Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Celebrate 10 Years of Arts and Activism with the Asian Women Giving Circle on Nov. 10

Asian women giving circleThe Asian Women Giving Circle, the first and one of the largest Asian American grassroots philanthropy groups in the country and the only one led by all women, turns ten this year and is throwing a party to celebrate on Tuesday, November 10, 2015,  at the AIA/New York Center for Architecture, 536 LaGuardia Place in New York from 6:00pm to 8:30pm. For more information and tickets, click here.

The event, which is open to the public, will feature special performances, including award- winning artist and performer Kelly Tsai, a silent auction, wine, food, DJ, and tarot readings. Guests will also have a change to meet and mingle with the Giving Circle’s 2015 grantees. Proceeds from the event will go to group’s 2016 grantmaking pot.

Founded in New York City in 2005 by Hali Lee with 20 other women, the Giving Circle was modeled after the traditional Korean geh, where friends pool and share money to support each others’ ventures. Lee added a philanthropic twist to this crowdsourcing practice and the Asian Women Giving Circle was born. The group, a fiscally sponsored project of the Ms. Foundation for Women, has made more than $700,000 in grants to projects that contribute to cultural and political change, led by Asian American women artists and community-based nonprofits in New York City.

“Asian Americans are the fastest-growing ethnic group in New York City, yet our communities receive only a tiny fraction of philanthropic funding,” Lee said. “Like the artists and nonprofits we fund that are breaking new ground with their work, we realized to make change, we had to be the change ourselves as donors.”

The Asian Women Giving Circle’s 2015 grants went to: AALDEF, for a print and web-based magazine by and about undocumented Asian women in NYC; Kayhan Irani’s Muslim Women’s Story Lab, which will use oral history and improv theater to deepen Muslim women’s engagement around Islamophobia and community leadership; Kundiman, for a multimedia project in partnership with Adhikaar that will showcase work by Nepalese immigrant women at local nail salons, temples, and restaurants; Joyce Yu-Jean Lee, for an art installation/Internet cafe in Manhattan’s Chinatown that will explore censorship and gender issues in China.

Marisa Marquez and Jennifer Betit Yen attend a special screening of 72 Hour Shootout films and panel discussion at the Time Warner Theater in New York on October 7, 2015. Photo by Lia Chang

Marisa Marquez and Jennifer Betit Yen attend a special screening of 72 Hour Shootout films and panel discussion at the Time Warner Theater in New York on October 7, 2015. Photo by Lia Chang

Grants also went to Marisa Marquez, for Ms. Oriental, a play about the high suicide rate among Asian American women; Adele Pham, for an organizing and education effort among nail salons workers, using her documentary film Nailed It, as a centerpiece; South Asian Youth Action (SAYA!)’s workshops with young South Asian women to support peer education on body image, relationships, gender discrimination and domestic violence; Jennifer Betit Yen, for The Opposite of a Fairy Tale, a documentary film that tackles elder abuse in the Asian American community.


Zine for RAISE

Created by RAISE

A $13,000 grant to fund the creation of a zine to spark conversation and honest dialogue about and by undocumented Asian women and youth. Each issue will focus on a specific theme and will be available both in hard copy and on a multimedia website. The project will be led by members of RAISE (Revolutionizing Asian American Immigrant Stories on the East Coast), a pan-Asian group, of all undocumented “Dreamers”—young people mobilized by President Obama’s 2012 DACA Act. RAISE is affiliated with AALDEF.

A Letter Home: Nepali Stories
Created by Meera NairKundiman, and Adhikaar
A $11,000 grant for A Letter Home: Nepali Stories, a multimedia project in partnership with Adhikaar that seeks to excavate the perspectives and voices of immigrant women from Nepal in New York City. Ten women will take part in writing and photography workshops led by award-winning writer Meera Nair. The work will be shared through public readings and displays in community-based venues such as nail salons, temples, and restaurants.​


Muslim Women’s Story Lab

Created by Kayhan Irani and Women in Islam Inc.
A $11,000 grant for the Muslim Women’s Story Lab, a series of hands-on workshops that seeks to deepen Muslim women’s engagement in three areas: Islamophobia, the inclusion of women in mosques and in community leadership. Ten to fifteen Muslim women will participate in a monthly immersive learning community using oral history, story telling, improvisational theater, and portraiture.​


Created by Joyce Yu-Jean Lee
A $8,000 grant to support Firewall, an art installation in Manhattan’s Chinatown that will transform a rented storefront into a one-of-a-kind Internet café that explores censorship of gender issues in China. The public will be invited to compare disparities on Google and Baidu by researching terms and images online as part of a broader dialogue about Internet freedom.​


Ms. Oriental
Created by Marisa Marquez
A $8,000 grant for the development of Ms. Oriental, a play that explores the high suicide rate among Asian American women. The play centers on a struggling actress who is visited by a coterie of notorious female figures including China’s Empress Dowager, Lady Murasaki, and warrior-queen Lakshmibai. The artist will partner with New York City schools and colleges as part of her educational outreach strategy.​


#NailedIt: Vietnamese and the Nail Industry
Created by Adele Pham and Third World Newsreel
A $13,000 grant to support an organizing and education effort among nail salon workers, leveraging Nailed It, the filmmaker’s feature-length documentary about the industry’s origins as pioneered by Vietnamese immigrants. The film and “know your rights” pamphlets about the harmful health effects of working with chemicals commonly used in the industry will be distributed to nail salons workers in every New York City borough.

Desi Girls Documentary Film Project
Created by South Asian Youth Action (SAYA!)
A $11,000 grant to fund a documentary film and education project that will explore body image, personal relationships, sexual health, gender discrimination, domestic violence and cultural pressures of growing up South Asian and female in the US. Twenty young South Asian women will take part in a series of workshops that will culminate in their working with a filmmaker to produce a documentary for use as a peer-education tool.

The Opposite of a Fairy Tale
Created by Jennifer Betit Yen and the Asian American Film Lab
A $11,000 grant for The Opposite of a Fairy Tale, a short film that will tackle elder abuse in the Asian American community, based on the experiences of the filmmaker’s own grandmother. The film seeks to throw light on this under-reported problem, educate viewers on how to prevent and address elder abuse and offer resources for victims.

Lia Chang

Lia Chang

Lia Chang is an award-winning filmmaker, a Best Actress nominee, a photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek, which will screen at the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival on November 21st. She is profiled in BlogJade Magazine and

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Crafting a Career

Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.
All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2015 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at

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