Kamala Harris to Headline AAPI Victory Fund Summit Wednesday Night: 'She Makes Our Communities Proud'

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Getty Kamala Harris

Vice President Kamala Harris will deliver the keynote address for the first-ever virtual AAPI Unity Summit on Wednesday night, PEOPLE has learned.

Harris, 56, will headline the virtual event hosted by the AAPI Victory Fund, a political action committee which aims to mobilize voters in the Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities, alongside a slate of other high-profile political figures and celebrities.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a handful of to-be-announced U.S. senators, Queer Eye's Tan France and actor Simu Liu will join Harris, the nation's first Asian American and woman vice president, to speak at the event.

"I think it's in many ways a thank you to the AAPI community for the support that they gave to not only her but also President Biden during the election last year," Varun Nikore, the executive director of the AAPI Victory Fund, tells PEOPLE.

"AAPI's came out at historical numbers, almost four times the increase compared to the normal population," Nikore says. "It's a thank you and a recognition of our existence, frankly, in this country."

Wednesday night's event will begin streaming online at 6 p.m. ET.

The virtual summit, called "From Victory to Unity," will highlight "the growing electoral power of the AAPI community amidst a grim uptick in anti-Asian hate crimes and includes the biggest names in the AAPI orbit and politics," according to a press release for the event announced Monday morning.

NOAH BERGER/AFP via Getty From left: Douglas Emhoff waves to a crowd of supporters alongside Sen. Kamala Harris in January 2019

Asian-American hate crimes in major cities rose by 150-percent in 2020 over the previous year, according to a recent report issued by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.

Another study published in mid-March by the University of California, San Francisco showed that the amount of racist tweets skyrocketed after instances when former President Donald Trump would use racist terminology on Twitter to describe the COVID-19 pandemic.

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"Sadly," Harris said after the deadly Georgia shooting spree in March, hate crimes are "not new" in the U.S., pointing to racism, sexism and xenophobia as contributing factors.

"Ultimately, this is about who we are as a nation," Harris said then. "It's about how we treat people. With dignity and respect."

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Wednesday's AAPI Victory Fund event will be put on with partner groups representing other minority communities in the U.S., such as Collective PAC and the Latino Victory Fund.

"It is an unprecedented moment," Nikore tells PEOPLE. "I've never seen so much attention and focus paid on our community before, either politically or socially. I think this is a galvanizing moment to recognize the existence of AAPIs in our country."

getty images From left: President Joe Biden listens as Vice President Kamala Harris gives a speech on April 20.

Nikore tells PEOPLE that, "for the most part, there is widespread ignorance of the community just in terms of not only our achievements in this country but the fact that some of our highest poverty rates in the country are amongst certain AAPI sub-ethnicities."

"We as an organization are using this time when we have a little bit of focus and attention paid towards us to use this as an opportunity, even amongst all the negative things going on right now," Nikore says.

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"We've faced a lot of invisibility for so long," Nikore says, adding that Harris' election — becoming the country's first vice president of Asian descent — was an enormously "proud" and historic moment for the AAPI community she'll address Wednesday night.

"Vice President Harris is an inspiration for all of our AAPI children who now know that the sky's the limit and you can be anything in this country that they strive for," Nikore said in a statement announcing her appearance Wednesday night.

"Simply put, she makes our communities proud," Nikore said.

If you've been attacked or have witnessed an attack, please contact your local authorities. You can also report your incident here. To learn more and to report crimes, go to: Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Stop the AAPI Hate, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA, and Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council.

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