HonoreesAnd the award goes to...
In 2008, NAAAP began a program to recognize the most exemplary leaders in the AAPI community. The NAAAP100 award is granted annually toluminaries in their respective field who, in addition to their considerable professional achievements, have made powerful contributions to elevating the AAPI cause. Previous award winners include the late Senator Daniel Inouye, Pepsico CEO Indra Nooyi, Superbowl MVP Hines Ward, and playwright David Henry Hwang.
Helen Zia is a writer, activist and Fulbright Scholar. Her latest book, Last Boat out of Shanghai: The Epic Story of the Chinese who Fled Mao’s Revolution, was an NPR best book of 2019 and shortlisted for a 2020 national PEN AMERICA award. Her first book, Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People, about the contemporary civil rights struggles of Asian Americans, is a staple of Asian American studies classes.
The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Helen was born and raised in New Jersey during the civil rights, anti-war and women’s movements and her journalism centers on stories of social change and justice. She was Executive Editor of the iconic feminist publication MS.magazine, and has been outspoken on issues ranging from human rights to countering gender and hate violence and homophobia. Her work on the Asian American landmark civil rights case of anti-Asian violence appears in the Oscar-nominated film, “Who Killed Vincent Chin?” In 2010, Helen became a witness in the federal case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made marriage equality the law of the land.
Helen has received honorary doctorates from the University of San Francisco and the City University of New York Law School. She attended Princeton University on a full scholarship and was a member of its first graduating class of women. Helen quit medical school to work as a construction laborer, an autoworker, and a community organizer, until she discovered her life’s work as a journalist and writer.
Ryan Patel is a world-renowned go-to authority on global business, political economy and corporate governance. An expert in scaling businesses, he has worked for startups to public traded companies; his deep knowledge in strategic global market development, concept scalability, digital transformation, innovation, consumer-driven marketing has made him a thought leader in the global business realm. He is a frequent CNN contributor, Board Director and Senior Fellow with the Drucker School of Management at Claremont Graduate University.
Patel is a strong believer in giving back to the community and paying it forward. He currently serves on several advisory boards ranging from social responsibility to technology. From being a part of the Mastercard Innovation Collective to the Board at the Drucker School of Management his passion for combining social good and business has led him to discuss relevant and real-world situations which are accessible to both students and professionals alike. In 2015, he was awarded “Executive of the Year” by the Los Angeles Business Journal and received Special United States Congressional Recognition for outstanding services to the community. In 2017, Inc. listed him as one of nine executives and innovators who serve as an inspiration for how all businesses can make a difference.
Patel’s unique and inherent knowledge of the ever-changing nature of trends and how it impacts business has been vital in providing valuable strategy and leadership in developing domestic and international growth plans across multi-cultural and cross-functional teams for some of the world’s most innovative companies.
Ryan is a multigenerational communicator who is able to break down complex global business issues in a digestible way. He is a contributor at CNN, BBC, Fox Business, The Hill, CGTN and more. He accompanies his literary talents with both domestic and international keynote appearances at company meetings and universities such as Money 20/20, World Government Summit, LEGO, London School of Economics, Wharton School of Business and more.
Cecilia Chung, Senior Director of Strategic Projects and Evaluation at Transgender Law Center (TLC), founder of Trans March, migrated from Hong Kong to San Francisco in December 1984. She has worked locally and internationally to advance LGBT rights, the rights of people living with HIV and sexual and reproductive health and rights. She is the first transgender woman and first person living openly with HIV elected as Chair of San Francisco Human Rights Commission (SFHRC). Under her leadership, SFHRC issued groundbreaking reports on bisexual invisibilities, unrecognized family relationships, the civil and human rights impact of REAL ID Act on San Franciscans, education as human right, discriminations of Native Americans and community concerns on racial and religious profiling of Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian communities. Cecilia is the architect of the nation’s most ambitious publicly funded program addressing economic justice within the transgender community. Her community service spans nearly three decades, and her life story was portrayed in the ABC’s miniseries, When We Rise.
Cecilia currently serves on the Health Commission where she successfully championed for San Francisco to become the first city in the U.S. to cover gender affirming surgery for the city’s uninsured transgender patients. In 2015, Cecilia launched Positively Trans, a national network of transgender people living with HIV led by transgender people of color living with HIV that focus on the leadership development transgender people of color living with HIV through storytelling, community-driven research, organizing and policy advocacy.
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In 2016, NAAAP created a program to recognize our most promising up-and-coming leaders in the Asian community. Over time, this award has grown to recognize leaders who have made a notable departure from their usual work to utilize their platform in affecting positive change in an unexpected way. Like NAAAP100 honorees, these NAAAP Inspire honorees have had a significant impact in business, government, or nonprofits.
Symington W. Smith is an award-winning youth advocate and global affairs expert who serves as the founder of The Winterflower Group. His mission is to inspire and show society that with action, young people can and do change the world.
Born in Atlanta but raised globally, Symington attended Peking University, where he studied as the only American student in the Chinese Language and Literature Department. Afterward, he attended King’s College London, briefly working for the U.K.’s Cabinet Office as Assistant Editor.
In 2018, he launched The Winterflower Group, a global youth platform that today counts Effie Award, Cannes Lions, and University of Cambridge scholarship recipients amongst its hundreds of members. In 2019, he joined American multinational law firm Baker McKenzie and helped develop its London Corporate M&A China Practice into one of the top legal teams in the EMEA+ region.
His passion for sustainability has led to ambitious projects and donations to charitable causes. To date, Symington has donated thousands of dollars to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems, including plastic pollution, access to education, extreme poverty, and more.
In 2020, Symington was one of five people worldwide to be elected a Life Fellow of The Royal Asiatic Society for his commitment to Asian affairs and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts for outstanding achievements in social progress and development. He is a recipient of Tatler Asia’s Leader of Tomorrow Award and has been ranked as a key leader shaping the future of Asia.
In 2018 NAAAP Pride was officially launched as a national program to empower, educate, engage, and celebrate the Asian American LGBTQ+ professional community and its allies by providing education, promoting visibility, and developing current and future LGBTQ+ leaders. To celebrate the 1-year anniversary of NAAAP Pride, the NAAAP Pride Award was established to honor an influential leader in the Asian American LGBTQ+ community who has made significant contributions in advancing LGBTQ+ leadership, equality, and visibility..
Ocean Vuong is the author of The New York Times bestselling novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, out from Penguin Press (2019) and forthcoming in 30 languages. A recipient of a 2019 MacArthur “Genius” Grant, he is also the author of the critically acclaimed poetry collection, Night Sky with Exit Wounds, a New York Times Top 10 Book of 2016, winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize, the Whiting Award, the Thom Gunn Award, and the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. A Ruth Lilly fellow from the Poetry Foundation, his honors include fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, The Elizabeth George Foundation, The Academy of American Poets, and the Pushcart Prize.
Vuong’s writings have been featured in The Atlantic, Granta, Harpers, The Nation, New Republic, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Village Voice, and American Poetry Review, which awarded him the Stanley Kunitz Prize for Younger Poets. Selected by Foreign Policy magazine as a 2016 100 Leading Global Thinker, Ocean was also named by BuzzFeed Books as one of “32 Essential Asian American Writers” and has been profiled on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” PBS NewsHour, Teen Vogue, Interview, Poets & Writers, and The New Yorker.
Born in Saigon, Vietnam, he lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, where he serves as an Assistant Professor in the MFA Program for Poets and Writers at UMass-Amherst.
Find more at @ocean_vuong on Instagram