Throughout May, the country has celebrated AAPI Heritage Month by recognizing generations of Asians and Pacific Islanders who have made immeasurable contributions to society and continue to shape our future. From activists and artists to policymakers and politicians, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have left an indelible mark as changemakers.
We’re closing out the month of celebration by taking a look at our newly established AAPI affinity group. Helmed by Alex Chen, Nhu Nguyen, Ujala Sehgal, and Kim Truong, the group promotes community and solidarity between AAPI-identifying staff at Fenton. To celebrate APAHM, the affinity group published its reading recommendations from AAPI authors and shared information on important AAPI figures in American history with their colleagues (see the interview below for a sampling of leaders the group has spotlighted).
We spoke with Alex Chen, Account Director based in our San Francisco office, to learn more about what we can expect from Fenton’s AAPI affinity group and what inspired him to take on a leadership role.
Emilie Hu (EH): Can you tell us how the affinity group came to be?
Alex Chen (AC): Over the past few years, there has been a growing contingent of Asian staff members at Fenton; we wanted to create a safe and collaborative space for these staff members, foster a greater sense of community, and share resources for the entire firm to grow as professionals and allies.
EH: What inspired you to take on a leadership role?
AC: My racial and cultural identity is a big part of who I am, and as a Taiwanese American, something that I’ve become more and more proud of as I’ve gotten older (and hopefully wiser). I know that the Asian American experience in this country is not something that’s widely understood in the mainstream consciousness and hope to contribute to a culture of collective sharing and learning at Fenton so that we can all increase our capacity to empathize with others and celebrate the identities of our peers.
EH: How have you celebrated AAPI history month so far?
AC: Throughout the month, our AAPI Affinity Group members have been highlighting prominent and historically significant AAPI activists throughout history in our all-staff Slack channel to inspire and raise awareness about those who have dedicated their lives to advancing justice. Our latest spotlight featured AAPI athlete Schuyler Bailar, the first openly transgender NCAA Division I swimmer, and his advocacy work on behalf of LGBTQIA+ and Asian American athletes. We also celebrated Haunani-Kay Trask, an indigenous Hawaiian activist, poet and scholar who dedicated her life to advocating for Hawai’i’s independence. I’d also recommend following the Instagram account @17.21women, which shines a light on Asian women activists, politicians, artists, musicians and other resisters of the status quo, many of whom are lesser-known and not taught about in classrooms or celebrated in media.
EH: What are some of the upcoming events, programs or goals that you have for the group?
AC: We hope as a group to increase our staff’s collective understanding of different experiences and cultures — that’s always a good thing and will help all of us grow as not just professionals, but people. I think being Asian in America comes with its own unique challenges that aren’t necessarily reflected in the experiences of others and that the challenges we face may not be as apparent to others who aren’t experiencing them first hand, so we wanted to create a safe space to have that dialogue and share our own experiences with our peers. Even then, among our Asian staff members, we only represent a small segment of the AAPI experience, and it’s important to acknowledge that to ourselves — increasing our capacity for empathy is always going to be a continuous and ongoing process.
EH: How has your identity impacted the work/projects you pursue at Fenton?
AC: During my time at Fenton, I’ve gotten the chance to work with Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus, helping with media relations in support of affirmative action around the Supreme Court case that challenged the use of affirmative action in admissions at Harvard and other higher ed institutions. It’s also been extremely moving to see the work of the Stop AAPI Hate team and their efforts to raise awareness across the country of the rise in racism faced by the AAPI community during the pandemic, and am proud to call them my colleagues. Overall, my identity has driven me to pursue a career in social change, which is why I came to Fenton in the first place.