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New foundation gives record $125 million to AAPI causes as anti-Asian hate crimes surge in 2021

The Asian American Foundation launches
The Asian American Foundation launches 05:51

The Asian American Foundation launched Monday as the United States marks Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, thanks to a record-breaking donation of $125 million. 

The historic sum is the largest commitment ever made by Asian Americans to their own community. 

It comes as a grim new report shows Anti-Asian hate crimes surged more than 160% in the first three months of 2021, compared with the same period in 2020.

"We've been watching the anti-Asian hate incidents and we've been watching what's been happening last year, and realized that we needed to create an organization," AAF President Sonal Shah said on "CBS This Morning" Monday. "And when Atlanta happened, we went into action even faster."

A gunman opened fire at three separate spas in the Atlanta area in March. The gunman claims racism was not his motive, but six of the eight victims were of Asian descent. 

A steady rise in anti-Asian hate crimes that has coincided with racist stereotypes that sprung from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Actor and producer Daniel Dae Kim, who co-chairs the group's founders board, told "CBS This Morning" that the spike in targeted violence will be the driving force behind how the foundation will utilize its initial $125 million funding.

"I think given what the community has been going through, the initial investments have been going to organizations that are dedicated to stopping anti-Asian hate," he said. 

Some of those investments have already been made, and Kim said all of them will be aimed towards helping local communities.

The actor is also a firsthand witness to the wave of racist violence — and is not unaffected.

Kim said his sister has "had her own experience" with anti-Asian violence, and he fears for his California-based parents and his children.

"Seeing the number of people, and the kind of people, who have been attacked over the past year has really affected how I see our ability to move around and be free and to be considered American," he said. 

"My wife doesn't like to travel alone anymore. She makes sure that she's always with a friend. The same with my parents."

Along with combatting hate, Shah said she hopes the foundation can be "an incubator, a creator and a funder" for AAPI communities.

"We want to make sure that we're supporting our communities, want to make sure that we're supporting our communities, supporting the organizations that have been doing all the work on the ground," she said. "Two, we want to fund data and research." 

She said the third goal would be to place a focus on educating people on Asian American history in the U.S.

"We want to make sure Asian American education is part of the American story," Shah said. 

She highlighted the diversity of AAPI communities as something to be celebrated while maintaining the importance of working together.

"It's always easy to not recognize that we have very different backgrounds, experiences, and we live different lives. But we are also Asian American," Shah said. "We need to celebrate ourselves also, and not just be seen, we want to make sure people know who we are and that we are part of telling the American story."

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