AJSOCAL Celebrates 39 Years of Standing United in Fighting Anti-Asian Hate

#STOPAAPIHATE is a movement that may have just recently come to the frontlines of American race relations, but AJSOCAL, or Asian Americans Advancing Justice Southern California, has been championing this fight since 1983. 

Last Thursday, AJSOCAL celebrated their 39th Anniversary at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM). The event’s theme was “UNITED: ART IN ACTION,” showcasing API creativity and expression as powerful tools for advancing social justice. Under the shared banner of fighting against anti-Asian hate, over 500 API guests were in attendance from the realms of fine arts, entertainment and social justice. 

The anniversary gala marked the debut of the outdoor JANM exhibit and flash card series titled “An American Vocabulary: Words in Action” by visual artist Audrey Chan and hip-hop poet jason chu—two fellows of the AJSOCIAL’s Artists at Work program in collaboration with JANM. “For the last year, we’ve been working on using our arts to promote anti-racism and to create something that could be a foundation and a beginning,” said chu.

Highlights of the evening included pan-Asian dishes, specialty cocktails, performances by Farishtey (a Bhangra dance group), Korean drummers from St. James’ School and DJ Gingee, a Filipina American percussionist and vocalist. The Joseph Ileto Courage Award* was given to Jamie Yancovitz—CEO and founder of SurvivalArts. An Ilongga American scholar and educator dedicated to protecting and healing victims of violence through indigenous arts, Yancovitz shared, “For us, every day is a battlefield. When we step outside in the face of violence, we must invoke our own inner strength, standing loud in a world that tries to silence us, taking up space in a world that tries to erase us… to rise up and defeat hatred once and for all.” 

* The Joseph Ileto Courage Award was created in 2019 in honor of Joseph Ileto, a Filipino American postal worker who was tragically killed in a hate crime in the San Fernando Valley on August 10, 1999.