Meet the 2017 Fellows

Israt Audry
Hometown: Brooklyn

Placement: DRUM – South Asian Organizing Center
I am a recent graduate of CUNY Hunter College. I was first introduced to social justice work in 2012 while I was looking for a community who understood my issues as an undocumented person. More recently, I have been doing social justice work with various groups in NYC like RAISE and DRUM.Through this fellowship, I hope to further develop my skills as a community organizer and to build with other community organizers. In the future, I hope to use the skills that I learn from this fellowship to work with my communities in fighting for our rights.

Yuni Chang
Hometown: New Jersey

Placement: CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities
My parents, who sold paintings, raised me to appreciate art as a source of healing for the times we are living in. After the recession, they lost their jobs, and our future as a family has since remained uncertain. I had grown up middle-class in white suburbia, and I became conscious of the precarity of my family’s lives under capitalism. I was politicized through poetry in high school, after a friend and I were threatened with suspension for writing a piece about white supremacy. These experiences moved me to organize in college for hiring power and new lines for ethnic studies faculty, and increased resources for low-income students of color. As the country escalates its siege on the people I love, I’m here to learn how to be a more effective fighter alongside movement peers and elders. I’m excited to learn from and build with y’all. Liberation in our lifetime.

Eddie On Chao
Hometown: Oakland, CA

Placement: Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN)

I am born and raised in Oakland, CA to a family of Iu-Mienh refugees. Throughout my life I have been constantly questioning what does it truly mean to be myself in my identities. In this process is where I found my love for social justice, particularly through the lens of culture and hxstory and finding the balance of understanding how these beautifully inform my life while not letting it control my life. Having being involved with movement building in the Bay Area and constantly bouncing and transitioning through multiple orgs, I have seen the effects that Seeding Change can have on individuals and places and that inspired me to apply. Through Seeding Change I hope to not only further develop my skills as a community organizer and to be better learn how to define for myself what it means to struggle, grow, and be in community with each other. I not only want to be in a space that we are able to organize from a place of love and tenderness, but know what it means to build and create that space and love. With these skills I hope to gain, I aim to be another vital piece of the puzzle that will bring about the transformative change that allows for safety and self-determination everywhere that I am and will be involved with in throughout my life.

Matthew Chen
Hometown: San Francisco, CA

Placement: ASIA Inc

I grew up in a family of working class Asian immigrants where I first handedly viewed and experienced exploitation and racism and gradually developed an understanding of our shared experiences as I found the words to express them. My youth informed me of our individual powerlessness and had that view reinforced when I learned how organized (labor) actions give the safety nets that some of us benefit from such as healthcare, education, pensions, and safe working conditions. I hope to use this understanding to make material differences in the lives of people I’ll be working with and to use my experience organizing in college to make it happen. By being a fellow, I hope to better understand our positions as immigrants and refugees in a settler-colonial state, learn to advocate for each other in future workplaces, and make robust/ long-lasting friendships of mutual support.

Marisa Cherry
Hometown: Oakland, CA

Placement: Asian American Organizing Project

I am a queer, second generation, mixed Chinese American woman and community worker, originally from Oakland and currently based in Orange and Los Angeles Counties. In 2015, I graduated from Pomona College with a B.A. in Media Studies and a Critical Studies concentration. In classes spanning across disciplines like Africana Studies, Latino/a Studies, Asian American Studies, and Gender & Sexuality Studies, I worked to produce analyses of interlocking, systemic oppression. Reading theory – and viewing visual art – by people of color taught me about histories of resistance against institutional pillars that continually work to uphold whiteness and legalize violence against marginalized groups. Contextualizing myself within these historical movements of survival and resilience, I am most interested in brainstorming alternatives to violence and envisioning new futures where our communities are supported and well-resourced. Through the Seeding Change Fellowship, I hope to challenge myself, gain new skills, and make new connections with other Fellows.

Crystel Crisol
Hometown: Stockton, CA

Placement: Filipino Advocates for Justice

I am first generation Pilipinx college student and a rising third year at UC Berkeley and I hope to pursue a major in Public Health and Ethnic Studies to further my understanding of health disparities in my hometown, Stockton CA. Raised by my undocumented family member in Sacramento, CA up until I was 13, it became really hard for my guardian and I to make ends meet. I then moved in with other family members in Stockton, CA for the duration of my high school years. As an only child of a single parent I have learned a lot about caring for others and organizing from my mom, who immigrated from the Philippines and was heavily involved in organizing at her own hometown. My father still resides in the Philippines, and currently serves as a police officer. Both of my parents have talked about the systems present in the USA and the Philippines, but my first conversation about social justice issues were through Shadownite!, a REACH! program that allowed me to understand educational injustices in my own community. 5 years later, I have been given the opportunity to be at Cal, and it has been my passion to get involved with learning more about social justice and what it means to work with youth in communities like my own. Being an afterschool mentorship program coordinator, I still have so much to learn about API organizing and I hope that Seeding Change can be a way for me to channel what I learn back to my community at Cal and at home.

Poonam Dass
Hometown: Queens, NY

Placement: DRUM – South Asian Organizing Center

Growing up in New York City where public space is always contested, I always walked and breathed the inequalities that continue to underlie the city landscape. From an early age, I was aware of the grotesque double edged role immigrants have to face based on the experience of my hardworking parents. We must play the role of the oppressed in order to try to strive to feel like the oppressor. During my junior year of high school, I was able to join DRUM and learn about the ways in which I can support my community and those constantly at the forefront fighting for basic human rights. Through the fellowship, I hope to learn from other fellows and their experience in organizing. I want to be able to learn and use the skills from the program to organize my own community and mobilize others who may feel forgotten behind the shadows of injustice.

Christian Escalante
Hometown: Dutch Harbor, AK

Placement: Filipino Community Center

I moved from the Philippines to Alaska when I was nine years old to be with my parents. I was fortunate enough to live in a town that had a strong Filipino community, which allowed me to feel closer to my heritage than moving to a town with little diversity. After leaving Alaska for university, I realized that not everyone has had that experience, and that I still had a lot to learn about what it means to be Filipinx American. Through this fellowship, I hope to learn what it means to navigate this space, and share my own experiences with others. I also hope to learn more about community organizing, and what that looks like the in the Bay Area. Since starting university, I have studied social justice and organizing in a more academic way. With FCC, I want to get back into working dynamically with others, and putting theory into practice. I look forward to working with the community, and gaining a deeper understanding with regards to empathy, respect, activism, and justice.

Jenn Heng
Hometown: Long Beach, CA

Placement: Khmer Girls in Action

I am a second generation Cambodian-American from Long Beach, California. I am an alumni of Khmer Girls in Action and was a youth member from 2005-2008. My politicization and leadership development began with KGA where I soon took on the role of a Youth Organizer, the first of its kind in KGA. After nearly ten years in the Bay Area, I understood I felt most full in community. I returned to my hometown to invest back in the city that birthed me. I continue to learn and practice radical love and healing and am committed in bringing forward the struggles, the victories, and voices of today’s youth of color. I hope to build my capacity to not only show up for the resistance but to be engaged in the transformative work that is absolutely crucial to our liberation. I commit to mentor and invest in the next generation of compassionate freedom fighters and visionaries. I commit to step into my power, become a stronger advocate for social change, and love fiercely.

Hometown: NYC & Houston

Placement: Chinese Progressive Association, San Francisco

Growing up as a low income Asian immigrant woman of color even in a place as diverse as New York City made me very aware of social inequality and systems of oppression in relation to people’s intersections of their various identities. I enjoyed doing organizing and community development with organizations like CAAAV in NYC and United We Dream in Houston, where I really felt community power cultivated in loving and just environments. I hope to apply and hone my native language skills to do social justice work with Mandarin- and Cantonese-speaking immigrant families, thereby unlearn and re-learn my roots. Besides language skills, I also hope to learn about how campaigns and campaign strategies are crafted and actualized. I will apply what I learned from my fellowship to help build movements across communities through art, science, and organizing.

Amy Horn
Hometown: Long Beach, CA

Placement: Khmer Girls in Action

Hi my name is Amy Kim Leang Horn I was born from survivors of the Khmer Rouge Regime. I am the second generation of my culture, though I was born here in America I experience the hardship of my families struggle settling in the states. I’ve witness injustice at a young age, I was poisoned by a gas leak from tesoros refinery in my community when I was 6 years old, that caused me to have severe headaches and diarrhea for months. My cousin took his own life from gang violence. I was lost in translation and could not understand my life until I joined an organization in high school. Social Justice helped me find my identity. That moment is when I realize I would not want anyone to be as lost as I was trying to find myself. I knew I had to make a difference some how, my calling is to empower my community and start the healing process of our past and everyday struggle.

Connie Hsu
Hometown: West Covina, CA

Placement: Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN)

Connie is a queer, nonbinary Asian American from sunny Southern California. They are currently pursuing a Business Administration degree with concentrations in Identity and Diversity and Environmental Sustainability at Babson College in Wellesley, MA and just completed a year abroad at The London School of Economics and Political Science. At school, Connie actively advocates for and educates fellow students on matters concerning marginalized communities on campus and works to enact sustainability initiatives as an intern for the Babson Sustainability Office. In the Bay Area queer API community, Connie works to build intergenerational power as a member of the Red Envelope Giving Circle and as an API Equality – Northern California intern alum. As a fellow, Connie hopes to learn more about the coalition building and civic engagement necessary in our work towards collective liberation. Aside from community organizing, Connie enjoys relationship building, visual storytelling, radical softness, hair styling, and Disney Parks.

Edward Huang
Hometown: Cerritos, CA

Placement: Chinese Progressive Association, San Francisco

I was involved in social justice organization while at Cal, and realized that movement was something that I want pursue further. I hope to grow as an organizer, to learn from peers, and to learn the communities that I will serving and working with this summer. I plan to continue movement work in some way shape or form, so I think I will be taking everything I learn from this fellowship into the future.

Vivian Huang
Hometown: Oakland, CA

Placement: Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN)

My experience growing up in Oakland Chinatown along with strong relationships/friendships built with passionate and caring people involved in social justice endeavors at Laney College led me to apply for Seeding Change fellowship. On this journey, I hope to create meaningful connections that support a common purpose in healing and restoring community. Strengthening confidence and skills to work both independently and collectively will be important focuses. As I grow in experience, I hope to fine-tune my intent and goals in how I contribute to community.

Aian Mendoza Hurtado-Doppenburg
Hometown: Orange, CA

Placement: Pilipino Workers Center

Growing up, and still today, I struggle with my identities as a queer, gender non-conforming and neuro-diverse mixed Filipinx American. I was taught to assimilate and be obedient until high school when I began to create my own [messy] path. Connecting my experiences with housing, food and family security to those of QTPOC and POC communities helped me realize the systemic inequalities within our society. This began my organizing at Santa Ana College and within the community. In 2015, I transferred to UC Riverside, eventually switched to Ethnic Studies and continued work around food justice. Last summer, I went through the LEAP internship program with API Equality LA. This was a transformative and affirming experience for me in re-discovering my desire to work within the community and organize. I chose to apply for Seeding Change because I want to learn how to support at the grassroots level and continue building community. I plan to take the skills I learn back to Riverside and into future circles.

Sagaree Jain
Hometown: Cupertino, CA

Placement: Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN)

I am an aspiring scholar, poet, organizer, and educator based in the San Francisco Bay Area and guided by my identity as a queer South Asian woman. I grew up in the Silicon Valley and graduated in 2017 from the University of California at Berkeley with a degree in History focused on South Asia, race/class/caste/gender under the British Empire, and imperial science. While at Berkeley, I served as the Co-Director of CalSLAM Slam Poetry and founded the coalition South Asians for Social Justice. I was also involved with the Alliance of South Asians Taking Action as a Bay Area Solidarity Summer alumni, interned with South Asian Americans Leading Together, and volunteered with Narika women’s shelter. I’m deeply dedicated to progressive South Asian community, and I am so excited to build my learning and experience into a broader Asian American movement. I’m hoping, through the Seeding Change fellowship, to get a deeper understanding of building power through community, and to learn about and contribute to important work in the Bay Area– my home for so long. I can’t wait to compare experiences and strategies with AAPI folks who dream of justice for communities of color.

Win-Mon Kyi
Hometown: San Francisco, CA

Placement: Filipino Community Center

I am a second generation of Burmese ethnicity. I grew up active in Burmese cultural preservation and Buddhist organizations. Through the fightback against neoliberal policies at City College of San Francisco became politicized and have since fought for education justice. I applied to Seeding Change because I wanted to be involved in how the Asian American and immigrant communities are not only addressing immediate needs and services, but how they are building political power & leadership. I am grateful to be working with the Filipino Community Center this summer! I am intent on internationalism and fighting for the socioeconomic conditions of the community and hope to meet new comrades! I’m looking forward to working on campaigns, and understanding the sociopolitical history of the San Francisco and international Filipino Community. I hope to used what I’ve learned from Seeding Change to further strengthen the fight for a just and better living conditions of Asian American communities.

Hannah Lee
Hometown: San Francisco, CA

Placement: Chinese Progressive Association, San Francisco

I am a second generation Chinese American woman born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. I am a rising senior at the University of California Santa Cruz, majoring in Community studies and minoring in Education. My journey in social justice began my first year in college, where I began to engage critically with my Chinese identity, my family’s immigration story, and the historical/institutional oppression that keeps people of color on the margins of society. I am excited to work with the Chinese community and build solidarity with all communities of color. I hope to strengthen my voice in advocacy and learn more about organizing. I want to use the skills that I develop back to campus with student organizations and future endeavors through incorporating education and creativity.

Christine Lee
Hometown: Seoul, South Korea

Placement: Korean Resource Center

As a Korean-American, split between two countries and two cultures, I learned that belonging is something that you build with others, a mutual, symbiotic relationship. But if our society is rooted in systems of oppression, the strive for true belonging becomes a source of trauma and anxiety. I work to break down those barriers and commit fully to achieve a real and tangible liberty and justice for all.

My passion for social justice and community building started when I was invited to join my college’s organizing committee for AAPI Heritage month my sophomore year. From there, my passion to build and sustain a equal and inclusive society stemmed into both my academic interests as well as potential career options. While working with the Korean Resource Center under the Seeding Change Fellowship this summer, I hope to learn both more about my community and myself to help propel me towards a life that works to uplift and help others in any time of need.

Adrian Leong
Hometown: Hong Kong SAR

Placement: Chinese Progressive Association, San Francisco

The radicalization of my own politics came when I went into my first year at Middlebury College, VT. For two years, I worked on getting our College to divest from fossil fuels and weapons manufacturers, which exposed me to the frame of frontline-led organizing which I had never grasped before. Then, I associated myself with a radical Asian American group on campus that furthered my engagements with organizing. A class that I took with a disability studies scholar also deepened my commitment to doing social justice work. I am looking forward to being exposed to a variety of organizing experiences throughout the country on this fellowship, as well as meeting long-time organizers who are going to share their experiences with us. Through this opportunity, I sincerely hope that I can better appreciate the importance of this work, and find out how long I would like to commit to doing this work, or whether I can deepen the impacts of this work by occupying a different position in society.

Gerry Lor
Hometown: Salisbury, NC

Placement: Southeast Asian Coalition

I am a recent graduate from the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW). My degree is in Sociology and International Studies. As a child of Hmong refugees and a part of a working class family, I understand the difficulties that many people like us face such as financial struggle or even racial prejudices. It was especially while interning at a refugee resettlement agency, I have been able to see the struggles of recent refugees as well. With one of my majors as Sociology, I have been able to gain a better understanding of some of the power structures that contribute to the inequality that exist today in our communities. It really frustrates me to see the inequalities today and this is one reason why I have gained such a passion for social justice. I have only been able to put my passion of social justice to use during college as vice-president of the UNCW Asian Student Association and have been a part of the 2017 East Coast Asian American Student Conference Team. I am beyond excited to be able to be apart of of the Seeding Change Fellowship to learn and grow as an advocate for social justice.

Janice Luo

Placement: Asian Americans United

I am a rising junior at Swarthmore College, the daughter of Chinese immigrants, and an improving social activist. My passion for social justice began in a week-long workshop about social justice and diversity in freshman year. That’s when I started to unpack years of quiet stereotypes and micro-aggressions, and when I started to think about how crucial one’s position in the dominant culture shapes their mental health and personal identity. Since then, I have been on the mission of understanding the unique experience of being Asian in America, both in terms of how a person navigates stereotypes in constructing their identity, and how Asian American communities are treated on a political level. This summer’s fellowship really excites me because, having grown up as the only Asian kid in school, it will be my first sustained interaction with a full Asian American community. Having seen my Asian identity as a burden for so long, I am excited to work with a community that collectively owns and advocates for Asian America, and I hope to leave with a fuller understanding of the issues that are hidden by the “model minority” stereotype and what it truly means to be Asian American.

Chanel Ly
Hometown: Vancouver BC

Placement: Chinese Progressive Association, San Francisco

Chanel is a second generation Chinese Vietnamese woman born and raised in Vancouver BC Coast Salish Territories. For the past 2 years she had been working as a Chinese Seniors Outreach Worker in Vancouver’s Chinatown, providing support services and organizing against gentrification with her elders. There, the progressive Chinese community is still quite young and mostly consist of youth volunteers. She’s interested in learning tangible strategies and processes from the Bay Area that she can take home to build anchor institutions that can allow for the sustainability and growth of community organizing. She’s currently taking a break from seniors work to heal from burnout as well as tend to her bookbinding business, @bittermelonbindery!

Lisa Ng
Hometown: New York City, New York

Placement: CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities

I was born and raised in New York City by my parents, who are first generation immigrants from Taishan, China. I was politicized and inspired to get involved in Asian Americana after a year long internship at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop (AAWW). After AAWW, I became involved with the NYC Asian American Student Conference (NYCAASC) and was fortunate enough to have led a wonderful team of folks to put on the conference this year. In addition, I was granted an internship at the Environmental Protection Agency last summer through the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies.

I am fortunate enough to have explored so many facets of Asian Americana, but it is time for me to return home. I am a lifelong resident of Queensbridge Houses – the largest public housing complex left in the United States. Prior to the start of CAAAV’s work at Queensbridge in 2014, I didn’t think my lived experiences as a low income Asian American living in a majority un-Asian community warranted any sort of presence in the movement. I was used to putting the struggles of others before my own. I am excited to be able to do some hardcore anti-gentrification work with CAAAV this summer via Seeding Change. I am excited (but also terrified) to finally acknowledge my personal struggles and to help build a more inclusive space in all the communities I am a part of.

Helen Ngo
Hometown: Chelsea, MA

Placement: Asian American Organizing Project

I am a Vietnamese American womxn, daughter of refugees, born and raised in Chelsea, MA. My politicization came about through the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Asian American Studies program. By understanding how the historical and social context affected my family’s and communities’ experiences, I began to reclaim my identity and create acts of resistance and resilience. It channelled my anger and laid the foundations to my community activism. With a high focus around accessibility and empowerment, I have created educational tools around Asian American hxtory and redefining what leadership looks like for young people. Through this fellowship, I hope to cultivate the skills to incorporate healing into my activism and to be a megaphone to marginalized voices within Southeast Asian American communities and beyond.

Dianara Rivera

Placement: Pilipino Workers Center

I am a Filipina-American daughter of immigrants. I am trying to figure out how to understand the complexities of the Filipino diaspora without leaning on the ideologies of campus activism that can be elitist and removed. I am a writer and a storyteller, and I want to learn how to communicate more accessibly, critically, and compassionately. I hope to continue to explore what it means to be a part of the diaspora, and learn how to better serve immigrant communities after I graduate college.

Van Sam

Placement: VietLead

I’m a 1.5 generation Vietnamese Chinese immigrant, born in Saigon, raised in Philadelphia, PA. I grew up not truly understanding my identity as a Chinese Vietnamese person and why my family moved to the U.S in the first place, until I got involved in the community and became politicized through Asian American United, Boat People SOS in Philly and Hai Ba Trung School of organizing. I applied to Seeding Change because I wanted to further my analysis of the work, gain different tools for organizing, build with other young people around the country who are also working for racial justice, and grow as a person! I hope to use the skills I gained in this fellowship to continue to build and work with folx in the community toward an alternative world that we imagine. I also hope to carry the relationships I will build with folx with me in my future because I believe relationships are the most important thing in organizing.

Linh Linh Trinh
Hometown: Rosemead, CA

Placement: VietLead

As a Southeast Asian Teochew Chinese daughter of Vietnam war refugees, my struggle with identity growing up and curiosity for storytelling brought me to learn about my hxstory and the injustices in the world—starting with my families’ war stories. I found myself involved in API/SEA/POC social justice organizations in college with a focus on education and public health. It was the first time being exposed and learning about all the different systemic issues I did not have the words to describe. As a beginner public school educator, I will challenge and disrupt the system from within and I look forward to gain and strengthen my skills through Seeding Change to do this. I am open to all the platforms and methods I can share my heart and lift my communities up with—and as I do so, I keep the following question in mind as I build: How can we say we, as a society, are advancing when there are folks left behind?

John Wang
Hometown: Boston, MA

Placement: Chinese Progressive Association Boston

I believe who I am and why I am here comes from understanding the struggles and history of my parents and those before me. I am from the fields worked on by generations of peasants and beasts of burden. And I am from the cramped and suffocating kitchens where Chinese cooks fought fire and wok. My parents immigrated to the US nearly 20 years ago with the clothes they had on their backs, a few hundred dollars, and an English-Chinese electronic translator. Born and raised in Boston, I grew up as the only Asian youth on my block and in school. The constant pressure to support my family coupled by the daily struggle with racism caused me to question my identity. It reached the point where I tried to scrub the yellow off my skin, forget the foreign tones of my mother’s tongue, and seriously considered ending it all.

What ultimately saved my life was returning to my roots when I walked through the doors of CPA Boston in my freshman year of high school. Grassroots organizing brought me into the community where I connected with the residents and families like my own. To work alongside the community tackling gentrification, worker and tenant rights, and confronting anti-blackness in the Asian-American community allowed me to understand the struggles and history of my parents and those before me. It allowed me to explore my identity as an Asian-American youth and understand how I can continue to create change in my community. I hope to further that understanding by creating new relationships within the fellowship and hearing about other’s experiences and stories and to continue the work I’ve been involved in in recent years at CPA Boston.

Patricia Wong
Hometown: Long Island, New York

Placement: Chinese Progressive Association Boston

As a child of migrants, I grew up questioning the ideas of the United States presented to me in school, in my community, in the media. For generations, my family has migrated across borders. As part of the first generation in my family to be fortunate enough to have relative stability, I have also been privileged with the capacity to call into question the systems responsible for much of my family’s multigenerational struggles. As a fellow, I hope to be able to work towards challenging these systems as part of a broader community, whether that be through organizing or strengthening civil society. With the skills, strength, and knowledge I gain from these communities, I hope to be able to embody these elements in the work I do in the future. Most importantly, I want to channel my experience as a fellow and work and resist against systems of racial, class, queer, gender injustice and ableism and fight for broad and true justice at every intersection of people’s experiences and identities.

Learn more about the 2017 Host Sites.