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The Asian American Foundation launches with $125 million donation to AAPI causes

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Actor and producer Daniel Dae Kim and Sonal Shah, president of The Asian American Foundation, join "CBS This Morning" to discuss the foundation's launch and its $125 million donation to AAPI causes.

Video Transcript

- May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and first on CBS This Morning we are revealing a record breaking investment in AAPI causes. The Asian American Foundation is being launched today, with $125 million in funding. That is the biggest commitment ever by Asian-Americans into their own community. It comes as a new report shows that anti-Asian hate crimes surged more than 160% in the first three months of 2021, compared with the same period last year. Sonal Shah is the foundation's president, and actor and producer Daniel Dae Kim is co-chair of The Foundering Advisory Council. Good morning to both of you. This is a very big deal, $125 million. Sonal, first question to you as the founding president of this organization, what do you plan to do with that money?

SONAL SHAH: Well, good morning, and it's so great to be here. And welcome to Asian Pacific Heritage Month. It's fantastic. We are going-- we are an incubator, a convener, and a funder. So when we think about where we want to fund, one, we want to fund anti-hate crimes. We want to make sure that we're supporting our communities, want to make sure we're supporting the organizations that have been doing all the work on the ground. Two, we want to fund data and research. Data and research we need to know what's happening in our communities and make sure we can fund it. So we're going to fund data and research, and three, education. We want to make sure Asian-American education is part of the American story, and that's really our focus.

- And Sonal, why is this coming out now, was it something in the works prior to the past 12 to 14 months of these really public and awful incidents of attacks on Asian-Americans?

SONAL SHAH: We've been watching the-- sorry, Daniel. But we've been watching the anti-Asian hate incidents. And we've been watching what's been happening last year and realized that we needed to create an organization on our board, and our chairman especially, Lee Lo, really took the initiative and said we need to bring people together and make sure we're funding. And so we did that. And when Atlanta happened, we went into action even faster. We were just doing strategy and we were like, we have to launch now, and our board committed $125 million. I mean, that's an incredible investment on their part to Asian-American causes.

- Daniel, what does this money need to go to urgently do you think, what's the most important agenda here?

DANIEL DAE KIM: Well, I think given what the community has been going through, you know, the initial investments have been going to organizations that are dedicated to stopping anti-Asian hate. There have been a number of investments already placed, and all of them are to try to help our local communities battle some of these issues that we're facing.

- You know, when you talk about what the community has been going through, Daniel, it's heartbreaking and also blood-boiling at the same time. I'm wondering about you personally, has it changed how you move in the world these days? Do you find that you are concerned for your own safety, or people that you care about. Has it changed how you move?

DANIEL DAE KIM: It has changed some things. You know, my parents are in California. I have a sister who's had her own experience with anti-Asian violence, and you know, I have kids. So seeing the number of people and the kind of people who have been attacked over the past year has really affected how I see our ability to move around and be free and to be considered American.

- Yeah, what do you do differently?

DANIEL DAE KIM: For instance, my wife-- my wife doesn't like to travel alone anymore. She makes sure that she's always with a friend. It's the same with my parents, I make sure that they're traveling together or with friends. And you know when they're walking in cities like New York or Los Angeles, they make sure that they're not wearing headphones, or iPod's, or earbuds, and they're always aware of their surroundings at all times.

- Daniel, even as we keep these concerns front of mind-- and Sonal, I'd love you to weigh in on this as well-- it's interesting that you say we should not only mark Asian-American Heritage Month, but celebrate it, keyword celebrate. Why do you put that in the foreground? Daniel, you can -- actually, Sonal, you go first then we'll go back to Daniel. Sorry, I should be directing traffic. Sonal, go ahead.

SONAL SHAH: I think it's so important to recognize that we are such a diverse community of Asian-Americans-- we are 40 different ethnicities, 20 different Pacific Islander communities-- that we need to celebrate who we are too. It's always easy to not recognize that we all live very-- we have very different backgrounds, experiences, and we live different lives. But we are also Asian-American and we have very similar experiences and many stories.

Many cases what you heard from Daniel is probably where you're going to hear from a lot of people and the experiences that they've had. So we need to celebrate ourselves also. And not just be not seen, we want to make sure people know who we are and that we are part of telling the American story.

- All right, Daniel, last word goes to you. How will you be celebrating this month?

DANIEL DAE KIM: Oh, plenty of ways. There are a lot of things that I'll be doing personally, using my platforms for instance. Anyone who decides to show some Asian pride on their TikTok, or their Instagram, or Facebook are going to be retweeted by me.

- You'll be hearing from [INAUDIBLE] very soon.

DANIEL DAE KIM: And I think that there are just a number of great ways that organizations like CAF are coming together and planning events around celebrating us. Because as Sonal said so eloquently, there's a lot that we're going through that's not necessarily positive in our community, but we have a lot to celebrate because we are proud to be American.

- Well, we'll be sure to do some more celebrating too. Sonal Shah, Daniel Dae Kim, we thank you both for joining us. You're watching CBS This Morning.