Keynote Speaker : Author & Activist, Helen Zia BACK TO SPEAKERS

Helen Zia is the author, activist and Fulbright Scholar. She authored Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2000) and a finalist for the prestigious 2000 Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize. She coauthored, with Wen Ho Lee, My Country Versus Me (Hyperion, 2002) about the Los Alamos scientist who was falsely accused of being a spy for China in the “worst case since the Rosenbergs.”

A second generation Chinese American, Helen has been both an activist and a journalist throughout her life. She began her activism as a student in high school and college during the heyday of civil rights, anti-war and women’s movements. Later, as she worked as a magazine writer, editor and investigative reporter, her special passion involved stories of ordinary people in pursuit of social change and justice. She became the Executive Editor of Ms. Magazine, where she received numerous journalism awards. Her investigation of date rape at the University of Michigan led to campus demonstrations and an administrative overhaul of its policies, while her research on women who join neo-Nazi and white supremacist organizations provoked new thinking on the relationship between race, gender, and sexual orientation in hate-motivated violence.

Helen has been outspoken on issues ranging from human rights, war and peace to racial profiling and countering hate violence. In 1997 she helped author a complaint and gave testimony before the Commission on Civil Rights against Congress, the Democratic and Republican National Committees and the news media for racially discriminatory treatment against Asian Americans. Ms. Zia traveled to Beijing in 1995 to the UN Fourth World Congress on Women as part of a journalists of color delegation. Her work on the Asian American landmark civil rights case of anti-Asian violence is documented in the Academy Award nominated film, "Who Killed Vincent Chin?" Helen wrote some of the earliest essays linking Asian American and lesbian/gay communities to such issues as same-sex marriage.

Helen Zia received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the Law School of the City University of New York and was the first recipient of the Suzanne Ahn Journalism Award for Civil Rights and Social Justice. As the board chair of the Women’s Media Center, founded by Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan and. Gloria Steinem, she initiated a campaign to keep the media spotlight on war crimes committed by US soldiers in Iraq against 14 year old Abeer Qassim Al-Janabi, her family and other Iraqi civilians. She was “Writer-In-Residence” of New York University and an “Expert Fellow” in University of Southern California’s Justice and Journalism program. She is a long-time member and former New York Chapter president of the Asian American Journalists Association.

A graduate of Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Ms. Zia was a Woodrow Wilson Scholar and a member of the university's first graduating class of women. She quit medical school after completing two years, then worked as a construction laborer, an autoworker, and a community organizer, after which she discovered her life’s work as a writer.