Robin Toma

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Robin Toma

Robin S. Toma is the , the Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission, post he has held since 1995. He has broad experience in the field of human relations. He was appointed by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in 2000 after working five years with the Commission. He was invited to be a member of the US Delegation to the 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism, held in South Africa, Japanese American Leadership Delegation to Japan in 2003, and the Climate of Trust Delegation to Russia in 2005. He is co-author of the manual: “Day Laborer Hiring Sites: Constructive Approaches to Community Conflict,” and authored A Primer on Managing Intergroup Conflict in a Multicultural Workplace."

Toma was lead attorney in seeking redress for over 2,200 Japanese Latin Americans who were forcibly brought to the U.S. and imprisoned by the US government during World War II. He is also part of an ongoing gathering of leaders known as the Executive Session on Criminal Justice and Human Rights organized by Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Previously, he served as staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California for nearly 7 years, promoting human rights and building multi-ethnic coalitions to bring about institutional change.

A native of Los Angeles, Toma received his Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and Economics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and his Master’s degree in Urban Planning and his Juris Doctorate from UCLA. He completed a three-year Kellogg National Fellowship/Leadership Program studying how genuine democracies can be built in culturally diverse societies around the globe. Toma lived two years in Barcelona, Spain and is fully fluent in Spanish.[1]

He is 1st VP, International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies.


  • UCLA School of Law, Doctor of Law (JD) Field Of Study Civil Rights, 1984 – 1988. Activities and Societies: Graduate Student Association VP, Public Interest Law Foundation, Asian Pacific Islander Law Students Association.
  • University of California, Los Angeles, MA Field Of Study Urban Planning, 1985 – 1988
  • University of California, Santa Cruz, Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) Field Of Study Sociology and Economics Grade Highest Honors (Sociology) and Honors (Economics) 1978 – 1982.
  • Universitat de Barcelona, Economics 1980 – 1981.


Robin Toma credits UC Santa Cruz with shaping his life's work as a global citizen and an advocate for change, greater equality, and social justice.

"I look at UCSC as being a pivotal experience in my life," said Toma. "In many ways, it made me the person I am today. It opened up this whole world of possibilities."

Toma recalled studying the Russian Revolution with the late Oakes College professor Roberto Crespi, learning about Middle East politics with economist Alan Richards, and becoming fluent in Spanish with the help of Frank Ramirez and others. His list of influential professors includes sociologists James O'Connor, William Friedland, and Wally Goldfrank, as well as the late economist Richard Gordon, whose course on England's transition from feudalism to capitalism remains vivid.

Through the UC Education Abroad Program, Toma spent his junior year in Barcelona, a "life-changing experience" during which he became fluent in Spanish and met people from across Europe who were standing up to injustice.

"I really do feel the values of social justice and equality I gained at Santa Cruz have guided me in my decisions," said Toma.[2]

Communist Workers Party

An April 11, 1985 list of was found in the Communist Workers Party papers in the Tamiment Library New York. It included the phrase "membership status" after each name, indicating that it as a CWP membership list.

Those named included Robin Toma, LA.

New Party builder

New Party News Fall 1994 listed over 100 New Party activists-"some of the community leaders, organizers, retirees,, scholars, artists, parents, students, doctors, writers and other activists who are building the NP." The list included Robin Toma, ACLU.

Kellogg National Fellowship Program

In 1994, Toma was selected to participate in the prestigious three-year Kellogg National Fellowship Program created to nurture the next generation of leaders. He traveled the country and the globe to study how societies treat their newcomers and one another. From Indonesia and China to Europe, Latin America, Africa, and the Caribbean, Toma looked for successful strategies that help build political and economic democracies in culturally diverse, pluralistic societies.

"I learned that what we were experiencing in the United States in terms of creating a more inclusive society was far ahead of what other communities were just beginning to experience," recalled Toma. "Europe was just beginning to experience the cultural diversity of global migration. But even in China, I saw the incredible human capacity to divide and discriminate, and I realized the definition of an outsider doesn't depend on ethnicity."[3]

Progressive Los Angeles Network

Circa 2002 , Robin Toma, Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations, served on the Advisory board of the Democratic Socialists of America dominated Progressive Los Angeles Network.[4]

2003 NCRR Day of Remembrance

The Day of Remembrance was commemorated 2003 in Little Tokyo with a program entitled “Race Prejudice, War Hysteria, Failure of Political Leadership: Then & Now,” presented by Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress (NCRR), Japanese American Citizens League/Pacific Southwest District (JACL), and the Japanese American National Museum (JANM), at JANM’s George & Sakaye Aratani Central Hall.

The NCRR Fighting Spirit Award was given to Janice Yen, community redress activist and a founding member of NCRR, and Los Angeles Human Relations Commission Executive Director Robin Toma was honored with the JACL Community Achievement Award. Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose) delivered the keynote address at the event emphasizing on importance of passing on the story of the Japanese American internment experiences to the future generations and criticizing the anti-Muslim American hysteria after the 9/11.

“Today, we are here at this museum because it is a depository of all the information. We have to ask ourselves why we are here. For me the answer is to pass on the information.

Guest speakers included Congressman Xavier Becerra and Omar Ricci of Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), touched on recent comments by Rep. Howard Coble and comparing the Nikkei World War ll experience with what many of the Muslim Americans have been going through since 9/11.

Becerra disagreed with Coble’s comments declaring that what happened 60 years ago to Japanese Americans was wrong.” However, he claimed that Coble would listen and acknowledge injustice of the internment if he had a right information. “I won’t give up on anyone just like Issei who believed in hope, justice and finally got a citizenship after all those years,” Becerra stated.[5]

"Vincent Who?"

In 1982, Vincent Chin was brutally murdered in Detroit "at the height of anti-Japanese sentiment". The judge ruled it a case of manslaughter and the two killers, both autoworkers, never served a day in jail.

The case became a cause celebre for the Communist Workers Party.

A film about the case "Vincent Who?" was released in 2008, dealing with impact the case had had on activists at the time.

More than twenty-five years later, that case remains a touchstone in the struggle for civil rights and the advancement of the Asian American community. In this new documentary, VINCENT WHO?, we take a quick look back at the case, but more importantly we examine the effects the case had on the leading community activists of today and the future leaders of tomorrow.

Interviewees and speakers included Helen Zia (leading activist during the Chin case), Stewart Kwoh (Founder & Executive Director, Asian Pacific American Legal Center), Judy Chu (Chair, California State Board of Equalization), Mike Eng (California State Assemblyman), Renee Tajima-Pena (Producer & Director, WHO KILLED VINCENT CHIN?), Frank Wu (Dean, Wayne State University Law School), Janet Yang (Producer, THE JOY LUCK CLUB), Justin Lin (Director, BETTER LUCK TOMORROW), Robin Toma (Executive Director, Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations), Nhung Truong (District Representative, Office of Congressman Adam Schiff), Sejal Patel (Activist, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy), Ben de Guzman (National Campaign Coordinator, National Alliance for Filipino Veterans Equity).[6]

"Who Killed Vincent Chin?" event

Fall 2006/Spring 2007 - Asian Pacific Americans for Progress begins discussing ways to commemorate the upcoming 25th anniversary of the murder of Vincent Chin. The Los Angeles chapter (including producers Curtis Chin, Preeti Kulkarni and Vivian Hao) decides to organize a screening of the documentary "Who Killed Vincent Chin?" along with a panel discussion on the status of Asian American empowerment.

Board of Equalization member Judy Chu is asked to provide a recap of the case. Other panelists include Stewart Kwoh, Robin Toma, Hamid Khan and Renee Tajima-Pena.[7]

Commemorative Event for Joseph Ileto and the North Valley Jewish Community Center Victims

August 10, 2009 marks the 10th anniversary of the attack on the North Valley Jewish Community Center on Rinaldi Street and the slaying of U.S. postal worker Joseph Ileto by Buford O. Furrow Jr., a white supremacist that occurred on August 10, 1999.

10th Annual Commemorative Event

WHAT: The plan for this year’s event is to hold a press conference on the actual day of the shooting, August 10th. We will open the remembrance with prayers in memory of Joseph Ileto and then hear from the Ileto family and victims of the NVJCC as they reflect on the past 10 years. Public officials have also been invited to speak and share their thoughts with the families. After the press conference, their will be a discussion around hate crimes in our community lead by the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations. This will give the audience an opportunity to see how far we have come and where we need to go.

11:30 – 1:00pm Discussion on hate crimes in our community (lead by Marshall Wong from the Los Angeles County HRC).

WHERE: Asian Pacific American Legal Center, Community Room, 1145 Wilshire Blvd., 1st Floor Los Angeles, CA 90017.

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