Last month, Gov. Phil Murphy appointed 28 public members to the New Jersey Asian American and Pacific Islander Commission, which he tasked with building on efforts to develop policies to address the social and economic needs of the growing AAPI communities in New Jersey.
In November, Murphy signed Assembly Bill 5737/Senate Bill 3763 establishing the AAPI Commission, which will be required to submit an annual report to the governor and Legislature about its activities. The appointments came during AAPI Heritage Month in May, an annual celebration that recognizes the cultural and historical contributions of AAPI community members in the U.S.
“As the fastest growing ethnic group, our Asian American and Pacific Islander Community is a key part of the great diversity in our state,” Murphy said when he signed the law. “While we celebrate the important contributions they make to our society and economy, we also recognize the challenges they encounter to access economic resources and opportunities. With today’s bill signing, this newly created commission will represent this diverse population and ensure to advocate on behalf of AAPI throughout New Jersey.”
The sponsors of the legislation include Sens. Vin Gopal, D-11th District, and Linda Greenstein, D-14th District, and Assemblymembers Raj Mukherji, D-33rd District; Sterley Stanley, D-18th District; and Gordon Johnson, D-37th District.
“New Jersey has welcomed immigrants from around the world since its very founding,” said Gopal, who is also a founding member of the Asian American Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus. “As we move forward in the 21st Century in our multi-cultured state, we need to make sure all our people, including Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, are valued and encouraged, in whatever endeavor they undertake. Our state is home to the third-largest percentage of Asian-American and Pacific Islander residents in the nation.”
“Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and their diverse culture play a significant role in New Jersey,” Mukherji, Stanley and Johnson said when the law was signed. “This commission will ensure representation and access to resources by raising awareness to several challenges facing the AAPI community and focusing on addressing the needs of these communities. Their work will help the state develop ways to recognize the cultures and tackle the social, economic, and health needs of the AAPI community.”
The members Murphy appointed to the commission include: Peter Ahn, Cecilia Aranzamendez, Angela Bae, Saima Bhutta, Samantha Bobila, Saketa Chadalavada, Dr. Ronald Chen, Gulshan Chhabra, Kin Gee, Smita Nadia Hussain, Sharmila Jaipersaud, Vinita Jethwani, Dr. Khyati Joshi, Sabeen Kalyan-Masih, Rippi Karda, Dr. Naveen Mehrotra, Anjali Mehrotra, Rupande Mehta, Mary Pan, Falguni Pandya, Dr. Bishnu Maya Pariyar, Amber Reed, Dr. Nimisha Shukla, Amol Sinha, Gabriel Tanglao, Jasmine Ueng-McHale, Yoginder Virk and Yan Mei Wang.
Gopal commended Murphy for the strong membership slate. “Collectively, these individuals represent the wide diversity and the varied and rich contributions that the Asian American Pacific Islander community makes to our multi-cultural state,” he said.
The members were chosen because they reflect the diverse perspectives of the AAPI community while showing commitment to expanding equity and inclusion in New Jersey. “As a civil rights lawyer and South Asian New Jerseyan, I am proud to be appointed to New Jersey’s AAPI Commission,” said Sinha, who serves as executive director of ACLU New Jersey. “Our communities’ voices deserve amplification, representation and political power.”
“I’m excited and honored to accept this appointment to the AAPI Commission,” said Ahn, lead pastor at Metro Community Church. “I will do my very best to help and support this administration move forward the causes and concerns of the AAPI community and build bridges with other communities. I have the dubious honor of serving as one of the leaders of a monthly gathering of Asian and Black pastors in Bergen County. We not only have good fellowship, but we talk about the difficult challenges between our communities, ways in which we can build bridges among our congregations, and birth innovative ways in bringing greater racial justice to Bergen County. I look forward to bringing my experience to the AAPI Commission.”
“It is an honor to be selected for participation on Gov. Murphy’s AAPI Commission,” said Karda, associate general counsel at Verizon. “I commend the Governor’s Office for recognizing the urgent need for this focus on AAPI issues and identification of potential solutions at this crucial time. This appointment will be taken seriously, and I look forward to working effectively with others for the betterment of our overall community. To this end, I plan to utilize my more than two decades of legal experience and training as well as service on various boards to bring a unique voice to this commission to provide meaningful input to effectuate necessary change.”
When the appointments were announced, Senate President Nick Scutari, D-22nd District, said that the commission will give greater voice to a community that is making increasingly important contributions in a number of social and economic ways. “They also face adverse challenges that we all have a responsibility to overcome,” he said. “The active engagement of the AAPI community reinforces our shared recognition that New Jersey’s diversity is a source of strength.”
Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-19th District, echoed that sentiment, saying that New Jersey’s diversity is its greatest asset. “With the formation of the Asian American Pacific Islander Commission we’re taking a crucial step to elevate their important social and economic contributions,” said Coughlin. “With meaningful experience in grassroots engagement of members of the AAPI community, I am proud to make Saketa Chadalavada my appointment to the commission and confident in his capacity to deepen the strong cross-cultural relationship that fortify our state’s unique and inclusive identity.”
Another appointee, Reed, co-founder and president of AAPI Montclair, expressed gratitude for the long-term commitment to New Jersey’s more than 1 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
“I am honored to bring professional experience advancing equity in public education through research, policy, and data analysis to the commission’s work, and am grateful to the governor for ensuring grassroots voices such as AAPI Montclair will be centered and heard as we seek to advance policies that plant the seeds of generational change for all of New Jersey’s wonderfully diverse AAPI communities,” said Reed.
Mukherji, who also serves as the chairman of the Legislature’s seven-member Joint Asian Pacific American Caucus, said that this list of nominees is just the beginning of work that can be accomplished, while helping to deal with the challenges the AAPI community faces.
“The AAPI Commission will be integral in developing ways to uncover and address the social and economic needs of New Jersey’s burgeoning Asian American and Pacific Islander communities and ensure they feel welcome against the backdrop of pandemic-related violence and hate incidents targeting Asian Americans,” said Mukherji.
Gopal hopes that the legislation and commission will raise awareness among AAPI community members of government, community and social service resources that may benefit them.
“This new law will help raise visibility and improve understanding, as well as to foster more positive dialogue and communication and serve to recognize the many and varied contributions AAPI individuals have made and continue to make in New Jersey,” he said.
“In New Jersey, we wear our diversity as a badge of honor,” said Murphy. “As our state is home to the third-largest percentage of AAPI residents in the nation, our AAPI community is a key part of the great diversity in our state. I am proud to appoint these outstanding members to the New Jersey Asian American and Pacific Islander Commission and look forward to working with them to address the social and economic needs of the AAPI community.”