Vanessa Chong, longtime executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union Hawaii chapter, will be retiring in early 2018. Chong first joined the ACLU staff in 1981 and became the organization’s executive director in 1984.
“Vanessa is leaving us a vital and strong organization and we look forward to a smooth transition,” said ACLU of Hawaii Board President Barbara Ankersmit in a May 15 news release.
The affiliate has grown in size, effectiveness and influence statewide during Chong’s tenure, according to Ankersmit. “The ACLU has been at the forefront of many of Hawaii’s key civil liberties and civil rights issues and we are grateful that Vanessa has been at the helm through every challenge,” she said.
“When Vanessa took over as executive director in 1984, Hawaii’s prisons were in deplorable conditions,” Ankersmit said. “The ACLU filed its first class action lawsuit that year in partnership with local and national ACLU lawyers to challenge those conditions in the courts.”
The local ACLU has also proven itself a tireless advocate and key partner on issues such as ensuring the equal protection of the laws for racial, ethnic and religious minorities, protecting reproductive rights, securing marriage equality for same-sex couples, encouraging fair treatment of homeless individuals, and ensuring free speech and protest rights for all points of view. “The ACLU must continue to help Hawai`i be vigilant in protecting hard-won freedoms while constantly striving to raise awareness about their importance,” said Ankersmit.
Chong is confident that the ACLU will be even stronger in the years to come. “Civil liberties and civil rights are being eroded as never before,” Chong said. “The ACLU is the one organization whose years of experience give it the unparalleled breadth and depth to successfully counter these threats.”
The ACLU affiliate has appointed a search committee and will post the position nationwide later this month.
The ACLU of Hawaii is an affiliate of the nationwide ACLU, the country’s premier organization dedicated to protecting civil liberties and civil rights since 1920. A non-profit and non-partisan organization, the local ACLU has more than 4,000 members and donors, a staff of seven and an annual budget of more than $1 million.
The mission of the Hawaii affiliate of the ACLU is to protect the civil liberties contained in the state and federal constitutions through litigation, legislative and public education programs statewide. The ACLU is funded primarily through private donations and offers its services at no cost to the public. The ACLU does not accept any government funds.
Photo of Vanessa Chong courtesy ACLU Hawaii