About Us

Cliff Akiyama is a Pediatric Behavioral Specialist at Community Council Health Systems of Philadelphia.  Mr. Akiyama also teaches in the Department of Sociology at Saint Joseph’s University. He is also a Certified Gang Specialist by the Virginia Gang Investigators Association and a Certified Gang Professional by the East Coast Gang Investigators Association. Mr. Akiyama was also promoted to Fellow by the Board of Directors of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) for his superior contributions to the forensic sciences.  Mr. Akiyama received his BA in Philosophy from the University of Virginia, his MA in Criminology and his MPH from the University of Pennsylvania. 

JudiRheeAlloway@JudiRheeAlloway, is a Leadership Coach & Business Consultant, Imagine Leadership, LLC, & Founder, Women in NAAAP!, featured in Forbes Women. Managing over 10,000 people and $6 million in revenue, she was in Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News, El Dia, Epoch Times, ABC, CBS, Nickelodeon & Fox News, plus books: Height of Power The Coaches Journey

As a Certified Professional Coach, Ms. Alloway was named “Top Woman Innovator” by Labor Department. In 2014, she was nominated by Small Business Administration to advise Commerce Secretary on National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. In 2015, she was Impact Hub’s "Community Ambassador". In 2016, Judi was an American Airlines’ "Industry Innovator”, on America’s Enterprise cover, and a writer at Forbes.com.

From researching the gaps in diversity and gender-based leadership to organizing national events at the White House and presenting at international conferences, Ms. Alloway speaks as a Twitter’s Top 25 “Asian American Influencer.”

nadeembezarNadeem A. Bezar, a partner at Kline & Specter, is an accomplished and skilled attorney who has won scores of million-dollar-plus verdicts and settlements while also serving as an active member of the legal and educational communities.  Bezar joined the firm after gaining more than 20 years experience with another Philadelphia firm at which he was a name partner. His practice concentrates on medical negligence, catastrophic personal injury, and cases involving child abuse and human trafficking, sexual assault and Title IX violations on college and university campuses.  In his most recent case, Bezar in October 2016 won a $5.35 million jury verdict against Presbyterian Children’s Village for twice placing a young girl in the home of a temporary foster family where she was sexually molested. The male foster parent pleaded guilty to criminal charges of sexually abusing the girl and to committing sex crimes against two other victims. 

K. Naroen Chhin, native of Philadelphia, is a Co-Director with 1Love Movement which is part of the Southeast Asian Freedom Network (SEAFN). Naroen serves as the Board member Philadelphia Mayor's Police Community Oversight Board (PCOB) and as the Commissioner on the Asian American Affairs Commission. Naroen is a frequent speaker on the intersections of the prison and deportation systems and has testified and advocated towards many levels of government, from the City Council of Philadelphia to the United Nations Human Rights Council. Naroen conducts trainings and presentations on these issues for various community groups, including the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, Temple University Asian Student Association, and the Boat People SOS youth leadership program, and has been a guest lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania in its Asian Studies program. He is committed to social justice and social change through community empowerment and grassroots community building.

 John ChinJohn Chin is the Executive Director of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC), a non-profit organization, whose mission is to preserve, protect, and promote Chinatown as a viable, ethnic, residential and business community.

John Chin also serves on the board of numerous organizations including PHLDiversity and the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations, as well as the PHL Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Executive Committee. He served on the steering committee of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Asian American Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy and is President of the Friends Select School.  Mr. Chin also serves on the Mayor’s Advisory Commission on Construction Industry Diversity, and Mayor’s Advisory Board of Community and Empowerment Opportunity. He has been recognized by the NAACP, ABC-6 Community Advisory Board, Holy Redeemer Chinese Catholic Church and School, and Friends Select School for his service to community.

aowtad chowdhuryAowtad Chowdhury: I am a Bangladeshi American living in the United States of America for 35 years now with 13 years here in Northeast Philadelphia and I have been involved in all type of social and community service work my whole life. I give my first priority to respond to my community people and my goal is to make it a successful solution. In NYC, I was a member of the “Asian, African, and American Advisory Council”. I was then the President of the “Jalalabad Association of U.S.A. Inc.” Also, I was the Chief Advisor of “Hobigonj District Welfare Association of U.S.A. Inc.” Also, I was recognized for my valuable contribution to the development and implementation of the Streetwise Cultural Diversity for the NYPD. Currently, here in Philadelphia, I am the President of “Bangladesh Welfare Association of America, Inc.”

Sokmala Chy: Encouraging collaboration, enriching communities, and cultivating individual worth, dignity, and capacity are the principles that have guided Sokmala as she persistently strive to align her academic and professional endeavors for a life of self-exploration, social immersion, and community service. She attended Temple University as a Vivacqua Scholar during her undergraduate studies, focusing on International Business Administration, Economics, and Political Science. Eager to set off toward her vision of social impact, she became a Youth and Community Development Volunteer in the United States Peace Corps- Morocco. Since then, her professional pursuits continue to reflect great versatility and resourcefulness; shaping her to be an effective, mission driven, and results oriented professional. Included in her repertoire are successes in marketing and project planning, as well as extensive knowledge of donor/volunteer, program, and data management. While Sokmala's work experience spans the gamut of sectors and industries (finance, government, and hospitality); in the scope of the nonprofit and social sector, Sokmala has worked at the Institute of Global Management Studies, the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association Coalition, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, and the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children. Needless to say, Sokmala has ventured far and wide to live out her values and her passions.... And, these roads have led her home at CAGP.

David RubenRuben D. David, PE, M.ASCE, ECPworked for the City of Philadelphia for 36 years and retired as a Project Director in 2013 in the Department of Public Property. In addition to his career as a professional civil engineer, he actively volunteers in professional, civic, religious, and community groups, through which he aims to increase awareness of Asian and Asian-American affairs and to help further causes for the Filipino-American community. He is the Liaison Director in Pennsylvania for the Filipino Executive Council of Greater Philadelphia, an umbrella organization of over 24 Filipino community member associations. He is also the Public Relations Director for the Filipino American Community Athletic Association, whose membership includes Asian American community. Ruben has held prominent positions in professional engineering organizations in Philadelphia. He was President of the American Society of Civil Engineers (Philadelphia Section 2002-2003), the same organization that awarded him the Government Engineer of the Year in 1993, and Philadelphia Civil Engineer of the Year in 2014.  He was the recipient of 2014 Delaware Valley Engineers Week Outstanding Service to the Community Award. Ruben was an Adjunct Associate Professor and serving as a member of the Industrial Advisory Council at Temple University's College of Engineering. Ruben is a board member of the Police Athletic League, an organization that deters kids from committing crime by providing them with after-school activities. 

Geemon GeorgeGeemon George: grew up in India, inculcating values of truth, honesty and sincerity and an innate sense of justice.

Since immigrating to the US in 1988, Geemon has been actively involved in activities of the Malayalee community of Philadelphia. He has also been actively involved in organizing activities and developing resources to help immigrants adjust to the life in US. Recognizing the need for immigrant communities to participate in the political milieu of their adopted homeland, Geemon facilitated meetings with local civic leader, while playing a pivotal role in organizing community meetings to introduce local political leaders to the Indian community and to encourage them to participate in political activities and voting at elections as well as undertaking fund raising to support leaders who ascribed to the welfare of the community.

Geemon is married to his wife Sheela and they have two children Megan and Noel.

Gayle Isa is the Executive Director of Asian Arts Initiative, a multi-disciplinary community arts center in Philadelphia that engages people of all ages and backgrounds to create and present art that addresses Asian American experience and effects positive change in a broad range of communities and in its immediate neighborhood of Chinatown North. She is currently focused on the Pearl Street Project, a vision to transform an underutilized alleyway into an asset connecting the diverse communities within and beyond Philadelphia’s Chinatown neighborhood. 

Gayle has served on the boards of the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, the National Performance Network, and the national Consortium of Asian American Theaters and Artists. She is currently a member of the Philadelphia Mayor’s Commission on Asian American Affairs and the Mayor’s Cultural Advisory Council, and the first Asian American appointed to serve on the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

Akanksha KalraAkanksha Kalra was born in India and immigrated to United States in 1992. She works as an attorney in private practice, focused on US immigration law. Ms. Kalra graduated from University of Pennsylvania Law School with an LL.M. degree in International Law in 1997.  She obtained her LL.B. degree from Delhi University and B.A. from Punjab University, India.

Ms. Kalra lives in Philadelphia with her family. She is actively involved in various community and civic organizations. She is a Board Member, Victim Services Center of Montgomery County. She served as Board Member, Montgomery County Community College Foundation. She is a Trustee at Bharatiya Temple, served as Board Member and was Chairperson of BCC Women's Group. She is a member of Council of Indian Organizations and served on CIO’s Executive Committee for eight years.

Aisha KhanAisha Khan: Since co-founding Twelve Gates Arts (12G) in 2009, I’m very proud of the growth. I have invested in expanding our organization to bring promising to prominent South Asian arts and international cultural
programming to the Greater Philadelphia area.

Expanding our impact for the past year, I have collaborated with other non-profits and organizations with similar interests and various museums.

My financial background with Merril Lynch really helped me to sustain this
organization financially. Even though I realize that my background as a sculpture artist has taken a backseat to promoting other
artists’ work, I’m grateful to help other artists.

For I believe in collaboration through the creation of communities, but it can only happen when you believe in other people’s strength and vision.

Moving with my family to Philadelphia in 2009, I’m loving every moment of raising my 9-year-old child here.

Leela KuikelLeela N. Kuikel is a refugee from Bhutan wo left the country at the age of 13 in 1990. He has a Master’s Degree in Economics from University of North Bengal in India. He worked in Insurance Industry for almost 10 years. His last positon in the Industry was a Branch Manager before he resettled in Philadelphia under refugee resettlement program in 2012.

Leela is the founding Executive Director of Bhutanese American Organization-Philadelphia (BAO-P) a community organization servicing newly resettled Bhutanese refugee in the Greater Philadelphia region. The organization was founded in 2013 and since been doing extensive work in the area of Health Case management -General and Mental, ESL for adults, Programs for Kids and Elders.

He is married to Chandrakala Sharma who is an Indian National, and lives in South Philadelphia with his mother who is 87 years of age.

Mire Masud EliaMehrin (“Mir”) Masud-Eliasis the Director of Legal Affairs for the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
Ms. Masud-Elias previously was a corporate transactional lawyer for 10+ years working for large law firms in Philadelphia and Boston and also spent some time as in-house counsel for Comcast Corporation. Ms. Masud-Elias holds several volunteer leadership and fundraising roles with numerous nonprofit and professional organizations, including Twelve Gates Arts, where she is a founding Board member and Board Secretary.   
Mir holds a Masters in Bioethics (MBE) from the University of Pennsylvania and a JD
from the Columbia University School of Law. She is also a graduate of Amherst College and spent two years at the California Institute of Technology (CALTECH) doing undergraduate work in Theoretical Physics and Mathematics.

Originally, from Dhaka, Bangladesh, Ms. Masud-Elias calls University City, Philadelphia, home.

Nancy Dung Nguyen currently serves VietLEAD as the Executive Director and one of its co-founders. VietLEAD empowers the community through youth empowerment and organizing through a lens of social justice and anti-violence, health promotion and navigation, civic engagement, and community building projects. Ms. Nguyen has six years of experience being first the Branch Manager and then the Executive Director of BPSOS-Delaware Valley, a non-profit that provides services to the Vietnamese immigrant and refugee community. She has served on the board of Freedom, Inc. a grassroots Southeast Asian organization from 2005-2007 and on the Advisory Board of 1Love Movement, a national organization working to end deportations in the Southeast community from 2012-2013. In 2014, she was presented with the Catherine Bachrach Award, presented by the Philadelphia Coalition of Victim Advocacy, for significant contribution to the lives of victims in the City of Philadelphia. In 2015, Ms. Nguyen was presented the Women of Distinction Award by NOW (National Organization of Women), Philadelphia Chapter. 

Thoai Nguyen, CEO of SEAMAAC, Inc. is a first generation Vietnamese refugee who came to the United States in 1975. Thoai is a long time community organizer and advocate for the civil and human rights of all people. Thoai has worked on advocacy, organizing and community development projects to address the economic and social inequities in many communities across the United States and throughout Africa, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, and North America including Mexico. Thoai’s work has included programs with Native American and indigenous peoples’ rights, LGBTQ communities, immigrant workers’ rights including taxi drivers and migrant workers, gang truce, police brutality, Rroma (Gypsy) civil rights in Eastern and Western Europe.

Grace RustiaGrace Calvelo-Rustia is currently the Associate State Director with focus on Multicultural Development and Operations in the State of Pennsylvania.   An accomplished advocate for the 50+ community with years of experience in public affairs, community service leadership, and management.  Grace Calvelo- Rustia has worked with AARP for seven years focusing on Advocacy, Community Service and Community Education.

Grace has a competitive track record in developing and managing multi-sector partnerships, including nonprofit collaborations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.  Grace has over twenty three years’ experience, as a broadcast newscaster for an international Television Network, and simultaneously hosted a Radio Program in the Tri-State Area. An accomplished concert producer and promoter for more than 20 years. Proficient in, promotions, public relations, and event management, with a specialty in diverse community outreach, and volunteer core development.

Mathew TharakanMathew Tharakanhas 28 years of Transportation Operations, Engineering Management and professional expertise in the field of Rail Vehicle Engineering at Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA).He recently joined at SEPTA’s business division as DBE Manager (Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Manager) overseeing the minority and women owned businesses participation in procurements and major construction contacts.

Over 30 years Mathew has been involved in multiple Asian American leadership positions, in particular Indian American community leadership roles in Philadelphia, Bucks and Montgomery Counties.

Mathew holds an MBA in Finance and post master’s in Computer Science from Philadelphia University. He also holds Bachelor’s degree from Loyola College, University of Madras and a Diploma in Electrical Technology from Kerala University. 

He serves as the Vice President at Conference of Minority Transportation Officials, a national organization with 40 chapters across United States. Mr. Tharakan was the co-chair for Mayor Kenney’s Transportation and Infrastructure Transition committee.

andy ToyAndrew Toy is the Development and Communications Director for SEAMAAC (Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Associations Coalition), a non-profit organization serving the needs, advocating on behalf of and supporting opportunities for refugees and immigrants in Philadelphia. Previously, Andy was Managing Director, Eastern Tower/Chinatown Community Center, a large mixed-use community development. Andy was Senior Director, Business Development at The Enterprise Center, assisting minority and other retailers grow by improving business practices, finding financial resources and improving local commercial corridors.  Andy ran for City Council in 2011, coming very close while raising critical issues around community and economic development, education and inclusion.  Andy created a successful Commercial Corridor Initiative at LISC and built an award-winning Brownfields Program at Philadelphia’s Commerce Department. Andy led the large 2016 DNC Dim Sum event and started United Voices for Philadelphia, giving voice to many left out of mainstream. Selected as one of Philadelphia’s top 101 Connectors.

catzie VilayphonhCatzie Vilayphonhis an award-winning writer and spoken word poet. As a founding member of Yellow Rage, she was one of the first Asian American women to appear on HBO's Def Poetry Jam in 2001. Drawing from personal narrative, topics of her work confront racial stereotypes, racist love/hate, and expose sexualization.

Catzie has been a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Award recipient, a 2012 Creative Capital finalist, a 4-time Leeway Foundation honoree and 2016 Woman Non-Profit Leader by Philadelphia City Council. She is a co-founding chair of Lao American Writer Summit; active volunteer with Lao Family Community Organization; and Board Member for 1LoveMovement. Recently she was Artist in Residence with Mural Arts’ Southeast by Southeast Program of the first ever Southeast Asian refugee brigade in 2017's Mummer's Parade.

Born in a refugee camp, on the way to America, ".5 Generation,” Catzie resides in South Philly with her daughter Aditi.

alix WebbAlix Mariko Webb is the Executive Director of Asian Americans United. Begun in 1985, Asian Americans United (AAU) exists so that people of Asian ancestry in Philadelphia exercise leadership to build their communities and unite to challenge injustices. AAU has had a particular focus on addressing the many educational challenges facing Asian immigrant communities in Philadelphia, and a consistent focus on working with young people — to harness their bilingual and bicultural skills, and to engage their critical thinking and political awareness in the service of their communities. Alix is fourth generation Japanese American. She graduated from Swarthmore College with a B.A. in Art History. Alix came to AAU having worked for more than two decades locally and nationally with communities organizing for economic justice and human rights, and is a co-founder of Philadelphia’s Media Mobilizing Project.

grace wu kongGrace Wu Kong: Born in Hong Kong and immigrated to Philadelphia as a child, Grace Wu Kong is a mother of 3 children. Grace has been working in the medical fields for the past 30 years as Dietetic Technician supervisor at Frankford Hospital, Torresdale Division; Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Chinese Health Information Center as community liaison and interpreter. Ms. Kong assisted opening the first Chinatown Community Center in Philadelphia assisting with Medicare, Medicaid and Kids Choice. 

After receiving a Bachelor in Business Administration, Grace worked as Partnership Specialist for Census Bureau in 2010-2013. She is the Director, Chinese Community Unit at Voorhees Care and Rehabilitation Center. Volunteering in the Chinese community for the past 30 years, Ms. Kong is the founder & past president of Chinese American Women Sisterhood Society, board of director for PCDC, AAWC and secretary for Asian American Lions Club.

Cecilia Moy Yep has been an advocate for Chinatown for over 50 years and have served on many civic boards as well.

When the Holy Redeemer Church and School was threatened in the ‘60’s by the expansion of the Vine St. Expressway, Cecilia founded the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC). Not only did PCDC celebrate its 50th anniversary, but the organization spearheaded Chinatown Renaissance by replacing 235 units of affordable housing lost through urban renewal.

In 1986, she co-founded the Asian American Women’s Coalition (AAWC).  One of the organization’s programs assists young Asian females with scholarship assistance.

Cecilia was inducted into her alma mater, the John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls’ High School, Hall Of Fame.  She has received an Honorary Degree from Community College.  Ms. Yep has received numerous awards and recognition including the prestigious Philadelphia Award (1999).  In 2006, she was appointed to the Distinguished Daughters of Pennsylvania.

James ZhangJames Zhang is an experienced hospitality executive and entrepreneur who has vast experience in all aspects of hospitality management. After earning his degree in Hospitality Management from Hangzhou University, he started his career in hotel management at the 5-star Dragon International Hotel in Hangzhou, China before relocating to the United States. Currently, Mr. Zhang is the Hotel Manager for The Windsor Suites.

In addition to his business activities, Mr. Zhang was a member of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (PCVB); Membership Chair at Asia Committee; and President of Sino- America Business and Travel Association. He was nominated as a board director of Jiangxi Chinese Overseas Friendship Association in 2014.

On Oct 7th 2016, Mr. Zhang hosted a press conference to publish the “Philadelphia Story” book, which is a special edition to celebrate the US China Tourism Year of 2016.

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