Critical Conversations: Anti-Asian Racism and Violence in America

Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America (CSREA)

This conversation explores the complexity of factors impacting Asian American communities, including the historical and recent contexts for anti-Asian racism and violence.

  • Sarath S. Suong, co-founder and Executive Director of Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM), founding Board Co-Chair of the Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education (ARISE), and National Coordinator of the Southeast Asian Freedom Network (SEAFN)
  • Vivian Shaw, College Fellow in the Department of Sociology at Harvard University and the Lead Researcher (co-PI) for the AAPI COVID-19 Project
  • Chanda Womack, Founding Executive Director of the Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education (ARISE)
  • Robert G. Lee, Associate Professor of American Studies, Brown University
  • Elena Shih, Manning Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnic Studies, and Faculty Affiliate in the Departments of Sociology and East Asian Studies, Brown University

Free and open to the public. Please register to attend


Robert G. Lee ’80 Ph.D. studies Asian American and Transpacific history. He has published on Asian Americans, popular culture and racial formations; Asian American displacements and diasporas; and the social and cultural connections between Asia and America. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on Asian American and Transpacific history and culture. In 2014, he was a Fulbright scholar at the Research Institute for the Humanities at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he developed and taught with Evelyn Hu-Dehart, a graduate seminar on Transpacific history taught in real time between Brown and the Chinese University of Hong Kong (subsequently with the Nanyang University of Technology in Singapore). Lee has been active in developing American studies in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. He is currently a Fellow at the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities where he is engaged in a project using vernacular photography in Chinese American history.

Elena Shih is the Manning Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnic Studies. She is a faculty affiliate in the Departments of Sociology and East Asian Studies. She directs a human trafficking research cluster at Brown University’s Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice (CSSJ). Shih’s first book project, “Manufacturing Freedom: Trafficking Rescue, Rehabilitation, and the Slave Free Good” (under contract with University of California Press), is a global ethnography of the transnational social movement to combat human trafficking in China, Thailand, and the United States. As an ACLS Postdoctoral Fellow, Shih spent the 2019-2020 academic year on the China-Myanmar border exploring new labor migration flows in light of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Shih is an outreach organizer with Red Canary Song, a grassroots coalition of sex workers, migrant workers, and allies working in Flushing, Queens.



Vivian Shaw is a college fellow in the Department of Sociology at Harvard University and the lead researcher (co-PI) for the AAPI COVID-19 Project, a multi-method investigation into the impacts of the pandemic on the lives of Asian immigrants, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. She earned her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Texas at Austin with graduate portfolios in Asian American studies and women’s and gender studies. Shaw has published articles and chapters in Radical History Review, Critical Asian Studies, and others. Her forthcoming book, tentatively titled, “Human Fallout: Racial Politics After Fukushima,” draws upon multiple years of ethnographic research in Japan in the long aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, exploring how and why activists used the lens of disasters to develop a connected strategy of mobilization against two global problems—environmental change and the rise of right-wing populism.

Sarath Sarinay Suong ’02 (he/him) was born in Khao I Dang refugee camp after his family fled Cambodia’s civil war. They resettled in his hometown of Revere, Massachusetts where he learned about community organizing as a working-class, queer refugee. Sarath attended Brown University in Rhode Island where he majored in ethnic studies with a specific focus on Southeast Asian resettlement, resilience, and resistance. He became a co-founder and former executive director of Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM), a community organization of Southeast Asian young people, queer and trans youth of color, and survivors of state violence organizing collectively against state violence. Sarath is a founding co-chair of the Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education (ARISE), a local youth organization fighting for education justice. Sarath sits on the advisory board of the Immigrant Justice Network, a network of immigrant justice groups dedicated to thriving communities free from policing, deportation, and imprisonment. He is also the National Director of Southeast Asian Freedom Network (SEAFN), a movement family of Southeast Asian grassroots organizations founded to fight against detention and deportation. Sarath loves his family, friends, young people, and is the biggest X-Men geek you’d ever meet.

Chanda Womack (she/her/hers) is the founding executive director of the Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education (ARISE.) Chanda is a fearless and tireless advocate for social justice. Chanda provided the inspiration and vision for the creation of ARISE as a nonprofit devoted to education justice. She is unapologetic for what she stands for and how she carries out her work. Her passionate, positive, and proven leadership in the various organizations she serves is universally evident. Her leadership and movement building has garnered local and national recognition for ARISE and Rhode Island. Most recently she became a founding board member of Parents Leading for Educational Equity (PLEE), a 2020 recipient of A Leadership Journey’s Mary Marsh “Community Leader Award, and ARISE and her leadership was named in Providence Monthly’s “Who to Watch in 2020.” In 2017, Chanda was the recipient of the NAACP Thurgood Marshall Award, the YWCA’s Women in Achievement Award, and the Providence Youth Student Movement POWER Award.

Chanda was conceived and born in a refugee camp in Thailand, immigrating to the United States in January of 1981 with her family. Chanda is married to Tiger Womack, her husband of over 10 years, and has a daughter Amaya and a son named Justice. She is a product of the Providence Public Schools and earned a B.A. degree from the University of Rhode Island in 2004. She has a masters of public administration also from the University of Rhode Island as well as a graduate certificate in nonprofit leadership from Rhode Island College