Karen K. Narasaki is a national civil and human rights leader. She is currently a consultant to philanthropy on census and redistricting. She was appointed by President Obama to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 2014.
She is a past president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center (currently known as Asian Americans Advancing Justice/AAJC), one of the nation’s premier civil rights organizations. Under Karen’s leadership, AAJC helped to lead the successful effort to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act, defend federal affirmative action programs and expand federal hate crimes protection to cover people with disabilities, LGBTQ individuals and women. AAJC also led successful national census outreach campaigns in 2000 and 2010; and has worked for fair immigration and media policies.
Karen is a nationally respected authority on immigration, civil rights and race relations. She has held a number of leadership positions in the civil rights and immigrant rights arenas. She was vice chairwoman of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the nation’s oldest and broadest civil rights coalition; chair of the Rights Working Group, a coalition of human, civil and immigrant rights groups working to address the erosion of civil liberties and basic immigrant rights since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks; chair of the Asian American Media Coalition; and chair of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans. She also served on the boards of Common Cause, Independent Sector, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association and the national Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights Under Law.
She has also served on advisory committees for Comcast, Nielsen and Walmart. Prior to AAJC, Karen was the Washington Representative for the Japanese American Citizens League where she led successful efforts to expand the language assistance provisions of the Voting Rights Act that has helped millions of newly naturalized and elderly Asian American citizens to vote and an increased authorization for redress payments under the Civil Liberties Act to victims of the World War II internment of Japanese Americans.
Karen’s work has garnered many recognitions; including the American Bar Association’s Spirit of Excellence Award, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association’s Trailblazer Award, National Immigration Forum’s Heroes of the American Dream Award and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights Hubert H. Humphrey Award. Washingtonian Magazine named her one of the “100 most powerful women in Washington” in 2001, 2006, 2009 and 2011.
Karen is a graduate, magna cum laude, of Yale University and Order of the Coif, of the UCLA School of Law.
Articles, Publications, and Appearances
Television & Media Appearances
Diversity in Focus: David Cohen and Karen Narasaki (NBCUni, July 11, 2013)
- “Looking to Census 2030: Findings and Recommendations from Census 2020 Partners and Funders” October 2021 executive summary and full report.
Wyoming shouldn’t get complacent about hate crime (Casper Star Tribune, November 13, 2019)
In the News
Coping With A Pandemic: Civil Rights Activist Karen Narasaki (Law 360, April 16, 2020)
Civil rights agency slams Trump admin over LGBTQ policies (NBC News, November 27, 2019)
Students of color with disabilities are being pushed into the school-to-prison pipeline, study finds (ABA Journal, July 24, 2019)