In late 2008, Advancing Justice – Atlanta’s former Executive Director Helen Ho got wind of a proposed English-only driver license bill that was predicted to pass swiftly through the 2009 Georgia Legislative Session. The bill — which violates the Constitution and federal national origin protections — sought to prohibit immigrant citizens and residents from taking the permanent driver license exam in a language other than English when it was being provided in 12 languages to about 60,000 individuals each year. Realizing that the majority of Asian Americans were either unaware or misinformed about the impact of this bill, our former ED, Helen, began speaking one on one with individual Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Filipino and Indonesian grassroots leaders she knew through her volunteer and community work.
As understanding and momentum built, these one on one conversations led to community group meetings which led to the genesis of a coalition of 20+ Asian grassroots organizations and associations that worked in concert to defeat this bill. This first successful policy advocacy campaign prompted coalition members to discuss the need for a “formal, proactive Asian advocacy organization” that would serve as a policy and organizing arm for existing AAPI nonprofits and for the community at large. After coaxing, further encouragement and discussion, Helen launched Asian American Legal Advocacy Center (AALAC) in Spring 2010.
AALAC — now Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta — currently serves as the facilitator for the Pan Asian Action Network. In turn, PAAN members provide critical insights into the needs and motivations of our AANHPI community, provide a depth of credibility and reach into different Asian ethnic communities, and serve as our primary base of support not just as partners in our work but as financial donors and sponsors! Since 2016, we've continuously engaged the AAPI communities to turn out to vote and remain engaged in the communities.
Bottom up vs. top down: community members inspire our work.
Community groups are not our clients but our partners.
We believe in collaboration and movement building.
Human rights is the core of our work.