Celebrating AA&NHPI Heritage Month in May: Q&A with NCBA Officer Marvin Dang


Marvin DangThe month of May is designated as Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This month the United States celebrates and honors the important impact that Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (“AA&NHPI”) have made.

May was selected years ago partly because the first Japanese immigrants arrived in the U.S. in May 1843, and because the Transcontinental Railroad was completed in May 1869 largely using the labor of Chinese immigrants. Thirty-one years ago in 1992, Congress passed a law which annually designated May as “Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.” Since then, U.S. Presidents have issued annual proclamations. Last year President Biden proclaimed May 2022 as “Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month” to give broader visibility to Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities.

Read this year’s 2023 Presidential Proclamation.

Joining us for a Q&A is Marvin Dang, a Honolulu, Hawaii attorney. When he was appointed in 2015 as Parliamentarian (an officer position) of the National Creditors Bar Association by then President Harvey Moore, Marvin was the first Asian American officer (and the first officer from Hawaii). He has since been reappointed as Parliamentarian by other Presidents, most recently by President Steve Markoff for a term ending this year. Marvin has served NCBA for 6 years as an officer and 2 years as a director. Additionally, he co-chairs both the Bylaws Committee and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. He has been attending NCBA (including NARCA) conferences for 25 years beginning in 1998. Marvin, who has been an attorney for 45 years since 1978, is a partner of the California law firm of Nelson & Kennard and he co-manages the firm’s Hawaii office. Separately, Marvin is the managing member of Law Offices of Marvin S.C. Dang in Honolulu. A graduate of the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C., Marvin is a former Hawaii state legislator.

What is the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander population in the U.S.?

The U.S. Census Bureau has reported the following stats in the U.S.: in 2021 there were about 24 million Asian residents and about 1.7 million Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander residents. That’s out of a U.S. population of over 330 million people. I’ve also read that the Asian American community is one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the U.S.

AA&NHPI communities are comprised of culturally and linguistically diverse people. This community includes people with ancestry from the continent of Asia and the Pacific Islands from about 50 ethnicities, with over 100 languages and dialects.

By the way, this year is the Lunar New Year of the Rabbit which began on January 22, 2023. It’s been celebrated in many parts of our country and not just by Asian Americans.

What is the importance of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month?

I think that not only during the month of May, but throughout each year, Americans need to be cognizant of the positive contributions and significant influences that generations of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islander Americans have had on our country’s history, culture, economy, and society. Among the myriad areas are in business, technology, science, education, arts, literature, politics, military, and, of course, law.

Access historical information from the National Archives.

How many AA&NHPI lawyers are there in the U.S.?

According to the American Bar Association’s “Profile of the Legal Profession 2022”, there’s more than 1.3 million lawyers in the U.S. In 2022, 5.5% of all lawyers were Asian American. The report notes that Asian Americans are now represented in the legal profession close to their share of the U.S. population.

In 2021, 10.75% of all law firm partners were lawyers of color. Nearly half of those partners who were lawyers of color (46%) were Asian American.

Are you doing anything special during AA&NHPI Heritage Month?

Towards the end of May, I’ll be joining members of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association and other community leaders from across the country in Washington, D.C. to celebrate AA&NHPI Heritage Month at a reception on Capitol Hill with members of Congress and their staff.

From a personal perspective, this year, AA&NHPI Heritage Month will be an emotional one. My father passed away a couple months ago at 99 years of age. On Veterans Day 2021 when he was 97 years old, he received from a Navy Admiral the Congressional Gold Medal for Chinese American World War II Veterans. On Sunday, December 7, 1941, my father was a 17-year-old civilian employee at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and he witnessed the devastation from the attack that started the U.S. involvement in World War II. He was later drafted into the Navy. He and other Chinese Americans honorably and proudly served in the military despite the discrimination that they and other minorities faced in the U.S.

This August 2023 you will be elected as the first Asian American lawyer to be an officer of the American Bar Association in its 145-year history. Congratulations!

Thank you. I’m currently Secretary nominee and will be elected Secretary for a 3-year term from August 2023 to August 2026. I’ll also be the first Hawaii attorney to be an ABA officer. I’ve been active in the ABA for about 47 years since I was a law student and I’ve held many leadership positions. I’ve been fortunate to have had the friendship, mentorship, and support of many people over the years. I’m confident that there will be other Asian American officers in the future in the ABA … and in the National Creditors Bar Association.