Missouri journalist Michelle Li and her nonprofit, the Very Asian Foundation, were awarded the Asian American Journalists Association’s (AAJA) AAPI Community Impact Award over the weekend.
Background information: Li, an anchor at NBC affiliate KSDK in St. Louis, made headlines last year after receiving a scathing voicemail from a viewer who complained that she was being “very Asian.”
The caller apparently took offense at Li’s mention of dumpling soup while reporting about food that Americans eat during New Year’s celebrations.
“She was being very Asian. I don’t know. She can keep her Korean to herself,” the caller said about Li, who is Korean American. “It was annoying because if a white person would say that, they would get fired.”
Amid an outpouring of support — paired with a viral hashtag — Li turned the racist incident into a cause for good and launched the Very Asian Foundation. Since then, the organization has worked to amplify diverse Asian stories and raise funds to provide grants to organizations focused on strengthening Asian communities.
I’d love to say something back. pic.twitter.com/zrXgiwQbR9
— #VeryAsian Michelle (she/her) (@MichelleLiTV) January 2, 2022
About the award: Li and Very Asian received the AAPI Community Impact Award at the AAJA23 Awards Gala in Washington, D.C., on Saturday night. The award recognizes those who champion the spirit of the AAPI community through their work.
It’s incredibly humbling to receive any recognition, but as a journalist-founded organization, we couldn’t be more honored to work toward filling the gap between news and community. None of this would be possible without the support of KSDK, TEGNA, and the community. We’re humbled to receive an honor that allows us to create space for non-profit work through a journalistic lens. We are truly grateful to do this work and being honored is just icing on the cake.
This is not the first community award Li has received this year. In April, the FBI surprised her with the Director’s Community Leadership Award for turning “a racist comment against her into nationwide pride for the AAPI community amid a spike in anti-Asian hate crimes.”