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Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope

Encouraging reflection on all of the contributions Hispanic people have made in the past & will continue to make in the future

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East Los Angeles Library presents Mariachi Arcoiris during Hispanic Heritage Month. On National Coming Out Day, the first LGBT mariachi in the world performs and discusses the sensitive topic that can be very taboo in the Hispanic community. (Photo Credit: Mayra B. Vasquez / Los Angeles County )

EL PUEBLO DE LOS ANGELES – The theme for this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month is “Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope.” It encourages reflection on all of the contributions Hispanic people and their community have made in the past and will continue to make in the future. It is also a reminder that all communities are stronger together.

For the LGBTQ+ Latinx community this year it is incredibly poignant that the theme is so brilliantly illustrated in the form of progress and elevated presence of dynamic young and incredible older people who are making their mark in the truth of the spirit of that theme.

Earlier this year, California Governor Gavin Newsom selected Alex Padilla as the first Latino United States Senator to represent California, the nation’s most populous state, which also has the largest Latino population in the nation to fill the seat that was held by the departing Vice-President Kamala Harris.

Padilla has a strong track record as an elected official championing LGBTQ equality. He publicly campaigned against Proposition 8 which called for a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. As a former state senator, he strongly supported the School Success and Opportunities Act, which protects transgender students and allows them to fully participate in school, and he earned a 100% Equality rating from Equality California in regard to his voting record when he served as a state senator.

For the past three years,  Ricardo Lara, the son of Mexican immigrants has served as the 8th Insurance Commissioner and the first LGBT person elected statewide in the state of California.

An important and critical voice for the Latinx Trans community is the head of Trans [email protected] Coalition (TLC) Bamby Salcedo. “My life has been very complicated and it didn’t really get started until I was 30 years old,” Salcedo said, with a mixture of pride and wonder in her voice in an interview with the Blade. And for the transgender latin community in the United States, that has resulted in something of a miracle. Or as Bamby puts it, “Yo soy un milagro.”

The City of Long Beach’s Mayor Robert Garcia, the first openly gay person elected mayor of Long Beach, advocates for more affordable housing, right the wrongs of income inequality, and protect his most vulnerable citizens – the homeless, immigrants, those who are undocumented, and the LGBTQ community.

Tony Thurmond, who was sworn in as the 28th California State Superintendent of Public Instruction on January 7, 2019, found inspiration from his mother, an immigrant from Panama who came to San Jose, California, to be a teacher. A former member of the California State Assembly, representing District 15, the Superintendent is also a former educator.

The environment and LGBTQ rights have been at the forefront of Rick Zbur’s career. Many in the LGBTQ community may be unaware that the outgoing Equality California Executive Director has another not-so-secret passion: he’s a longtime environmentalist. In fact, he is the immediate past board chair for the California League of Conservation Voters and as an attorney has championed both LGBTQ equality and the environment.

The 37th Mayor of the City of San Diego, former Democratic State Assemblyman Todd Gloria, made history across a spectrum of significant firsts as in addition to being the first openly gay person to lead the city. Gloria, “the son of a hotel maid and a gardener” is also the first person of color in the Mayor’s chair. Gloria is a third-generation San Diegan of Filipino, Native American, Puerto Rican, and Dutch descent. 

Rounding up the list of community leaders is longtime LGBTQ ally Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin de León who announced that he was joining the mayor’s race this past month. Born in Los Angeles of Guatemalan and Mexican descent, raised by a loving, hard-working single mother, de León, 51, got an education and spent 12 years in Sacramento, rising to become the President Pro Tem of the California Senate before being elected to the LA City Council. 

“Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope,” goes beyond the older generations as the young people take their places as dynamic members of the community. As a part of that comes the influence of social media and the young people working in those cultural spaces.

One of those groups of young people are part of the Los Angeles based “The Q Agenda,” a talk show that covers topics such as entertainment, lifestyle, politics, fashion and music from the LGBTQ perspective and is the first show of it’s kind catering to the LatinX community.

The cast of the Q Agenda (Photo Credit: Carlos Marin)

The show which airs weekly on LATV, is hosted by a passionate community of Latinx LGBTQ+ personalities and influencers including, actress and trans activist Juliana Joel, comedian Lianna Carrera, celebrity makeup artist and entrepreneur Victor Ramos and actor, host and reality TV personality Enrique Sapene.

The cast of the show starts off with Spaene, an award winning actor, host, journalist and producer. He has worked as a reporter on Univision News, Livin Large NBC, Jimmy Kimmel Live ABC, The Insider CBS and Telemundo News. Plus, as an actor he was a series regular on Hacienda Heights for ION and recurred on the Amazon Prime series “Borderline” to name a few. His telenovelas “Pecadora”, “El Alma Herida”, “Eva la Trailera” and  “Tomame o Dejame” have been viewed globally.

Next up is Juliana Joel, a Latinx actress, activist and current co-host on LATV’s The Q Agenda of the trans experience. Juliana has worked with various organizations as well as spoken at events and on panels such as; Models of Pride (the world’s largest conference for LGBT youth and allies), the Los Angeles LGBT Center, TransLatina Coalition,  GLAAD, LA Pride, JQ, TransCanWork, the annual Trans Equality Brunch at the West Hollywood Council and the National Association of Latino Independent Producers.

An androgynous Afro-Latin male, Victor Ramos hopes to bring awareness and represent the Afro-LatinX community and serve as a point of reference in media to which the community can relate. He is a Lifestyle Influencer and TV host. He has amassed a cult following on social media through his style, creative makeup looks and candid openness to share everything on his mind.

Finally, hailing from Chicago originally, Lianna Carrera, is a Latinx and queer stand-up comedian, television host, and actor who hails from a deaf family background. She has been a frequent contributor media outlets and has been seen on Buzzfeed, The Advocate, Huffington Post Comedy and Glamour Magazine.

Politics and entertainment have always played a central role in the landscape of Los Angeles, but in celebration of “Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope,” the Blade is proud to highlight just a few of the incredible people who literally make a difference daily for their own community and the world at large.

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Legendary attorney, LGBTQ+ activist, & author Urvashi Vaid has died

“The sheer intellectual and strategic hole in our movement’s drive towards liberation and freedom, left by Urv’s death, is hard to grasp”

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Lorri L. Jean, Rea Carey, Urvashi Vaid, & Matt Foreman/National LGBTQ Task Force

NEW YORK – A powerful longtime influential attorney and LGBTQ activist whose career spanned from the early days of the AIDS pandemic to the contemporary battles over equality and equity for the LGBTQ+ community died today at her home after a bout with cancer in New York City.

Urvashi Vaid, 63, known for her extensive career as an advocate for LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, anti-war efforts, immigration justice and many other social causes, had served as the Executive Director of the National LGBTQ Task Force from 1989- 1992  and served prior to that as the organization’s Media Director.

“We are devastated at the loss of one of the most influential progressive activists of our time,” said Kierra Johnson, current Executive Director of the National LGBTQ Task Force. “Urvashi Vaid was a leader, a warrior and a force to be reckoned with,” continued Johnson, “She was also a beloved colleague, friend, partner and someone we all looked up to – a brilliant, outspoken and deeply committed activist who wanted full justice and equality for all people.”

“Her leadership, vision and writing helped shape not only the Task Force’s values and work but our entire queer movement and the larger progressive movement. We will strive every day to live up to her ideals and model the courage she  demonstrated every day as an activist and a person. She will be deeply I missed. I miss her already.” concluded Johnson.

National LGBTQ Task Force

Vaid ‘s impact on the politics of the the AIDS crisis and the battles over full equality was considerable. During former U.S. President At George H.W. Bush’s 1990 address on AIDS, Vaid, then the Executive Director of The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, made a statement with her sign: “Talk Is Cheap, AIDS Funding is Not”. Her critique made waves, disrupting the press conference, and shedding light on the failures of the Bush administration.

Another former Executive Director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, Rea Carey noted in her post on Facebook:

I am deeply sad that Urvashi Vaid has died. My heart is with Kate and all of Urv’s beloveds who have been with her these last years, months and days as she dealt with cancer.My activism has been greatly shaped by the fact that Urv took me seriously as a young leader in our movement. She seemed endlessly excited about the ideas and passion for justice that young activists held. She was one of our movement’s motivators and north stars.

Whenever Urv called, I’d clear my schedule for the next hour (at least!), pull out a pen and pad of paper and prepare to feverishly write down what were likely to be 10-20 rapid fire ideas of things she thought I should be doing, or doing much better… tomorrow!

Urv pushed me to see connections, dig deeper, and I was a better activist and leader for it. Her impact within the National LGBTQ Task Force carried on long after she left its staff. The sheer intellectual and strategic hole in our movement’s drive towards liberation and freedom, left by Urv’s death, is hard to grasp.

Up until her last months she was creating projects, mentoring others, pushing for liberation, gathering data through the National LGBTQ+ Women’s Community Survey. The only thing I ever saw Urv be more passionate about than her pursuit of freedom and liberation, was her love for Kate, their family, and her energy for her friends.

The best way we can honor Urv is to continue to fight for justice and the full liberation of all people,” Carey said.

Her time at The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, in which she held multiple positions for over ten years, notably Media Director, then Executive Director, saw her bring all aspects of queer life and struggle into the public eye. While at the Task Force, she co-founded the annual Creating Change conference, now in its 33rd year. 

I first met Urv in the early 1980’s when we were both young attorneys and lesbian activists in Washington, D.C. As we became friends and, eventually, colleagues, I admired her leadership and all that she accomplished, both within and outside of our movement—for queer people, for women, for people of color and against poverty.  She continued her work to advance equity and justice until the very end.  

I’ll always be grateful to Urv for being one of the people who encouraged me, back in 1992, to accept the job running the Los Angeles LGBT Center.  And when the National LGBTQ Task Force faced severe financial challenges in 2001, she played the key role in recruiting me to step in and help turn things around, lending her support every step of the way.  

Over the years, we spent many an hour laughing and scheming about ways to advance the causes we cared so deeply about.  Urvashi was a visionary.  But she was so much more:  brilliant, hilarious, charismatic, loving, determined and, above all, courageous.  She made life better for all of us.  Our community and our nation owe her an enormous debt of gratitude.  Our hearts go out to Urvashi’s wife, Kate Clinton, and to everyone who loves her.  If there’s a heaven, Urv is already organizing the angels,” said Los Angeles LGBT Center CEO Lorri L. Jean.

Troy Masters, the founder of Gay City News in New York City, longtime LGBTQ+ advocate and currently the publisher of the Los Angeles Blade noted upon hearing the news; “On a day when millions march to protect our rights and stand up to a right wing SCOTUS, we celebrate the life of one of our greatest social justice LGBTQ and AIDS warriors – keep shining on Urvashi Vaid.”

In 1995, after resigning from her position at the Task Force three years prior, she published her first book, Virtual Equality: The Mainstreaming of Gay and Lesbian Liberation, in which she criticized the idea of “mainstreaming” what was and is, in fact, a civil rights movement. Rather than tolerance, she argued, the objective for the movement should be fundamental, actionable change. It was not an immediately popular notion, as media representation for queer people was just beginning to take shape, though it was, for her, of great moral importance. In 1996 Virtual Equality won the Stonewall Book Award. 

“Urv was a mentor, a friend, and a pain in the ass always telling me how I should do more, better, and more aggressively. I loved her.”

Matt Foreman, executive director National Gay & Lesbian Task Force (2003-2008)

In her position as President of the Vaid Group, Vaid advised, mentored, and supported the LGBTQ+ movement. 

In 2012, Urvashi Vaid launched LPAC, the first lesbian Super PAC, and it has since invested millions of dollars in candidates who are committed to social justice through legislation. 

Prior to that, Vaid held positions on the boards at the Ford Foundation, The Arcus Foundation (where she served as Executive Director from 2005 to 2010), and the Gill Foundation.  

She was a leader in the development of the currently on-going National LGBTQ women’s community survey.

“Urvashi had a vision for what our world and our lives should be – free, proud and full of joy and love. She wasn’t afraid to demand the change that is required and she has inspired generations of rising activists to lead with generosity and integrity. We met 42 years ago on our first day of law school in Boston. She has inspired me every day.”

Richard D. Burns, Interim Executive Director, the Johnson Family Foundation

Urvashi Vaid with her longtime partner Kate Clinton/Facebook

Vaid was the aunt of activist and performance artist Alok Vaid-Menon.

She is survived by Alok Vaid-Menon as well as her longtime partner, political humorist Kate Clinton. 

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The Los Angeles Blade applauds Dawn Ennis for her GLAAD media award

Ennis is the LA Blade’s Sports Editor & contributing writer as well as a professor at the University of Hartford where she teaches journalism

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Dawn Ennis/GLAAD

LOS ANGELES – The publisher, editor, and staff of the Los Angeles Blade congratulates our Sports Editor and contributing writer Dawn Ennis on her being awarded a 33rd Annual 2022 GLAAD Media Award in the category of ‘Outstanding Online Journalism Article: “‘No Time For Intolerance:’ Dr. Rachel Levine Has A Job To Do,” written for Forbes magazine online.

Ennis who works as the Sports Editor for the LA Blade is an award-winning journalist for Forbes.com, The Daily Beast, Out Magazine, Senior Executive, CTVoice Magazine, Xtra Magazine and StarTrek.com.

She is additionally an on-air correspondent for “CTVoice Out Loud” on WTNH-TV and hosts the “RiseUP With Dawn Ennis” talk show. In 2013, she was the first Trans journalist in the U.S. to come out in network TV news while working at ABC News.

Ennis who lives in West Hartford, Connecticut, is a parent to three kids and an adjunct professor at the University of Hartford where she teaches journalism, advertising, public relations, podcasting and media literacy for the UH College of Arts and Sciences’ School of Communication.

In addition to Ennis, the Los Angeles Blade congratulates all of the awardees:

AWARD RECIPIENTS

During the New York ceremony, GLAAD announced award recipients for the following categories live onstage:

  • Pose received the award for Outstanding Drama Series [presented by Laverne Cox]
  • “HIV/AIDS: 40 Years Later” TODAY (NBC) received the award for Outstanding TV Journalism Segment [presented by Amber Tamblyn and Nyle DiMarco]
  • Power Rangers received the award for Outstanding Kids & Family Programming [presented by Cynthia Nixon]
  • Sesame Street received the award for Outstanding Children’s Programming [presented by Cynthia Nixon]

Additional award recipients announced in New York City:

Outstanding Broadway Production: (TIE) Company and Thoughts of a Colored Man 

Outstanding Music Artist: Lil Nas X

Outstanding Breakthrough Music Artist: Lily Rose, Stronger Than I Am (Big Loud Records/Back Blocks Music/Republic Records)

Outstanding Variety or Talk Show Episode: “Elliot Page” The Oprah Conversation (Apple TV+)

Outstanding TV Journalism Segment: “HIV/AIDS: 40 Years Later” TODAY (NBC)

Outstanding TV Journalism – Long-Form: “Pride of The White House” (MSNBC)

Outstanding Print Article: “Lawmakers Can’t Cite Local Examples of Trans Girls in Sports” by David Crary & Lindsay Whitehurst (The Associated Press)

Outstanding Online Journalism Article: “‘No Time For Intolerance:’ Dr. Rachel Levine Has A Job To Do” by Dawn Ennis (Forbes.com)

Outstanding Online Journalism – Video or Multimedia: “Transnational” [series] by Eva Reign, Alyza Enriquez, Freddy McConnell, Vivek Kemp, Courtney Brooks, Sarah Burke, Hendrik Hinzel, Alyza Enriquez, Dan Ming, Trey Strange, and Daisy Wardell (VICE News)

Outstanding Blog: Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents

Outstanding Spanish-Language Online Journalism Article: (TIE) “Claudia: La Enfermera Trans que Lucha Contra el Covid en Ciudad Juárez” por Louisa Reynolds (Nexos.com) and “Somos Invisibles”: La Discriminación y los Riesgos se Multiplican para los Indígenas LGBTQ+” por Albinson Linares (Telemundo.com) 

Outstanding Spanish-Language Online Journalism – Video or Multimedia: “Expulsados México: Cómo la Comunidad Transgénero se Unió para Ayudar a los Migrantes” por Patricia Clarembaux, Anna Clare Spelman, y Celemente Sánchez (Univision Noticias)

A full list of all categories and award recipients from the 33rd Annual GLAAD Media Awards in New York and Los Angeles is below. 

Outstanding New TV Series: Hacks (HBO Max)

Outstanding Comedy Series: Saved by the Bell (Peacock)

Outstanding Drama Series: POSE (FX)

Outstanding Film – Wide Release: Eternals (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures) 

Outstanding Reality Program: (TIE) RuPaul’s Drag Race (VH1) and We’re Here (HBO)

Outstanding Documentary: Changing the Game (Hulu)

Outstanding TV Movie: Single All The Way (Netflix)

Outstanding Film – Limited Release: Parallel Mothers (Sony Pictures Classics)

Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series: It’s A Sin (HBO MAX)

Outstanding Children’s Programming: “Family Day” Sesame Street (HBO Max)

Outstanding Kids & Family Programming: Power Rangers: Dino Fury (Nickelodeon/Netflix)

Outstanding Music Artist: Lil Nas X, MONTERO (Columbia Records)

Outstanding Breakthrough Music Artist: Lily Rose, Stronger Than I Am (Big Loud Records/Back Blocks Music/Republic Records)

Outstanding Broadway Production: (TIE) COMPANY and Thoughts of a Colored Man

Outstanding Video Game: Life is Strange: True Colors (Deck Nine Games/Square Enix)

Outstanding Comic Book: Crush & Lobo (DC Comics)

Outstanding Original Graphic Novel/Anthology: Cheer Up! Love and Pompoms (Oni Press)

Outstanding Magazine Overall Coverage: The Advocate

Outstanding Variety or Talk Show Episode: “Elliot Page” The Oprah Conversation (Apple TV+)

Outstanding TV Journalism Segment: “HIV/AIDS: 40 Years Later” TODAY (NBC)

Outstanding TV Journalism – Long-Form: “Pride of The White House” (MSNBC)

Outstanding Print Article: “Lawmakers Can’t Cite Local Examples of Trans Girls in Sports” by David Crary & Lindsay Whitehurst (The Associated Press)

Outstanding Online Journalism Article: “‘No Time For Intolerance:’ Dr. Rachel Levine Has A Job To Do” by Dawn Ennis (Forbes.com)

Outstanding Online Journalism – Video or Multimedia: “Transnational” [series] by Eva Reign, Alyza Enriquez, Freddy McConnell, Vivek Kemp, Courtney Brooks, Sarah Burke, Hendrik Hinzel, Alyza Enriquez, Dan Ming, Trey Strange, and Daisy Wardell (VICE News)

Outstanding Blog: Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents

Outstanding Spanish-Language Scripted Television Series: Maricón Perdido (HBO Max)

Outstanding Spanish-Language TV Journalism: “Orgullo LGBTQ: 52 Años de Lucha y Evolución” (Telemundo 47)

Outstanding Spanish-Language Online Journalism Article: (TIE) “Claudia: La Enfermera Trans que Lucha Contra el Covid en Ciudad Juárez” por Louisa Reynolds (Nexos.com) and “Somos Invisibles”: La Discriminación y los Riesgos se Multiplican para los Indígenas LGBTQ+” por Albinson Linares (Telemundo.com)
Outstanding Spanish-Language Online Journalism – Video or Multimedia: “Expulsados México: Cómo la Comunidad Transgénero se Unió para Ayudar a los Migrantes” por Patricia Clarembaux, Anna Clare Spelman, y Celemente Sánchez (Univision Noticias)

Special Recognition: All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson [filmed reading + performance]

Special Recognition: “Alok Vaid-Menon” 4D with Demi Lovato (Cadence13/OBB Sound/SB Projects)

Special Recognition: CODED: The Hidden Love of J.C. Leyendecker (Paramount+)

Special Recognition: Jeopardy! Champion Amy Schneider

Special Recognition: The Laverne Cox Show (Shondaland Audio/iHeartMedia)

Special Recognition: Life Out Loud with LZ Granderson (ABC News)

Special Recognition: Outsports’ Coverage of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics

Special Recognition (Spanish-Language): “Celebrando el Mes del Orgullo” (Telemundo)

The 33rd Annual GLAAD Media Awards honor media for fair, accurate, and inclusive representations of LGBTQ people and issues. Since its inception in 1990, the GLAAD Media Awards have grown to be the most visible annual LGBTQ awards show in the world, sending powerful messages of acceptance to audiences globally.

“This year’s GLAAD Media Awards come at a time where LGBTQ visibility and storytelling can be the frontline response to a dangerous rise in anti-LGBTQ legislation around the country,” said GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “Our nominees and award recipients, including Pose, Sesame Street, Eternals, Hacks, Lil Nas X,We’re Here and so many journalists and news producers showcase the beautiful diversity of LGBTQ people. At a time when we need it most, these stories, these stories rise against hate, enlighten, entertain, and send an undeniable message: we are not going anywhere.”

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The Washington Blade interviews first Out lesbian U.S. ambassador

Wong throughout her career has worked to expand opportunities for people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent

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Chantale Wong, the U.S. director of the Asian Development Bank, talked to the Washington Blade this week. (Photo by Kirth Bobb)

WASHINGTON – The first openly lesbian U.S. ambassador on Wednesday discussed her historic ambassadorship with the Washington Blade during an exclusive interview in D.C.

“It is a milestone for the United States,” said Chantale Wong, the U.S. director of the Asian Development Bank. “I’m hoping that it’s not too soon that I will be joined by others.”

Wong, whom the U.S. Senate confirmed in February by a bipartisan 66-31 vote margin, represents the U.S. at the Asian Development Bank, which seeks to promote economic and social development throughout the Asia-Pacific Region. Wong is also the first openly LGBTQ person of color to serve as a U.S. ambassador.

Interim Human Rights Campaign President Joni Madison said Wong’s confirmation “is one step closer to achieving a future where all members of the LGBTQ+ community can see themselves reflected at the highest levels of government.” Wong told the Blade that she feels “a huge weight of responsibility.”

“It’s a huge responsibility I carry with me because it is the hopes and dreams of those that want to be in my position, but also the issues that I will carry forward in terms of providing inclusive growth for our community in many of these countries where the community is really criminalized and targeted, and so that is going to be my burden and my responsibility to bring forth a better livelihood for these communities.”

Brunei and Singapore are among the bank’s member countries that continue to criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations. The bank itself is based in the Philippines, a country in which dozens of LGBTQ rights groups operate.

Wong between 1999-2002 was the acting U.S. executive director of the bank’s board of directors. Wong noted the Philippines’ Foreign Affairs Department granted her wife a diplomatic visa after the bank recognized their Vermont marriage.

“For me 20 years ago, it was really precedent setting,” said Wong. “I was there with my partner.”

Wong spoke with the Blade less than two weeks after a group of Democratic lawmakers in a letter they sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged the State Department to do more to ensure countries recognize the same-sex partners of American diplomats. The interview also took place against the backdrop of efforts to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Asian Development Bank’s safeguards.

“In all the institutions, we come up with ensuring that any of our projects and our policies do no harm and maybe even improve the lives of the beneficiaries we try to serve,” said Wong. “Ultimately, it’s about economic development for these countries … we’ve always had labor standards, environmental standards, other social standards, social safeguards. You don’t go in and harm the people you’re trying to help.” 

Wong further noted LGBTQ people “are the vulnerable of the vulnerable because of many of the laws in these countries are specifically targeting LGBTQ people.”

“We want to really advance that issue, that you’re also looking at that community to ensure that we do no harm, but also we talk about inclusive growth, that the economies of these countries cannot fully grow if you leave out any segments of the community. So that’s the push on the SOGIE (sexual orientation and gender identity and gender expression) safeguards.”

Wong said she expects the bank’s board in 2023 will decide whether to accept the proposed LGBTQ-specific safeguard. Wong told the Blade she expects the U.S. government will endorse it, noting the Biden administration’s executive order that bans discrimination against federal employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity and its commitment to promote LGBTQ rights abroad as part of U.S. foreign policy.

“The president is very clear,” said Wong. “The question how to go about making sure that this safeguard is protective of the community. That’s the discussion that’s going on.”

Ambassador fled China as a child

Wong was born in Shanghai in 1954. Mao Tse-tung in 1958 launched the Great Leap Forward that sought to transform China into an industrial economy. Wong said the famine that resulted from the campaign killed upwards of 55 million people. 

Wong told the Blade her parents in 1960 “made the ultimate sacrifice to allow me to escape” China in the bottom of a boat that brought her and her grandmother to Hong Kong, which at the time was a British colony. Wong lived in Hong Kong with her aunt and uncle. They enrolled her in a Catholic boarding school in Macau, which at the time was a Portuguese territory.

She was baptized and given the name Chantale after St. Jane Frances de Chantal, who Wong noted is the patron saint of “forgotten people.” Wong said the first English word she learned to say and write was her name, which she practiced while taking the ferry between Hong Kong and Macau.

Wong, her aunt and uncle moved to the Japanese island of Okinawa in the mid-1960s.

President Nixon in 1972 traveled to China, and Japan the same year established diplomatic relations with the country. Wong, her aunt and uncle received Taiwanese passports that allowed them to travel to Guam, a U.S. territory in the western Pacific Ocean. 

Wong attended an all-girls Catholic high school in Guam. The island’s governor later endorsed her for a scholarship that allowed her to enroll at the University of Hawaii. Wong later studied at the University of California, Berkeley and Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Wong in 1982 returned to Shanghai, where she reunited with her parents who she had not seen in 21 years. Wong also met her brother whom she had never met.

Wong’s brother left China five years later and now lives in the U.S. with his family. Their parents arrived in the U.S. in 1990, a year after the Chinese government massacred pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Wong pointed out her parents were in their 60s when they left China.

“Those are the models I adhere to,” she said.

Wong further added her “journey is not unlike many of the people that we’re trying to help and nurture and economically develop.”

“I’m very mindful of my journey and what we’re trying to help,” she said.

Trump ‘fueled the fire of anti-Asian hate’

Wong throughout her career has worked to expand opportunities for people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent.

She founded the Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership, a group that seeks to “empower” members of those communities to enter public service, in 1990. New York Congresswoman Grace Meng is among the organization’s alumni.

Wong also documented the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) during the final years of his life.

Ambassador Chantale Wong, right, with the late-Georgia Congressman John Lewis on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., in March 2019. (Photo by Pam Crist)

Wong during the interview wore a gray hoodie with the hashtag #StopAsianHate.

She noted the Chinese Exclusion Act, an 1882 law that prohibited Chinese people from entering the U.S., and Japanese internment camps during World War II. Wong also referenced Vincent Chin, a Chinese American man who two white autoworkers in Detroit murdered in 1982.

Wong added “the rhetoric of the last administration fueled the fire of anti-Asian hate” during the pandemic.

“It’s a huge issue for the community,” she said. “There’s also hate against gays and lesbians.”

Chantale Wong (Photo by Kirth Bobb)
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