It’s not every day that you see a Japanese diplomat’s wife performing a rap song. But the 10th Annual Who’s Who in Asian American Communities (WWAAC) Awards and conference was anything but a routine awards ceremony.
In addition to the evening presentation of awards honoring Asian-American leaders and role models, the day’s events included talks on overcoming adversity, a mentoring session, Asian food and fashions, and video presentations about the Asian American experience and the history of the WWAAC Awards.
The entire event was held September 26 at the Rialto Center for the Arts at Georgia State University in Atlanta.
The awards were hosted by Dr. Sujatha Reddy, a physician who is also a medical correspondent for WXIA-TV in Atlanta; and Richard Lui, an MSNBC News anchor and 2013 WWAAC Honoree.
The ceremony is the only Asian American awards program televised across the country and streamed live over the Internet.
The Founder of the WWAAC Alliance Foundation, Sachi Koto presented Xernona Clayton, Founder, President and CEO of the Trumpet Awards Foundation with the inaugural WWAAC VIP Award (Visionary, Inspirational and Pioneer.)
In 2011, Clayton was also one of the first two recipients of the WWAAC Foundation’s RICE (Respect, Inspiration, Commitment and Excellence) Awards. The Mission Statement of the Trumpet Awards Foundation is “To provide a series of programs to celebrate, showcase and elevate the accomplishments primarily of African American men and women who have significantly contributed to the quality of life for all thereby improving economics, health, educational, cultural awareness.”
Presenter Judge Alvin Wong introduced highlights from the 2006 and 2007 WWAAC Awards. Presenter Anthony A. Quan, Coca-Cola Pacific – CFO and Director of Business Strategy, introduced the “We the People: Asian Americans” mini-documentary, written by
Dr. Sook Wilkinson.
The most colorful part of the program was the WWAAC Asian Fashion Show, in which participants displayed native costumes from their countries. The segment included Thai dancers Jutatip Brown and Pathomkon Mungin.
The next presenter was 2008 WWAAC honoree Ron Jordan, who introduced 2008 WWAAC Awards Highlights.
Gayle Yamada, APIASF Vice President of Development and External Relations, presented Lindsay Dacuan with the 2015 APIASF Leaders & Legends Award. Entertainment was provided by singer Toni Daya-Leutgers, a former Miss Philippines Tourism, who is now active in the Filipino-American community in Atlanta.
The next presenters were Julie Xiong, Diversity Initiatives Manager for General Motors; and 2010 WWAAC honoree Kiko Harvey, who introduced 2009 and 2010 WWAAC Awards highlights.
Presenter Major General Antonio Taguba, U.S. Army (Retired), presented Belkis Leong-Hong with the 2015 PPALM Leaders and Legends Award. Entertainment was provided by members of the William Pu Music Academy.
Frank Romeo, Vice President of the UPS Foundation talked about their new slogan, “United Problem Solvers” and introduced a video showing some of the problems UPS is working to solve, often behind the scenes and through The UPS Foundation.
2011 WWAAC honoree Rudy Pamintuan presented an introduction of 2011 and 2012 WWAAC Awards highlights. Dr. Sujatha Reddy presented Joe Melookaran with the 2015 WWAAC Leaders and Legends Award. Yannie Tan, an amazing 14-year-old award-winning pianist, performed classical music.
Next, 2013 and 2014 WWAAC Awards highlights were introduced by 2013 WWAAC Honoree Richard Lui, followed by a unique performance by Yukari Sunaga, wife of the Consul General of Japan Kazuo
Sunaga. Mrs. Sunaga not only sang a Japanese song, but performed a rap song, in English, she wrote about living in Atlanta.
The day’s events started at noon, with the WWAAC Alliance Conference Luncheon sponsored by UPS, Buick, and Gentle Dental Care and Georgia Dental Implant Center. WWAAC Conference Co-Chairs Gloria Enriquez and Noy Lounnarath-Bozarth were emcees.
Brandon McClain and Sumit Agrawal were the Luncheon Keynote Speakers. Both received the WWAAC Foundation’s RICE Awards. McClain is Managing Director for Enterprise Account High Technology Segment for UPS. Agrawal is a Senior Manager for Advanced Analytics for General Motors.
The WWAAC Awards Title Sponsors were Comcast, Comcast On Demand and Encyclomedia. WWAAC Diamond Sponsors were Buick and UPS.
After the luncheon, participants attended a “speed mentoring” session titled Tenacious Leadership: Overcoming Obstacles & Adversity. It was sponsored by the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF).
Bonnie Youn moderated the session. The mentors were: Sumit Agrawal, Lindsay Dacuan, Dr. Gulshan Harjee, Belkis Leong-Hong, Samuel Kwon, Joseph Melookaran, Brandon McClain, U.S. Army Major General (retired) Antonio M. Taguba, Jenifer Waldrop and Gayle Yamada.
This session was followed by an Asian Cultural Mini-Fest, which included samples of Asian food.
Here is information on the WWAAC Award recipients:
Joseph Melookaran is the 2015 WWAAC Leaders & Legends Award honoree. He is president & CEO of JMA Information Technology Inc., which has more than 300 employees in the U.S. and more than 100 employees in Singapore, Malaysia and India.
Melookaran is a certified public accountant with extensive experience in management consulting and public assurance practice.
Lindsay Dacuan, of Philippine descent, the APIASF Leaders & Legends honoree, is studying for a Masters of Public Health degree at Emory University. She completed an internship at the Centers for Disease Control, focusing on federal travel restriction policies in the wake of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. She hopes to continue in federal work, eventually becoming a champion for Asian American Pacific Islander health.
Belkis Leong-Hong, founder, president, and CEO of Knowledge Advantage Inc., is the Pan Pacific American Leaders and Mentors (PPALM) Organization Leaders & Legends Award honoree. She is a first generation Chinese American who had a distinguished 30-year career in the U.S. government, established and runs a thriving company, and serves as an advocate of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.