Asian-American business leaders launch $332m effort to fight hate

Asian-American business leaders and members of the community rally in Queens, New York, on May 2, 2021. PHOTO: AAFEDERATION/TWITTER

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Prominent Asian-American business leaders launched a US$250 million (S$332 million) initiative on Monday to support an array of Asian American and Pacific Islander causes, vowing to create a national infrastructure for a community that has faced an increasing number of racial attacks.

The Asian American Foundation will invest its initial funding - described by organisers as the largest-ever philanthropic effort to support the AAPI community - in three key areas: anti-hate programmes, education, and data and research.

The foundation's board, which has committed US$125 million over five years, is chaired by Mr Li Lu, founder of hedge fund Himalaya Capital, and includes billionaires Mr Jerry Yang, the co-founder of Yahoo, and Mr Joseph Tsai, co-founder of Alibaba Group, among other executives.

Companies such as Coca-Cola, Walmart, Citigroup, Amazon, UBS Group and the National Basketball Association have contributed another US$125 million, according to the foundation.

An online launch event on Tuesday (May 4) will feature former presidents Mr Barack Obama, Mr George W. Bush and Mr Bill Clinton.

The organisation means to fill in gaps that have long constrained AAPI community organisations, which receive less than 0.5 per cent of charitable foundation-giving even though Asian Americans represent about 6 per cent of the US population.

The effort bolsters the emergence of Asian Americans as a political and cultural force, particularly in the wake of a spate of anti-Asian hate crimes in the last year.

The 23-million-strong community is the country's fastest-growing demographic group and saw a massive surge in voter turnout in last year's presidential election.

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 Mr Joseph Bae, co-president of private equity firm KKR & Co; Mr Peng Zhao, CEO of market maker Citadel Securities; Ms Sheila Lirio Marcelo, founder of; and Mr Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League.

Ms 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.

The foundation has already issued several grants, including $1 million to support the work of Stop AAPI Hate, an organisation that began compiling a database of attacks last year. Experts say federal efforts to report hate crimes suffer from undercounting and inconsistent standards.

In an interview, Ms Shah said the foundation will counteract the "model minority myth" that Asian Americans are successful and do not need assistance.

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," Ms 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 Ms Lisa Ling and Mr Fareed Zakaria.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.