I am a Pacific Islander American and the Founder of BAT Consulting LLC, a strategic advisory and consulting company that focuses on creating business plans, websites, supporting systems and training programs for organizations. I have a background in strategy, operations and business development with 15 years of leadership experience in the luxury appliance and construction industries.
I have an MBA from Santa Clara University and lean into my relationship building, strategic planning and leadership skills to connect with others and articulate their vision throughout their organization.
I am a proud Dreamer! I started my career selling knock-off perfume out of a cardboard box, walking up and down the avenues of downtown San Mateo for hours every day. I soon landed a job as a receptionist and paved my way to the American Dream, getting an education, rising to executive leadership, buying a home and starting a blended family of my own.
As a minority woman in leadership, my goal is to open doors for other minorities to lead, and to help them navigate the cultural barriers that are both obvious, and not so obvious on their journey. I do this through seminars, workshops and speaking engagements.
You can contact Brenda @
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Meet Henry Louis ‘Aho, a California licensed Attorney working for Littler Mendelson, the largest global employment and labor law practice in the world. Henry is of Tongan descent, and is known in the Tongan community as a riveting Orator, and Storyteller.
Henry’s journey to success is one that many Pacific Islanders traverse in silence and fear, due to the heavy cultural and religious stigmas around diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.
His courage to love and understand himself as a gay male in the face of immense social pressures began early in his childhood; growing up in a strong religious background, attending church at least 3 times a week and being constantly reminded to “talk like a man”, and “walk like a man”.
The cultural and religious context that Henry grew up in, forbade open conversations around sexuality and gender identities, so Henry had to learn about his sexuality on his own. As he grew up, he realized that he just didn’t fit into the expectations of his family and community, and it became really difficult for him to fight off the self-hate.
He leaned on friends whose parents filled the void of finding acceptance from his own parents, until they were able to embrace his truth.
Henry’s brave journey to understanding, accepting and loving himself ignited his dream to become an attorney, and his passion to advocate for better understanding and opportunities for Pacific Islanders with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.
Henry joined a small group of like-minded individuals; the United Territories of Pacific Islanders Association (UTOPIA NYC), a social group in New York City that provides a safe space to strengthen the resilience of Pacific Islanders with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, through cultural stewardship, outreach, volunteerism and advocacy.
In the Pacific island of Tonga, Henry worked together with a small but unrelenting group of activists - the Tonga Leitis Association (TLA) to kickstart a campaign for the decriminalization of cross-dressing and consensual same sex relations in Tonga, where he served as President of the TLA in 2016, until he moved to the United States permanently in 2018. As of today, decriminalization efforts continue in Tonga.
Now, Henry is on a mission to start a Pasifika Attorneys Law Society for attorneys with Pacific Islander heritage here in the United States, since Pacific Islanders are almost non-existent in any of the legal industry data.
Often grouped together with Asian-Americans due to our geographic locations, Pacific Islanders are rendered invisible with gaping disparities in statistics. Once Henry starts the association, it would not only show that attorneys with Pacific Islander heritage do exist in the U.S., but also signal to students who are trying to figure out which career path to take, as they look to those in their own communities, that being an attorney should be an option as well.
Henry has law degrees from Fordham University School of Law in New York, and the University of London, UK, bachelor's degrees in History and Political Studies from the University of Auckland, and a bachelor's degree in Business from the Metropolitan College of New York.
I am incredibly proud to cap Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage month with Henry’s story of courage to love himself entirely and authentically, champion his fight against self-hate, his relentless pursuit of his dream to become an attorney, and his desire to ease the struggle for other Pacific Islanders with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities!
You can connect with Henry on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/henrylouisaho/
Thank you, Henry, for your perseverance and example! And thank you, Brenda, for another amazing story about our Asian Pacific Islander Brothers and Sisters! 🙌
In this week’s segment of Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Brenda Aho felt inspired to write about Jeremy Shu-How Lin, the first Chinese American and Taiwanese American to play in the National Basketball Association (NBA), a professional sport league predominantly played by African American players (71.8%), and White players (17.4%) according to 2022 statistics (Statista).
Jeremy is also the first Asian American to win an NBA championship.
Jeremy is a second-generation immigrant, born in Torrance CA and raised in Palo Alto, CA. His father emigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan in the 1970’s, after his siblings put their own educations on hold to work and pool their resources together to send him to the U.S. to get an education. Jeremy’s father met Jeremy’s mother at Old Dominion University in Virginia - she too emigrated from Taiwan to study.
Jeremy’s father taught him and his brother to play basketball at the YMCA, where he developed his dream to become a professional basketball player. Jeremy credits his ability to chase his dream, to his mother’s sacrifices; pulling money from her 401k to support him financially for 2 years while he pursued basketball.
Jeremy faced some significant and poignant challenges throughout his journey. An early memory he shared is experiencing hate and racism against Asians during a 6th grade basketball game. Before that moment, he had always thought skin color and race didn’t matter on the court, and that it only mattered whether you could play or not. This experience opened up a new awareness to him that both saddened and pushed him.
When applying for scholarships to play for Ivy League schools; Harvard’s assistant head coach watched his on-court abilities and told his high school coach that he was not impressed with Jeremy’s performance, calling him a division III player. Jeremy leveled up his playing, and the next time Harvard’s assistant head coach saw him play, his entire perception of Jeremy’s skillset changed, and Jeremy became one of Harvard’s top recruits.
When Jeremy started playing basketball as a Freshman for Harvard, his coach remembered him as the weakest guy on the team. By the time Jeremy reached his junior year at Harvard, he became the only NCAA Division I men’s basketball player ranked in the top 10 in his conference, and by unanimous decision was selected for the All-Ivy League First Team in both his junior and senior years.
Jeremy’s rise to stardom in the NBA occurred while playing for the Knicks, scoring a game-winning 3 pointer with less than 1 second remaining in the game against the Toronto Raptors! His performance earned him popularity by fans everywhere, who started the hype and momentum around “Linsanity”, a phrase coined by excited spectators of his winning game shot.
Jeremy became the first NBA player to score at least 20 points with assists in each of the first 5 starts he had. After scoring 89, 109 and 136 points in his first 5 career starts, Jeremy had scored the most by any player since the American Basketball Association (ABA) and the NBA merged.
Jeremy’s story speaks to many patterns' endemic to the Asian and Pacific Islander cultures, 2 of which really stand out to me. 1 is sacrifice. Asian and Pacific Islanders come from cultures of collectivism, so it’s not uncommon for people to put their own needs last, in order to give others with potential a chance to get ahead, just like Jeremy’s aunts and uncles did for his dad. The second is to be totally disciplined in the realization of your dreams and goals.
Jeremy’s awful experience with racism, especially while doing something he loves, could have deterred him from his dream of becoming a professional basketball player. Also, when Harvard’s Assistant Coach dismissed his on-court abilities and called him a Division III player, Jeremy could have just thrown in the towel and said, I guess I don’t have what it takes. But neither of these experiences drove him to quit!
Jeremy had his tunnel vision goggles on and dug his heels in to chase his dream. He took feedback for what it is - a gift. He realized his chances of becoming an NBA player relied heavily on his ability to level up from where he was at, and when Harvard’s assistant head coach came back, he was ready. What an incredibly awesome example Jeremy is for Asians and Pacific Islanders. I am so inspired by Jeremy’s discipline, doing what it takes to reach his dream and acknowledging the sacrifices made by his parents, aunts and uncles to create this life of fulfillment!
Thank you, Jeremy, for your perseverance and example! And thank you, Brenda, for another amazing story about our Asian Pacific Islander Brothers and Sisters! 🙌
~ Brenda Aho
Marissa emigrated from the Philippines to the U.S. when she was 9 years old. Her story is reminiscent of many if not most 1st and 2nd generation Asian and Pacific Islander immigrants in the U.S. whose parents risked everything to bring their families to this land of opportunity - often, leaving successful lives in their own countries, and starting life over just so that their children would have a fighting chance at a good life.
Both of Marissa’s parents graduated from college in the Philippines and had to start over once they moved to the U.S., her father as a bus boy, and her mother as a hotel maid.
Marissa earned her Bachelor's degree in Advertising and Marketing from San Jose University in California and has built a career in strategic marketing; public relations and business development over the last 20 years.
Marissa’s creative thinking and strong business acumen has enabled her to succeed as a leader in extremely versatile roles throughout her career.
Her incredible work ethic is credited to her parents, who gave up everything to ensure she and her 5 siblings had access to quality education and a future filled with opportunities.
As a member of the Asian and Pacific Islander community, Marissa shares her struggle with not being “seen” by those in power and being subject to microaggressions based on her appearance or background. A poignant memory she has, is of someone calling her “street smart”, instead of just calling her smart. She has learned to only accept responsibility for the things that are within her power to control, and to just let her work and actions speak for itself.
As a leader, Marissa strongly believes in helping those who come after you and ensuring the future is bright for the next generation. She encourages others to hire BIPOC interns or new graduates, purchase from minority businesses, support community non-profit groups, and most importantly - share your knowledge and resources with those in need. Marissa emphasizes the importance of believing and investing in yourself and remembering that failures make our successes much sweeter!
To celebrate Asian and Pacific Islander heritage month, I am deeply honored to feature Marissa Panlilio Durazzo this week; a marketing genius and multi-talented executive with over 15 years of experience in marketing, advertising and promotions management experience in the Retail, Restaurant, Internet and Technology industries.
~ Brenda Aho
May is Asian & Pacific Islander Heritage Month. My Diverse Advisory Council Member, Brenda Aho, will be featuring amazing individuals who have contributed to the betterment of our country through their efforts, beginning with the phenomenal Cherie Ashley Aho, whose story is a wonderful testament to dedication and hard work in one of the most difficult fields imaginable, particularly during the COVID-19 breakout.
Cherie Ashley Aho is a Samoan and Tongan American, and a second-generation immigrant, who has fueled her passion for service by opening and managing a successful Adult Family Homecare facility in Kent, WA where she provides full-time care for patients aged between 21 - 63 years old with dementia, and behavioral disorders.
Cherie was born in East Los Angeles, CA and grew up in a very rough and violent neighborhood. When she was 6 years old, her father moved their family to New Zealand to escape the gun and gang violence that plagued their neighborhood.
Just a few short years later, tragedy struck Cherie's family and her mother passed away from cancer. Cherie was just 9 years old, and instantly had to learn how to help care for her 2 year old brother.
Cherie completed her primary education and most of her secondary education in New Zealand, before immigrating back to the U.S. where she graduated high school and pushed herself to go to college and earned her undergraduate degrees in Liberal Arts and Behavioral Science; graduating cum laude, before earning her Masters degree in Legal Studies from Arizona State University.
Cherie was able to put herself through school by working as a caregiver for the elderly, and found her natural gift for providing compassionate care to those who were unable to care for themselves. After completing her education, she went on to obtain her license as a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) and at the age of 32, launched an Adult Family Homecare facility in Kent, WA called #1 Rock of Mercy, LLC.
The Covid-19 outbreak had a significant impact on Cherie’s business, losing employees as the virus ran rampant throughout the facility. Cherie pivoted from running the business, to providing hands-on care for her patients to keep them alive. Her patients call #1 Rock of Mercy their home, and say they never want to leave because they feel like a part of Cherie’s family.
She celebrates and accepts who they are as people and values their independence; several of them having jobs, and each of them having the autonomy to manage their own money. Cherie provides her patients with room, board, and implements activities that stimulate cognition on a daily basis. Her patients enjoy outdoor engagements both onsite and offsite, as well as arts and board games.
Cherie is pursuing her PHD degree in Behavioral Science and is looking to open up a second Adult Family Homecare facility in the near future.
Cherie's story of duty, compassion and taking care of others is typical of Pacific Islander values. Her internal fortitude, despite the tremendous challenges she's faced, is one of many examples of Pacific Islanders whose circumstances growing up have inspired their resolve to pursue education, entrepreneurship and lucrative careers.
I am so thrilled to highlight Cherie as this week's feature for Asian and Pacific Islander heritage month! ~ Brenda Aho
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