APA Spotlight: Ling Woo Liu, Director, Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education

APA Spotlight is a weekly interview of Asian Pacific Islander Americans (APIA) community leaders. It is a spotlight on individuals who have dedicated their careers to issues surrounding the APIA community with the goal of bringing much deserved recognition to their work and cause(s).

Ling Woo Liu is the first director of the Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education, a program of the Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco. She has a wealth of media experience and a passion for giving a voice to the voiceless. She spent five years living in Asia, including three years as a print reporter and video producer for TIME in Hong Kong, and two years as a television reporter in Beijing. She has reported for the Associated Press and freelanced for a range of broadcast and print media in Asia and the US. Ling is the director of Officer Tsukamoto, a documentary film about the unsolved murder of a Japanese American police officer in 1970. A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Ling holds master’s degrees in Journalism and Asian Studies from UC Berkeley and a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from UC Berkeley.

The Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education advances pan-ethnic civil rights and human rights through education, activism and leadership development.

What is the mission statement of your life?

To work for a cause that’s greater than myself.

How did you end up doing what you’re doing?

I worked for 10 years as a multimedia journalist in Asia and the US. The community stories about race and social justice resonated with me most, so when I saw an announcement about the Korematsu Institute, I jumped at the chance to become its first director. As a journalist, I have the opportunity to tell an incredible story. We are teaching Fred Korematsu’s legacy to students and the general public all around the country.

If Hollywood made a movie about your life, whom would you like to see play the lead role as you?

Oh gosh, I have never given this any thought. But I am certainly hoping to work with a script writer in the near future on a Fred Korematsu feature film! The Emmy-winning documentary, Of Civil Wrongs and Rights: the Fred Korematsu Story is outstanding, but I’d love to see a feature film developed as well.

How can people find out more about your organization or get involved?

1.      Did you learn about Fred Korematsu or Asian American history when you were growing up? If you know any teachers who’d be willing and motivated to teach the Fred Korematsu story, please ask them to sign up for our free teaching materials on our web site!

2.      Fred Korematsu Day is now an official day in California! On every January 30, help us honor Fred’s legacy by sharing his story and safeguarding civil rights for all people.

3.      Apply to our internship program!

4.      Help us develop and ship more Korematsu teaching materials to classrooms around the country. Make a donation on our web site today!

5.      Follow our work at korematsuinstitute.org and become a fan on our Facebook page!.

If you had a crystal ball, what do you see for the future of the Asian Pacific Islander American community?

Our communities have made great strides, but we still have work to do. I just returned from a road trip through the Deep South, where there is very little understanding of AAPI issues. To many, we are perpetual foreigners who don’t belong in this country in the same way as other Americans. Those who have succeeded cannot forget that much of our community is still marginalized. In order to continue our advance toward equality, we need more AAPIs to get involved in the community and run for public office with our support.

Bonus Question: What advice do you have for young professionals? Would you give different advice for young Asian Pacific Islander American professionals?

Ask questions. Whether it’s a mentor, mentee, teacher, parent or neighbor, you can learn so much from the people around you and you’ll find how their experiences will affect and inspire your life. Ask your parents and grandparents to tell you their stories. And when they do, be sure to record them!

Bonus Question: What are your comfort foods and what memories do you have associated with them?

The won tons my mom makes for every Fourth of July party and how proud she is that the neighbors devour them in minutes. Lamb skewers on the streets of Beijing. Hong Kong desserts and the crowds waiting to eat them.

Bonus Question: What’s your guilty pleasure?

Something I inherited from my dad—I love flea markets. I dig through old magazines, records and knick knacks and imagine what life was like back in the day.

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About Koji Steven Sakai

Writer/Producer Koji Steven Sakai is the founder of Little Nalu Pictures LLC and the CEO of CHOPSO (www.CHOPSO.com), the first Asian English streaming video service. He has written five feature films that have been produced, including the indie hit, The People I’ve Slept With. He also produced three feature films, a one hour comedy special currently on Netflix, and Comedy InvAsian, a live and filmed series featuring the nation’s top Asian American comedians. Koji’s debut novel, Romeo & Juliet Vs. Zombies, was released in paperback in 2015 and in audiobook in 2016 and his graphic novel, 442, was released in 2017. In addition, he is currently an adjunct professor in screenwriting at International Technological University in San Jose.
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