Asian American Commission hosts Unity Dinner to honor pioneers


The Mass. Asian American Commission hosted its Unity Dinner on June 3 at Boston University. (From left) State Rep. Rady Mom, AAC chairwoman Elisa Choi, state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, state Rep. Keiko Orrall and state Rep. Tackey Chan. (Image courtesy of Jiangyi Wang.)

The Asian American Commission (AAC) of Massachusetts hosted its 10th annual Unity Dinner “Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Pioneers” on June 3 at Boston University. During the celebration, the AAC awarded three recipients to highlight the extraordinary work of individuals and organizations within the Asian American community.

Sidney Liang, grant coordinator of the MiM program at Lowell Community Health Center received the Individual Community Hero Award. Surviving through more than four refugee camps before arriving in the United States, Liang has served the Cambodian community for 25 years.

“My reward is when I help people and they get helped; my reward is when I play classic songs from radio and TV, and they got wonderful flashback to a time when families and friends were together; my reward is when I had an old lady put down her worries and laughed with me,” Liang said. “They also help me to put down my worries and look forward.”

The Organization Community Hero Award went to Mass. Asians + Pacific Islanders for Health (MAP for Health), a community-based nonprofit organization that works to improve health care access, disease prevention and service delivery for the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community in Massachusetts. It has served the community for 24 years.

John Hancock Financial Services, a division of Manulife, was given the Leadership for Diversity & Inclusion Award for its pioneering efforts in promoting and celebrating AAPIs through financial protection products and wealth management services.

“To us diversity is a fact, and inclusion is a choice,” said York Lo, product development director, senior investment analyst for John Hancock Investments. “When diversity is valued, our employees are also valued, and that is the time when our customers can be better served. It is our pleasure and vision to promote this value not only among our employees, but also among the entire Asian American society.”

The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Selina Chow, board president of the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center (BCNC) to honor her lifetime devotion to BCNC serving Asian American families and her work to expand the agency from Boston to Quincy.

Chow said, “We, as an Asian American group, we should not just be successful academically and professionally, we should give it back to the society and actively involved in AAC. Go out there and vote, vote for your local politician, vote for your Asian politician, support them and become active citizens of your community.”

The evening featured an Asian American Pacific Islander Pioneers Panel with MassChallenge cofounder and entrepreneur Akhil Nigam, former Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong and Boston City Council president Michelle Wu.  The panel was moderated by UMass Boston Professor Paul Watanabe. The panelists expressed their hope for Asian Americans to be more actively engaged in politics, speaking up for both Asians and other communities of color.

For more information about the AAC, please visit

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