Chenda – pronounced jin-DAH (she/they) strives to preserve her Cambodian identity, community, and pride. They grew up in Frogtown (St. Paul, MN) hearing heartbreaking and inspiring stories from her family and community about escaping the war in Cambodia. She became passionate at a young age about getting involved in social justice issues. Throughout the years, they’ve gained experience with organizations supporting people with disabilities, those without homes, and community members who have survived racial injustices.
In 2021, she graduated from Augsburg University with a Bachelors of Arts in Communication Studies and a minor in New Media with the intent of dedicating her work to sociopolitical advocacy. Listening to and learning from other Asian American folks continue to fire Chenda’s passion for keeping our community safe from violence inflicted by systems of power.
Other passions of hers include biking, finding new music, indoor bouldering, and playing (video and board) games with friends and family. While winding down, she loves to cuddle and spend time watching T.V. with her cat, Taro.
Ia Ong Yang
Associate Director of Administration
Ia (EE-uh, she/they) was born in Thailand as the oldest child and daughter of refugee immigrants. She became politicized in her early twenties when she found the language to describe and legitimize her lived experiences. Ia believes that social and systemic change starts from uplifting and centering the most impacted in our community. With this lens, Ia strives to equip her people with the resources, skills, and tools to reach their goals of creating a joyful, and thriving world.
Ia has over 10 years in the nonprofit sector, working in college access, youth leadership development, and nonprofit administration. Her work has centered around navigating the cross sections of culture, immigration, and place.
In her free time, Ia loves to spend her time with her family, doing outdoor activities, listening to podcasts, and reimagining the possibilities.
Director of Programs & Power-Building
Kay (she/her) is a proud descendant of refugees, a legacy that is deeply rooted in resistance, love, and belief that another world is possible. She is a community organizer who is passionate about disrupting and reimagining systems. At the core of her work is the belief that we all deserve to be loved, nurtured, and whole. In order to do so, we must practice radical rest, healing, and gentleness in a world that often extracts from us and tells us we are not enough. She comes from a background of youth organizing, arts, political advocacy, and holding shared space for leaders to reflect, dream, bloom, and take action together.
Kay also believes our movement work needs to be centered in joy. To practice this, she loves to create art, dance, karaoke, and indulge in delicious meals.
Executive Director & Co-Founder
Montha (she/her) was born in Khao-I-Dang, a refugee camp located in Thailand after her family fled the genocide and civil war in Cambodia. At 4 years old, her family immigrated to the United States where she calls home.
Her advocacy work began in August 2016 when her youngest brother and seven other Cambodian Minnesotans were detained by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In an effort to find justice for their families, Montha worked with other impacted families, community organizers, and co-created the ReleaseMinnesota8 Campaign before it became an organization.
Montha has worked in the areas of deportation defense, grassroots organizing, civic engagement, cross racial solidarity, youth leadership, violence prevention, court advocacy, and systems navigation. Montha is also an Advisory Board Member of The People’s Collective for Justice and Liberation (PC4JL) and Vice Chair of the Minnesota Freedom Fund Action (MFF Action).
She currently resides in Rosemount, MN with her husband, 4 beautiful children, and dog. In her free time, she loves to play board games and spend time with family and friends over a nice meal.
Khmer Services Manager
Narate (she/they) is a Khmer/Cambodian poet, author, and community organizer for MN8. Her passion involves bringing Cambodian community members together to achieve their goals. Narate is also the self-published author of a collection of songs and poetry called “The Good Life” and a poetry book titled “The Changes… Immigration Footprints of Our Journey.” They are also the co-author of “Planting SEADs.”
Narate’s family lived through the atrocious Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia, and Narate was born in a Thai refugee camp. She writes to express the true meaning of her voice. It is through poetry that Narate has found love, appreciation, and encouragement. Narate has performed their poems in Washington D.C., Minnesota’s The Loft Literary, Springboard For The Arts, Center, Saint Cloud State University, Dragon Boat Festival, MayDay Festival, MN8’s fundraisers, and more.
She was selected as a storytelling recipient through Twin Cities Media Alliance (TCMA). Her painting, “The Sun’s Reflector,” was featured in the Saint Paul Almanac. Narate’s poem, “Water from Motherland,” was featured on https://lyricality.org, and is framed & hanging on the wall of the new building for the Springboard for the Arts in St. Paul. Lastly, Narate was a 2021 Creative Support for Individual recipient from MN State Arts Board. Find out more at www.NarateKeys.com.
Mai Neng Moua
Mai Neng (she/her) was admitted to the Minnesota Bar in 2007. Prior to admission to the Minnesota Bar, Mai Neng worked with Davis & Goldfarb, William Mitchell’s Immigration Law Clinic, and Krueger Law Firm. She is currently the sole practitioner for Mai N. Moua Law Office since 2014. Mai Neng was also the Past Chair of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)–Minnesota/Dakotas Chapter, currently serves as AILA-MN/Dakotas Ambassador to the American Immigration Council, and sits on the Board of Directors of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Minnesota and MN8. She worked on the #ReleaseMN8 campaign in 2016, and was recognized by Minnesota Lawyer in 2017 and 2021 as one of the Attorneys of the Year.
Chanthon Bun (he/him) was formerly incarcerated for 23 years and directly impacted by ICE. He was the Yuri Kuchiyama Fellow and, subsequently, a Community Advocate with the Asian Americans Advancing Justice—Asian Law Caucus. Chanthon now works with the Asian Prisoner Support Committee as the Reentry Coordinator, and with the Center for Empowering Refugees and Immigrants as a New Light Outreach Worker, helping deportees with mental wellness. He also mentors youth and young adults. In his free time, Chanthon enjoys fishing and spending time with his kids.
Kim (he/him) came to the U.S., settling in Rochester, at the age of 6 as a refugee fleeing war and genocide. Kim is a strong community advocate who was given the “Champion of Diversity” award from the Rochester Diversity Council. He also serves as a board member for the Intercultural Mutual Assistance Association and the Rochester Cambodian Association.