CUNY Conference on
Building Coalitions & Coalescing a
Pan-Asian/Pacific/American Identity
Date: Tuesday, May 23, 2017     Time: 9AM to 4PM

Place: CUNY Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue, Concourse Level, Manhattan



Chhaya Chhoum is Executive Director of Mekong NYC. Born in Cambodia in 1978, during the fall of the Khmer Rouge Regime, Chhaya and her family sought refuge in refugee camps in Thailand and the Philippines before making their way to the United States. After a refugee resettlement program abandoned her extended family along with thousands of other Cambodians and Vietnamese in urban poverty in the Bronx she began to organize her community against institutionalized oppression.


When Chhaya was 16, she became a tutor in a pilot program run by CAAAV, one of the first organizations in America to mobilize Asian immigrant communities against the institutionalized violence of urban poverty, worker exploitation, police brutality, INS detention and deportation. Her summer internships soon turned into a full-time job as she became staff director of CAAAV’s new Youth Leadership Project (YLP). Taking on slumlords, overcrowded classrooms and cutbacks in translation services at public assistance centers and local health clinics, Chhaya harnesses the energy of the young in a community that has lost much of its adult generation. They would also begin to organize the adults as well as other youth to fight for justice.


In 2012, Chhaya co-founded Mekong NYC, a community-based organization in the Bronx empowering the Cambodian and Vietnamese community through arts, culture, community organizing, and advocacy.


John Chin is Associate Professor of Urban Policy & Planning at Hunter College/CUNY. Prof. Chin’s research focuses on urban health, immigrant communities and the role of community institutions in community planning and in the delivery of social and health services. He is also interested in how key community-based institutions in immigrant and minority communities shape community values and norms, particularly in relation to controversial or sensitive topics, like HIV. He is the Principal Investigator of a 5-year study funded by the National Institutes of Health on Asian immigrant religious institutions and their potential role in HIV prevention for the communities they serve.


Prof. Chin is a co-founder and former Deputy Executive Director of the Asian & Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS (APICHA). He has also worked for the NYC Commission on Human Rights and the NYC Comptroller’s Office.


Rockwell ("Rocky") Chin has been active in labor, community and civil rights struggles since the early 1970's. He developed "Asian Americans, Civil Rights & the Law", a course he taught at NYU and Cornell Law School. For over two decades, Chin was a government civil rights attorney at the New York City Commission on Human Rights and the New York State Division of Human Rights. He currently serves on the Board of the Asian American Law Fund of New York and the New York State Executive Council of AARP. Chin is co-founder of the Asian American Bar Association of New York.


Cathy Dang is currently the Executive Director of CAAAV and has organized in labor and community-led planning for over a decade with Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, the Retail Action Project and other grassroots organizations including the fight to keep Wal-Mart out of Los Angeles' Chinatown. At CAAAV, she has helped lead campaigns winning victories securing dozens of Chinatown tenants' homes and started the first project to organize NYCHA's Asian-immigrant tenants.  She is originally from Ridgewood, Queens and Los Angeles, California, and a daughter of Chinese-Vietnamese refugee parents who raised her in a nail salon in Downtown Brooklyn. 


Kazi Fouzia comes from a long history of struggles for justice. In Bangladesh, Kazi was a community organizer involved with a street vendors union, free community health clinics, and free education for slum children. She worked with several community and women’s organizations such as Women Watch Bangladesh, a national union of the small and cottage industry. Kazi immigrated from Bangladesh to the U.S. in 2008, and became a seamstress at retail sari shops in Jamaica and Jackson Heights, Queens. She was introduced to DRUM in 2009 through a ‘Know your Rights’ workshop for workers. For the past nine years, Kazi has been involved with DRUM as a member, leader, Community Organizer, and now as the Director of Organizing.


Ken Guest is Professor of Anthropology at Baruch College, CUNY where he teaches courses on globalization, cross-cultural interaction, immigration, religion and New York City. He is author of four books, including the best-selling Cultural Anthropology: A Toolkit for a Global Age (WW Norton 2014) and the highly regarded God in Chinatown: Religion and Survival in New York’s Evolving Immigrant Community (NYU Press 2003).


Ken’s more than 20 years of ethnographic research in China and the United States traces the immigration journey of recent Chinese immigrants from Fuzhou, southeast China, who, drawn by restaurant, garment shop, and construction jobs and facilitated by a vast human smuggling network, have revitalized New York’s Chinatown. His writing explores the role of Fuzhounese religious communities in China and the United States; the religious revival sweeping coastal China; the Fuzhounese role in the rapidly expanding U.S. network of all-you-can-eat buffets and take-out restaurants; and the higher education experiences of the Fuzhounese second generation.


Anita Gundanna is Co-Executive Director of the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families (CACF), the nation’s only children and families’ policy advocacy organization representing the pan-Asian community. Anita previously worked at CACF from 2001-2004 handling child welfare policy advocacy.


Prior to her return to CACF, she worked as a consultant with a number of small and growing community-based non-profit organizations mostly serving Asian American and immigrant communities. From 2004-2007, Anita served as Director of Client Services at Womankind (formerly the New York Asian Women’s Center), where she managed the agency’s residential and community-based services assisting women and child victims of domestic violence. While there she developed Project Free, a program serving victims of human trafficking.


From 2007-2010, Anita was Deputy Director at the Fund for Social Change (FSC) where she created and coordinated a number of donor-community collaborations and strategic alliances to affect positive change in New York City’s child welfare system. She was also Program Officer for the Child Welfare Fund and managed the foundation’s portfolio of grantees.


Anita is also pursuing a doctorate at Columbia University School of Social Work studying the role of collective ethnic identity in organizational coalition building, expected in Fall 2017.


James Hong is a Co-Director at the MinKwon Center for Community Action in Flushing, New York. Now and in his past roles at the MinKwon Center, James has coordinated MinKwon’s efforts in coalition-based civic engagement of Asian American voters in New York City and beyond. He has overseen collaborative efforts on voter mobilization and GOTV, voter education, candidate debates, as well as community participation in the Census and advocacy around the redistricting process.


Prior to the MinKwon Center, James coordinated research projects in the field of market intelligence. James is an immigrant from South Korea and raised in Florida. He holds an A.B. in Government from Bowdoin College and an M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary. The MinKwon Center is a non-profit dedicated to the empowerment of the Korean American, Asian American and immigrant communities since 1984.


Rachel Kuo is a doctoral student at New York University in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication studying digital media organizing and racial justice activism. Through centering the perspective of queer, feminist of color organizing, she examines the aesthetics and politics of online production and ways relationality and solidarity between and across communities of color are mediated in digital spaces. She is also currently a contributing writer for Everyday Feminism. Follow her on Twitter @rachelkuo.


Kalaya'an Mendoza spent the last 20 years of his life fighting for social justice in various movements ranging from the fight for LGBT rights to Tibetan Independence to anti–racist organizing and beyond. His background in activism is rooted in strategic nonviolent direct action organizing. As a Queer Filipino, with a disability, he has always gravitated towards working in solidarity with communities across the globe. He currently serves as a Field Director with Amnesty International USA and has lead the Tactical Safety and Security Unit within the Human Rights Observation deployments in Ferguson, DNC/RNC, Charlotte and most recently in Standing Rock. 

Joyce Moy is the Executive Director of the Asian American and Asian Research Institute (AAARI), of the City University of New York (CUNY). Her field of focus is economic and community development, and entrepreneurship.


She was the first Asian American director of a New York State Small Business Development Center (SBDC) funded by the US Small Business Administration.


Joyce has been involved in numerous research projects, and education and outreach on immigrant communities. She developed a unique curriculum for financial counselors embedded in community based organizations serving New York City’s poor, working poor and immigrants. The training was adopted by the non-profit, Cities for Financial Empowerment, and replicated nationally by over a dozen US cities, including Philadelphia, Miami, Honolulu, New Haven, San Francisco and Austin, becoming a national model in the field of financial empowerment.


She has served on the Governor’s Taskforce on Small Business, as co-chair of the past NYC Comptroller’s Taskforce on Public Benefit Agreements, the board of Asian Women in Business, and as Vice-Chair of the board of the North East Regional US Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce.  She is a former practicing attorney.  She taught Asian Americans and Law at Cornell Law School, and has taught at the CUNY School of Law. She currently serves on the advisory board of the Queens Borough President’s General Assembly, and the NYC Comptroller’s Advisory Council on MWBEs .She received her B.A. from Stony Brook University, and J.D. from Hofstra University School of Law.


Samantha Ng is a rising third year student at Binghamton University double majoring in Asian/Asian American Studies and Human Development. Samantha interns with the Broome County Urban League and is involved in civic engagement spaces and the Asian American community. As the incoming President of the Asian Student Union and Andrew Goodman Foundation Ambassador Team Leader, Samantha aims to build solidarity among communities of color on her college campus through community engagement and electoral participation. This summer, Samantha will be interning with APIAVote in Washington, D.C.


Her interest and devotion to the Asian American community through civic engagement and advocacy is deeply rooted in her experience taking Asian American Studies courses at Binghamton University and Hunter College.


Vinit Parmar, Esq., began his film work as a sound mixer in New York fifteen years ago after making the transition from an established legal career of seven years. He works professionally as a sound mixer for features, shorts, and commercials, and continues to direct his own documentary films. He loves to teach film production courses as a full-time tenured faculty member of the Film Department at Brooklyn College/CUNY. His documentary films have won awards, screened around 50+ festivals with 30+ awards for Living River, Quest for Energy, Beyond the Grid. He is currently filming in Germany and China to expand his documentary aesthetic.


Vita C. Rabinowitz is Executive Vice Chancellor and University Provost at The City University of New York. Her service in that role began in July 2015. For nearly a decade prior to her current appointment, Dr. Rabinowitz served as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Hunter College, where she has been a dedicated faculty member for her entire academic career. In addition to teaching and mentoring thousands of students over the course of her 37 years at Hunter, she held a variety of administrative positions before assuming the role of provost, including chairperson of the Department of Psychology, acting associate provost, and acting provost.


In addition to her extensive service at Hunter, since 1978 Dr. Rabinowitz has been a member of the doctoral program in Psychology at CUNY Graduate Center, where she served as acting program head of the Social/Personality doctoral subprogram.


Dr. Rabinowitz received her master’s and doctoral degrees in social psychology at Northwestern University. The range of her scholarly interests includes the study of women and achievement, methodological issues in the study of gender, memory, and coping with adverse outcomes. Her co-authored textbook on the psychology of women, Engendering Psychology: Women and Gender Revisited, is in its second edition.


Mark Tseng-Putterman is a writer and activist interested in Asian American social movements vis-a-vis the carceral state. He previously led campaigns related to AAPI surveillance, internet rights, and digital privacy as a Media Justice Campaigner with and has organized in support of the family of Akai Gurley through Asians4BlackLives - NYC. His writings on Asian American student movements, masculinity, antiblackness, and police violence have appeared in platforms such as Truthout, Reappropriate, and Racefiles. He is a Visiting Scholar at the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New York University and an incoming American Studies PhD student at Brown University, where he plans to focus on Asian American perspectives on prisons, policing, and other forms of racial violence.


Eric Tang is the 2016-2017 CUNY Thomas Tam Visiting Professor at the CUNY Graduate Center. Prof. Tang is an Associate Professor in the African and African Diaspora Studies Department and faculty member in the Center for Asian American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He also holds a courtesy appointment in the Department of Sociology and serves as a faculty fellow with both the Institute for Urban Policy Research & Analysis and the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement. Unsettled is his first book.


Stanley Thangaraj is a socio-cultural anthropologist and assistant professor of anthropology at the City College of New York/CUNY. Thangaraj researches immmigrant and refugee communities in the U.S. during this time of the "global war on terror." His first project, Desi Hoop Dreams: Pickup Basketball and the Making of Asian American Masculinity, examines the gendered nature of citizenship and how South Asian American men perform sporting masculinity as a way to challenge their racialization as nerds and terrorists.


In his recent work, Thangaraj is conducting an ethnography of Kurdish America as a way to interrogate how the Kurds, seen as the community most benefiting from U.S. occupation of Iraq, manage U.S. Empire and increasing Islamophobia. Both of his research projects are in the U.S. South. He has also co-edited Asian American Sporting Cultures.


Paul Y. Watanabe is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Institute for Asian American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Dr. Watanabe recently served on President Obama’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and also as Chair of the U.S. Census Bureau’s National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic, and Other Populations. He currently serves as the President of the Board of Directors of the Nisei Student Relocation Commemorative Fund; on the Advisory Board of the New Americans Integration Institute; on the Board of Directors of the South Shore Health System; and on the Board of Trustees of the Harry H. Dow Memorial Legal Assistance Fund.


Dr. Watanabe is the author of Ethnic Groups, Congress, and American Foreign Policy and principal author of A Dream Deferred: Changing Demographics, New Opportunities, and Challenges for Boston.


Antony Wong is Program Coordinator at the Asian American / Asian Research Institute, of the City University of New York, and Assistant Publisher of CUNY FORUM. He received his BA from Hunter College/CUNY and MBA from the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College/CUNY. Antony also serves on Manhattan Community Board No. 2 as Board Treasurer and member on the Traffic & Transportation and State Liquor Authority committees; and is former Co-Chair of the Chinatown Working Group.


Tommy Wu is a doctoral candidate in sociology at the Graduate Center, CUNY. He is also serving as an Instructional Technology Fellow (ITF) at Macaulay Honors College. His research interests sit at the intersection of globalization, labor, and political consciousness. His dissertation is an ethnography that explores the changing nature of the Chinese restaurant network and its implications on worker subjectivities. Tommy has taught several sociology courses at Queens College including Introduction to Sociology and Foundations of Social Research. Prior to graduate school, Tommy worked in several large private firms and a number of community-based organizations.


Jo-Ann Yoo is the executive director of the Asian American Federation, a membership organization that works with the over sixty nonprofits that represent and support the pan-Asian community. Jo-Ann’s professional experiences include program management and operations, fundraising, and advocacy in the fields of community development and immigrant rights. Previous employers include the New York Immigration Coalition and Asian Americans for Equality. Currently, Jo-Ann is a member of the board of directors of the Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of New York, an umbrella organization representing and serving some 1,500 member nonprofit organizations throughout New York City, Long Island, and Westchester.


Karen Zhou is Executive Director of Homecrest Community Services. For over 13 years, Karen has been active in the Chinese community. Previously she worked in community banking, helped organized many community events including the original Taste of Chinatowns, provided technical assistance to minority business owners through the US Dept. of Commerce’s minority business development program, coordinated community relations, PR and outreach efforts at the US Dept. of Commerce's Census Bureau and with Womankind (formerly NY Asian Women’s Center).







Coalition Building



Topic Abstracts


CUNY Diversity Projects Development Fund