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AAPI Month Panel

Japanese Culture in the West

Okage sama de with former state senator, Jani Iwamoto, Rolen Yoshinaga, from the Salt Lake Buddhist Temple, and Valerie Nagasawa, lead architect on the proposal to revitalize Japantown in Salt Lake City, moderated by Zach Smith, Director of Organizational Effectiveness at Bridge, to discuss the history of Japanese in the West and the intersection with real estate investment, development, community and cultural preservation.

Jeehae Lee

Executive Sponser

Chenlong Lu


Elaine Lu


Ammar Subhani

Curtis Rochette

Jing Xu

Yoonjin Choo

Sean Kim

Jacky Cheng

Zach Smith

Allies for AAPI Committee

2023 Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Allies For AAPI

Our mission is to recognize and address the uniqueness and diversity of the AAPI population, to educate the general public on the various heritage of this broad group, to promote the positive image and contribution AAPI has made to America, to meet each group’s specific needs, and to address the unique challenges of our AAPI population and to support their career advancement.

The Rise of Hate Crimes

AAPI hate crimes have increased by over 300% in the last few years. This highlights the urgent need for increased awareness, education, and action to address this issue. As we celebrate AAPI Heritage Month, it is important to acknowledge the discrimination that AAPI communities continue to face and work towards creating a safer and more inclusive society. We should actively listen to and amplify AAPI voices, advocate for policy changes, and stand up against hate and bigotry.

Harry Sotaro Kawabe

Harry Sotaro Kawabe was an inspiring figure who exemplified the American Dream. Born in Japan, he arrived in the United States in 1906 with a desire to succeed. After working as a houseboy to learn English, he moved to Alaska, where he established the Seward Steam Laundry, the start of a long and successful business career.

Kawabe invested in various businesses, including a gold-mining operation and real estate, and became one of the largest property owners in town. His generosity extended beyond his businesses, as he helped to raise and educate numerous children.

Despite being forced to evacuate and interned during World War II, Kawabe continued to be a leader, even becoming a spokesman for the Alaskan Japanese internees. He eventually became a U.S. citizen and continued to pursue the American Dream throughout his life. Kawabe's story is a testament to the resilience and determination of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.


The Glass Ceiling in the AAPI Community

The AAPI community faces a  unique "glass ceiling" in leadership positions. While being well represented in the workforce, only 3% of Fortune 500 CEOs identify as AAPI. This underrepresentation is even more pronounced for Pacific Islanders, who make up only 0.3% of corporate board members in the U.S.

A Double-Edged Sword 

Assimilation is a process in which members of a minority group adopt the customs, values, and behaviors of the dominant culture to fit in and be accepted. For many members of the AAPI community, assimilation has been a key part of the acculturation process in the United States. However, this can be a double-edged sword, as it can lead to the erasure of cultural identities and the loss of traditional practices and beliefs. 

Sheryl WuDunn

Sheryl WuDunn is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, business executive, and social entrepreneur who has made a significant impact. She often speaks about the barriers and stereotypes she’s faced as an Asian American women and has worked to provide resources and opportunities for the AAPI community and any other underrepresented groups.  WuDunn co-founded FullSky Partners, a social impact investment firm that focuses on investing in companies that solve global challenges. FullSky Partners aims to create measurable social and environmental impact alongside financial returns. As a result, the firm is aligned with WuDunn's values and vision to create a better world. Before founding FullSky Partners, WuDunn worked as a journalist for The New York Times, where she co-wrote several best-selling books with her husband, Nicholas Kristof. Together, they covered issues such as poverty, gender inequality, and human rights violations, shining a light on the problems faced by marginalized communities. WuDunn's work has received widespread recognition, including being the first Asian American to win the Pulitzer Prize. She has also been named one of the "World's Most Influential Women" by Forbes and is a sought-after speaker on topics related to social impact and entrepreneurship.

The history of the AAPI community in America is often overlooked and underrepresented, despite the significant contributions that this community has made to American society. Many AAPI individuals and groups have faced discrimination, exclusion, and erasure throughout American history, which has led to a lack of recognition and understanding of their experiences and perspectives

Overlooked and


George Ching was a pioneering Chinese-American businessman who founded Cathay Bank, one of the first banks in the United States to serve the Chinese-American community. Born in Canton, China, in 1918, Ching came to the United States in 1935 to study at the University of Washington. After graduating with a degree in business, Ching worked in the restaurant industry in Seattle before moving to Los Angeles in 1956. There, he saw a need for a bank that could serve the Chinese-American community, which at the time had limited access to financial services due to discrimination and other factors. In 1962, Ching founded Cathay Bank, which became a cornerstone of the Chinese-American community in Los Angeles and beyond. The bank offered services such as checking and savings accounts, loans, and money transfers, and quickly grew in popularity among Chinese-Americans and other Asian-American communities. Under Ching's leadership, Cathay Bank also became a leader in community development, supporting small businesses and affordable housing initiatives in underserved areas. Ching was known for his commitment to social responsibility and his efforts to promote cultural understanding between Chinese and non-Chinese communities. Although Ching passed away in 1996 Cathay bank celebrated its 59th anniversary in 2021, a testament to Ching's vision and dedication to serving his community.

George Ching



Nandita Bakshi

Nandita Bakhshi is an Indian-American business executive and CEO of Bank of the West. Throughout her career, Bakhshi has broken barriers for women and minorities in the finance industry and has become a trailblazer for other Asian Americans. Bakhshi started her career as an analyst at Wells Fargo and later went on to hold leadership positions at several major banks, including TD Bank and First Data Corporation. She has also been recognized for her work on diversity and inclusion in the finance industry and has spoken out about the need for more representation in leadership positions. She was appointed CEO of Bank of the West in 2019, becoming one of the few AAPI women to hold such a position in the industry. Throughout her career, Bakhshi has been a champion of diversity and inclusion and in  a 2019 interview with Fortune, she spoke about the importance of creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace and the benefits that come with it. Under Bakhshi's leadership, Bank of the West has also taken steps to increase its commitment to sustainability and social responsibility. The bank has made significant investments in renewable energy and has taken a stand on issues such as climate change and social justice.

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