public service.
Ekta Saksena is a first-generation Indian-American, proud daughter of immigrants, intersectional feminist, and public health enthusiast. She grew up in Massachusetts, with strong ties to the local Indian community and culture.
Ekta received her Master’s degree in Public Health from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in 2018 and her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Public Health from Boston University in 2014. She has a broad range of expertise pertaining to both qualitative and quantitative research, healthcare marketing, strategic communications, healthcare consulting, and business development.
Currently, Ekta works at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, as a Health Communications Specialist within the Bureau of Community Health and Prevention. In her role, she manages all health communications efforts for a number of statewide chronic disease management and prevention programs, including Diabetes, Hypertension, Cardiovascular Disease, Stroke, and Community Health Workers. Ekta is passionate about racial justice, health equity, and community health and strives to incorporate social determinants of health and racial equity principles into her public health communications and marketing strategies.
As a public health practitioner, Ekta strives to put equity and justice at the forefront of all that she does. In addition to her role as Health Communications Specialist, Ekta is an active member of the Bureau’s Racial Equity Leadership Team as well as the Racial Equity Strategic Planning Team. She leads the Racial Equity Policy Work group, which seeks to identify inequities in policies and propose equitable solutions. She also co-chairs the Racial Justice Lunch & Learn, a department-wide initiative which seeks to increase conversation, knowledge, and practice of racial justice principles as they pertain to public health.
Dimple’s advocacy for Revere, Massachusetts spans across neighborhoods, sectors, and generations of Revere residents. As Director of the City’s Department of Healthy Community Initiatives and Co-Director of Revere On the Move, she has worked with residents, businesses, and stakeholders to increase access to opportunities for active living, healthy eating, civic engagement, and youth leadership. She is a recent graduate of Tufts University’s, with a Master in Public Policy from the Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning program. Dimple’s commitment to building a vibrant, engaged, and active Revere also extends to her work as a champion of small businesses and a longtime civic leader.
Dimple is the first woman of color to run for office in Revere. She ran in 2017 for 1 of 5 seats as Councillor At-Large. She will run again in 2019 and is hopeful in being elected.
A first generation Indian American, Dimple grew up in Revere, attending public schools and working in her family’s small, independent convenience stores in the North Shore. At the stores, she learned the value and struggles of a small family-owned business, from the unique perspective of immigrant families. In high school, she worked as a peer leader at a youth organization that fostered her love for youth leadership and organizing. After graduating from Hofstra University in Community Health and Education in 2002, she returned to Greater Boston and became a community organizer, working with many organizations focused on HIV/AIDS prevention, and LBGTQ and immigrants rights.’
From 2001 to 2010, she worked independently with grassroots and advocacy organizations as a community organizer and leader on the issue of deportation of Cambodians, other green card holders, and refugees within the National Immigration and Anti-Deportation Movement.
In 2012 she returned to Revere and founded a youth leadership organization, Revere Youth in Action, where young people worked to ensure they had opportunities to grow, lead, and promote a safe, and inclusive community in Revere. In 2016, the Revere Chamber of Commerce named her Youth Mentor of the Year.
In 2013 she joined the Women Encouraging Empowerment, Inc. board where she continues to serve as the Vice-Chair. WEE is the only organization in Revere that works with immigrant and refugee women and their families through organizing, leadership development, and service delivery.
Also, in 2016 she was appointed by House Speaker Robert DeLeo as a commissioner to the Massachusetts Asian American Commission. In 2018, she served as the Secretary of the AAC. Currently, Dimple is serving her second term with the AAC.
Dimple loves and is deeply committed to her family, especially her young niece and nephews. Dimple looks up to the older and younger people around her who continue to push, ask questions, challenge the status quo, and who are the change we want to see in our world.
Her passion for organizing and grassroots change is expressed through a quote by Audre Lorde “If I cannot air this pain and alter it, I will surely die of it. That’s the beginning of social protest.”
Megha Prasad is an undergraduate student at Northeastern University studying Political Science and Business. As a second generation Indian American, Megha grew up experiencing many of the struggles surrounding identity and adaptation that minority families often face. As a member of her high school’s debate team, she gained familiarity with critical race literature and public policy, the intersection of which prompted her to become involved in electoral politics.
Megha has previously served as an intern to Senator Ed Markey in his Washington, DC office and aided in his re-election campaign in 2020. As she gained more campaign experience, she also became acutely aware of the issues impacting AAPI communities in the Commonwealth and looks forward to finding ways to push for legislation in the State House. Primarily, she seeks to reduce barriers to voting, and make other public services more accessible to English-language learners.
At her previous institution, American University, she worked with the Asian American Student Union to lobby the administration for more funding towards Ethnic Studies. Through this process, she gained familiarity with the struggles AAPI advocacy groups face and became more comfortable advocating for her peers. As a board-member of the AASU, Megha worked with her colleagues to promote education about various AAPI issues and their intersections with other minority groups within the student body. Through open dialogues and virtual teach-ins during the tumultuous summer of 2020, Megha was proud to aid in facilitating conversations on racial triangulation, deconstructing the Model Minority Myth, and colorism.
Megha is excited to join the Asian American Commission and have the opportunity to focus on AAPI issues in the Commonwealth. She hopes that her background will bring a fresh perspective to the Commission. Upon completing her degree at Northeastern, Megha aspires to continue on to law school and eventually move to public service.
Nina Liang is the first Chinese-American City Councilor in her hometown of Quincy. Born in Quincy and raised by immigrant parents, she has experienced first hand the challenges minority children and families face. Over the years, she has had the opportunity to be a part of community organizations dedicated to addressing the needs of those who are new to both the language and customs of American culture. Having worked as the office manager and helping to manage operations with her family’s restaurant group, Nina also has the experience and perspective of a small business owner, creating jobs and opportunity in the communities in which they operate. Nina understands that it takes collaborative efforts among these local organizations, businesses and public service facilities to better address the needs of the diverse residents Quincy has.
Wingkay Leung got involved in the Asian community many years ago from a cultural perspective. His wife, Winnie, loves to sing Chinese Opera. Wingkay, with an engineering background, felt into the role of the sound equipment “expert” for the Que Shing Chinese Music and Opera Group, a non-profit organization that produces many Opera performances for the Chinese community. Both Wingkay and Winnie have served as Presidents and Directors for Que Shing. Wingkay believes that community service is not just showing up for Board meetings. He believes in getting involved, such as volunteering for the Chinatown Crime Watch program for the past 7 years, rain or snow. The Crime Watch program is credited with reducing crime in Boston Chinatown. Wingkay has 3 grown children, Calvin, Jonathan and Kasey, who all graduated from UMass Amherst. Wingkay graduated from Case Western Reserve University with advanced degrees in Computer Engineering and Business Administration.
Mary K. Y. Lee
Mary K. Y. Lee is a litigation attorney based in Boston. An immigrant of Indonesian-Chinese ancestry, advocating for the interests of Asian Americans is among her passions. She served on the Commission to Plan, Develop, and Implement Strategies to Support and Promote Minority-Owned Real Estate and Financial Services Organizations in the Commonwealth; Co-Chaired Immigration Section of the Boston Bar Association; served on the MA Trial Courts Language Access Advisory Committee and named by Super Lawyers from 2015-2019. She is a regular lecturer at Asian Community Development Corporation of Boston and an active Board Member of Central Boston Elder Services..
Nate Bae Kupel
Nate Bae Kupel, MSW is the Associate Director, New England for the Institute for Nonprofit Practice (INP), a Tufts affiliated management and leadership certificate program for nonprofit and public sector professionals and executives. Mr. Kupel oversees the recruitment, enrollment, admissions and program management for INP’s certificate programs in Boston, Lowell/Merrimack Valley, Cape Cod and Islands, as well as in Providence, Rhode Island. Prior to INP, Nate worked at Crescendo Consulting Group as the Director of Digital Marketing and as a Senior Consultant, where he worked with clients in healthcare on community health needs assessments and other digital marketing and communications projects. Before Crescendo, Mr. Kupel was the Associate Director of the Academy for Transformation at YouthBuild USA, an international youth empowerment and workforce development nonprofit in Somerville, MA where he managed technical assistance and trainings for over 200 Department of Labor funded YouthBuild grantees across the country.
Nate has also worked for the Institute for Asian American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston where he authored a report on the state of the Korean Americans and a report on Asian Adoptees in the Commonwealth. While at the Institute he also produced a nationally syndicated, award-winning Asian American public radio pilot called, As I Am: Asians in America hosted by Helen Zia. He was also an Assistant Producer for Commonwealth Journal, a Massachusetts public affairs radio program at WUMB Radio. Nate was also an anti-racism trainer with the Asian American Resource Workshop (AARW) Sticky Rice Project.
Mr. Kupel currently serves as a board member of the Greater Malden Asian American Community Coalition (GMAACC), a nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing the needs of Asian American residents in the Greater Malden area. Nate served as the President of Boston Korean Adoptees, Inc., and served as a board member of the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Association for Social Work Groups. He received a BA in Sociology and has a Certificate in Asian American Studies from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and an MSW from Simmons College.
Betty Lim King is author of “Girl on a Leash: The Healing Power of Dogs, a sociological memoir” about how her Chinese Confucian leash became a lifeline in the company of abandoned dogs. She also wrote “Healing with my Dogs,” “From America to Africa, Voices of Filipino Women Overseas” about how dogs break down barriers of race, class, gender, religion, politics, and other human distinctions, making us share our humanity with each other. She is Executive Director of Help for Asian Americans with Addictions, an innovative outreach program for a largely invisible subgroup of Asian Americans. She was Development Director and Board member of various community-based nonprofits. She was restaurant critic for the Charlotte Observer, lifestyle columnist for the Catawba Valley Neighbors and a sociology instructor at the Lenior Rhyne College in North Carolina. While living in Paris for 10 years, she was President of the UNESCO International Cooking School and a graduate of the French culinary school La Varenne and oenology school, Academie du Vin.
Betty graduated magna cum laude in economics and obtained two Master degrees: Asian Studies from the University of the Philippines and Development Economics from the University of Manchester, England. She also studied agricultural economics at the University of Tokyo, Japan and did graduate studies on nonprofit management at Harvard University and Boston University. At Harvard, she was awarded the prestigious Derek Bok Public Service Award and was Class Marshall, graduating top three.
Above all, Betty is extremely proud of her work in rescuing and adopting homeless and abandoned dogs and cats and promoting better human-canine relationships.
Mr. Pralhad KC is the Partner/Consultant of Equiserve, Inc. Environmental Engineering Consultant and also the Owner / CEO of Prem-La, the oldest and first Himalayan Region Art Gallery of New England. Mr. KC holds, MBA, (Master in Business Administration), in Finance and Marketing Management, BSCE, (Bachelor in Science in Civil Engineering) in Water and Wastewater management.CDA, (Carrier Discovery Architecture) in Urban planning.
Mr. KC is a Project Manager with an extensive experience in leading national and international economic development projects and Water and Wastewater projects. He has worked with multi-national staffs thought the US and Southeast Asia. His skills include institutional capacity building, strategic planning, program designs, evaluations, training and technical assistance.
Mr. KC has led several International and National projects with the ADB (Asian Development Bank), UNDP (United Nation Development Program) and NGOs. Mr. KC also has significant expertise in establishing an effective network with decision-makers at all levels and in building the capabilities of international staffs to assume full project management responsibilities.
Mr. KC is a Social and Community leader has led many national and International Non–Profit organizations such as, MIND, Inc, Nepal America Foundation, ANA (Association of Nepales in America), NRN NCC of America, IHO, (International Health Organization) and GBNC (Greater Boston Nepalese Community), etc.
Mr. KC has received numerous Honors, Recognitions, Awards and Gold Medals for his social and community activities especially working to improving lives of the immigrant communities, such as , New American Appreciation Award, from Commonwealth of Massachusetts, City of Cambridge “Key of the”, Gold Medal from the King of Nepal and several “Citations” and “Honored recognition” from, Governors, Mayors Legislatives Leaders and International Dignitaries.
Vira Douangmany Cage
Vira Douangmany Cage is serving her second term on the Asian American Commission. She was appointed in 2016 by Senate President Stan Rosenberg and in 2019 by Treasurer Deborah Goldberg. Vira has served on Town Meeting, the Amherst School Committee, & in 2016 became the first Lao American to run for state representative in MA. From 2010-2013, Vira led a successful organizing campaign with family, community members and activists, to free an innocent person from a life without parole sentence.
Her efforts were recognized by the Center for Women & Community at the University of MA at Amherst, Spring of Hope Church in Springfield and the Prison Birth Project in Holyoke. After fleeing war-torn Laos at the age of five, Vira, her parents & four siblings spent about a year in a Thai refugee camp before the US received them in 1980. Raised in Dorchester, Vira graduated from Boston Latin Academy and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst with a sociology degree. Vira is the associate director of an adult day health center in Hadley & member of the board of directors at Amherst Media, a public access station.
Cinda Danh, born and raised in Lynn, MA, a public school graduate and a graduate of UMass Boston, began her journey in politics after experiencing housing insecurity in 2010. Through this hardship, she and her family worked with organizations that fought against unjust foreclosures and evictions. This unfortunate situation became her call to action and her journey into politics, organizing, and advocacy.
In 2013 Cinda was a fellow with the Asian American Women’s Political Initiative, where she gained hands-on experience working as an intern at the Massachusetts State House. After her internship ended, she was offered a Legislative Aide position and then a few short years later became the Staff Director to another State Representative. From there she served as a Government Relations Specialist at a lobbying firm.
In 2019 Cinda became the first AAPI woman to run for office in Lynn. She won her hotly contested preliminary and lost her general election. Cinda’s committed to her community and currently sits on the board for Lynn Main Streets and Raw Art Works and serves as a mentor with the Asian American Women’s Political Initiative.
Mary Chin is a longtime community leader with extensive experience in human services and a strong track record of service in Boston and beyond. A native of Lowell, Massachusetts, Mary is the daughter of immigrants and understands the struggles immigrant families face firsthand.
Mary is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker in private practice and has served as Vice Chair of the Massachusetts Board of Registration for Social Work. She has led social service departments and psychiatric programs in Boston and the North Shore. Mary served on AACA’s Board of Directors as President and oversaw the organization’s growth, including the construction of the building at 87 Tyler Street, the expansion of workforce training, education and social service programs, as well as the addition of the Mandarin immersion Reggio Emilia daycare, Buds & Blossoms.
Mary completed her graduate studies in social work at Simmons College and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Massachusetts. Mary has also served on the boards of Action for Boston Community Development, Urban College, American Cancer Society, Mothers for Justice and Equality, Company One, South Cove Community Health Center, Eastern Bank, and the Asian American Commission.
In 2017, a Citation for her service to Massachusetts was bestowed upon her by Governor Charlie Baker.
Bora Chiemruom is the Executive Director of Lowell Telemedia Center (LTC). The mission of LTC is to strengthen the City of Lowell as a community media and education center that empowers, connects, and informs all residents, businesses, and organizations in the city.
A refugee from Cambodia, Bora, and her family settled in Chicago, Illinois, and grew up in Lowell, Massachusetts. She has over 20 years of non-profit leadership experience working in Lowell and Boston. Recently, she served as the executive director of the Asian American Commission from 2015 to 2017, overseeing day-to-day operations and management. In January 2019, she was appointed as a Commissioner to the AAC by the State Auditor Suzanne Bump to serve a 3-year term (2019-2021). She served on the Executive Committee as Treasurer for the Commission in 2020.
Bora was also the owner of Kravant Boutique LLC. A consignment and rental boutique in Lowell! She is currently a board member of the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association in Lowell, MA. In 2018, she spoke at the National Asian American Conference on Law and Public Policy at Harvard Law School. In 2016 and 2017, she co-chaired the Asian-Americans Pacific Islanders Civil Rights Forum in Boston.
Bora has received two (2) City of Lowell Mayor’s citations, a citation from the City of Lynn, and three (3) citations from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts House of Representatives. In addition, a citation from the Massachusetts Treasurer and Receiver General’s office for “Your dedication and commitment to the Asian American Commission” from State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg.
Bora hopes to inspire the next generation to be leaders and active members of their communities through her non-profit work and entrepreneurship. She continues to be a passionate advocate for the Khmer Community and for all Asian Americans
Meena Bharath currently serves as the Vice-Chair on the Hopkinton School Committee.
She worked for 15+ years in the corporate world. She was last working as Vice President, Enterprise Risk Management group at State Street Corporation, an Investment Bank in Boston. Her work there involved leading large teams and complex projects across many groups to successful completion. One such project that she led to fruition for her group, saved the company $2.4 billion in RWA. Prior to State Street, she worked in companies such as Mass Mutual, LG Software (software arm of South Korean LG Electronics Conglomerate), Navimedix.
In 2016, after the death of her father, she chose to step away from her corporate career to focus on her family and pursue her passion in education which led her to volunteering and community involvement.
Serving on the School Committee has allowed Meena to explore education through a unique perspective. She currently serves as a Board Member at The Education Cooperative (TEC), plays a liaison role to the Planning Board in Hopkinton, and is a voting member on the Marathon Fund Committee. She advocated and spearheaded creation of a Community Communications group in Hopkinton which fosters collaboration and open communication across schools, town departments and community organizations. She actively advocates for the educational welfare of all students. Her area of interests include innovation in education, raising awareness to the needs of Advanced Learners through the creation of ALPAC in Hopkinton. She also actively supports diversity and inclusion initiatives.
She enjoys her volunteer work at the Senior Center in Hopkinton. She also volunteers as a Math tutor at the Framingham Public Library’s Homework Center. She has partnered with them to create programming in Coding, Future Leaders and supports the many other programs at the Homework Center. She has recently taken up a volunteering opportunity at the Garden at Elm Bank’s Seed to Table initiative which will allow her to stay close to nature.
She loves to spend time to connect with people, and takes pride in her leadership skills, integrity, hard work, quick-learning, collaborative and can-do attitude. She is grateful for her family, diverse background, life experiences and support of her friends and community which have made her life very rich and fulfilling.
Jonjy Ananth MD, MBA from Shrewsbury, Massachusetts is the elected President and Chairman of the Board for WCUW Inc. Worcester, MA. With over 700 members, around 120 programmers WCUW broadcasts live on 91.3FM radio and streams online 24/7 to a worldwide audience at www.wcuw.org .
Jonjy hosts his radio show titled “Community Matters” every Thursday 12.30 to 1.00pm at WCUW 91.3FM streaming worldwide online at www.wcuw.org and archived at www.wcuw.org/communitymatters. His show brings community-participation forum interviews with physicians, lawyers, CEOs, community leaders, and elected officials on all issues that impact the community.
Jonjy has been volunteering hundreds of hours in service providing culturally sensitive support to survivors of Asian American origin with his training in Trauma Informed Care. He is engaged with several non-profit organizations, among them include Saheli Inc., India Society of Worcester (ISW), Community Legal Aid (CLA), YWCA, South Asian Bar Association (SABA), Jane Doe Inc., and ADVISE [co-Chair]. He is a White Ribbon Ambassador for Jane Doe Inc., promoting initiatives to prevent intimate partner violence.
As a domestic violence advocate, Jonjy assists survivors for court proceedings, accessing shelter, social security, child care, free legal assistance benefits, and maintaining liaisons with local police. As a community volunteer, he works closely with town, county and state officials to help them connect with the South Asian community. Jonjy is an elected Town member for Shrewsbury, Deputy Sheriff [Reserve] for Worcester County, Shrewsbury Constable, and a Notary Public for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Jonjy has provided volunteer healthcare services at Free Clinics in Ohio and Massachusetts. He has research publications in the Journal of Nuclear Medicine [as first author] and International Journal of Radiation Oncology.Biology.Physics. He is a member of the Mass Medical Society (MMS), World Medical Association (WMA), American Society of Microbiology (ASM), American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) and TIE-Boston.
Jonjy is certified extensively in emergency medical skills, including Basic Life Support, Advanced Cardiac Life Support, Pediatric Advanced Life Support, Advanced Trauma Life Support, and Fundamental Critical Care Support. He received the presidential merit scholarship from his medical school, was an honoree of the Dean’s list, and was elected President of the student council.
Jonjy enjoys playing chess, tennis, badminton and table tennis with his friends and family. Jonjy Ananth’s dedication for enhancing others’ lives in the fast growing South Asian community in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts pursues John Quincy Adams quote “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
Danielle Kim is a proud second-generation Korean American, intersectional feminist, and community activist. She is the Director of Communications at Scholars Strategy Network, where she helps researchers across the country improve policy and strengthen democracy. She serves as the team’s lead media strategist, bridging connections across SSN’s departments and overseeing trainings for scholars on writing Op-Eds, participating in media interviews, and talking to reporters.
Previously Danielle served as the Director of Policy and Communications for Boston After School & Beyond, a city-wide coalition of afterschool and summer learning programs serving students in Boston Public Schools. She began her career as a Fulbright Fellow in South Korea, and then served as a community organizer in her home state of New Jersey—most notably as a Regional Field Director for the 2012 presidential campaign. She continued on as a Communications Specialist in the New Jersey Senate Majority Office, where she managed the legislative press for six state senators.
Danielle earned a Master’s degree in Education Policy and Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a Bachelor’s degree in Government and Psychology from Smith College. Committed to expanding access to power and opportunity, Danielle proudly serves on the Board of Directors for New Leaders Council Boston, and the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Organization for Women.
Haniya Syeda is a first generation Pakistani immigrant and American Muslim passionate about the intersection of innovation, social impact, and health equity. Born and raised in Boston to a working class family of nine, Haniya witnessed the impact social and economic injustice has on the health and mental well-being of families in vulnerable communities.
Haniya received a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology from Boston University’s School of Public Health in 2018 and her Bachelors of Science in Health Sciences from Boston University. In her current role as the Research Project Manager at Boston Medical Center, she oversees a multisite national project to study digital treatment delivery for children with elevated anxiety in low-income minority communities and works on projects related to increasing access to mental health care. Haniya has previously worked in health policy research, community organizing, and non-profit operations working with organizations on local and global education and health initiatives.
Haniya also completed a fellowship with New Leaders Council in 2019, which is a training program for young emerging civic leaders, and currently serves on Mayor Yvonne Spicer of Framingham’s 2030 Youth Advisory Council. With a background in applied research, Haniya is committed to addressing health disparities and improving mental health among underserved immigrant communities and global communities.
Philjay Somera Solar is currently a contracted Investigator for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights, enforcing the civil rights of individuals in the healthcare system as well as HIPAA Regulations. Philjay is also chair of the Commission’s Young Leadership Symposium. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Lasell University (’13) and his Juris Doctor Degree from New England Law | Boston (’19). At New England Law, Philjay was President of the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association and the Executive Treasurer of the Student Bar Association.
Before attending law school, Philjay dedicated two years of public service with the AmeriCorps Program, City Year. Through City Year, he served the Boston Community working with a team of young individuals striving to close the education gap within inner city public schools.
Philjay has received numerous accolades most notably, being a 2018 Forbes 30 Under 30 Scholars Program recipient for Law and Government and a representative of the 2019 Filipino Youth Leadership Program (FYLPro) where he was picked by the Philippine Consulate of New York and Philippine Ambassador to the United States, Jose Romualdez.
He is also the founder of Fil-Lennials of New England which features young professionals of Filipino-American descent to inspire and connect other Filipino-Americans across New England. Philjay currently sits as President of the Philippine Dance and Culture Organization (PDCO), a Regional Advisor for the National Federation of Filipino Americans Association (NaFFAA) and Board Director for the Philippine American Mainstream Advocacy for Non-Partisan Associations, Inc. (PAMANA) Through PAMANA, Philjay has contributed to their annual Philippine Independence Day Celebrations and Filipino-American Highs School Leadership Workshop.
In his spare time, Philjay volunteers with multiple non-profit organizations like the Massachusetts Youth Leadership Foundation and BosFilipino. He is also an active liaison with the Philippine Consulate of New York where he communicates the needs of the Filipino-American Community in New England to the Consulate office.
Aside from his recent appointment to the Asian-American Commission as a Commissioner, Sam had worked for Massachusetts House Speaker, Robert DeLeo for the previous four years. Currently, he is pursuing his Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Brandeis University’s Heller School, while serving as the Chair of Social Justice for the MPPSA. Sam also serves as the Executive Director for the Korean-American Citizens League. He has previously spoken on a number of panels and been a keynote speaker to various groups on a wide range of issues. Sam has also spoken at several college and university undergraduate classes about politics and public service.
Sam is active in the Asian-American community to help elect, and further engage AAPI’s within politics. The goal is to bring unification among the diverse community. Sam is passionate about social justice and enjoys spending time mentoring the next generation. His goal is to create opportunities and ensure that society is a just and equitable world for all. That with love, empathy and compassion, in collaboration with uplifting people, we can and will work in harmony in order to build the society we’ve always dreamt of into our reality.
Research & Policy Intern
Lily Tang is a Senior at UMass Amherst studying Political Science and Global Studies, with a focus on Asian/ Asian American Studies. She founded UMass’ first-ever Asian American Film Festival and brought to campus popular filmmakers and actors like Mike Bow and the WongFu Productions.
At UMass, she advocated for the Cultural Centers and worked to secure additional funding and staff for the centers. She believes in the importance of culturally sensitive support programs for students of color. Under her leadership, the Yuri Kochiyama Cultural Center increased its programming capacity and student engagement. Lily is also the founder of UMass’ Asian/ Asian American Studies Certificate Program’s Student Advisory Board. Lily is passionate about advocating for the Asian American community and pushing for diverse political representation. She received an endorsement from the Progressive Talent Pipeline. A fun fact about her is that she studied abroad twice- in South Korea and Ireland.
Community Outreach Coordinator – Western MA
Brooke Kamalani Yuen (also goes by Kamalani or “Kama”)(she/her/hers) is originally from Hawai’i, she identifies as a mixed Pacific Islander or Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian), being multiracial.
Kamalani recently graduated from UMass Amherst in 2019 with a Bachelors in Public Health and a Minor in Psychology. At UMass Amherst, she advocated for the recognition and support of BIPOC communities. While working at the Josephine White Eagle Cultural Center, she also worked closely with the Yuri Kochiyama Cultural Center to focus on the betterment of AAPI students on the UMass Amherst Campus through events and advocacy. She also was the President of the Native American Student Association her Senior Year and on the UMass Amherst Women’s Club Soccer Team. She received the “Quiet Influencer/Unsung Hero Award” from the Center for Multicultural Advancement and Student Success (CMASS) on the UMass Amherst Campus.
Currently, she is the part-time Western MA Community Outreach Coordinator for the Massachusetts Asian American Commission. She is also currently a third grade teacher at Springfield Prep Charter School in Western MA. She hopes to continue to advocate for marginalized communities, decolonize education, and eventually go for a Masters in Educational Leadership.
Marketing Communications Coordinator
Sheila Vo (she/her) is a visual designer based in Boston, MA. She graduated from UMass Lowell in 2019 where she earned a Bachelors in Fine Arts with a concentration in Graphic Design. Design has given her a platform to solve problems creatively for others to better understand concepts. She finds excitement in transforming an idea into well thought-out visual communications. She hopes to continue applying her experience as a creator to uplift the voices of those within the BIPOC community. Other than art & design, her interests include education reform, social justice and community service. Her dream is to be a part of the movement to get ethnic studies in our secondary education systems.
In her free time she enjoys working on her passion project, Generation Yellow @genyellow_, dancing, learning new skills, and volunteering for the #IAMNOTAVIRUS Campaign and the NAACP Merrimack Valley Branch.