Dr. Vanessa Toolsie served as the organization’s first South Asian CEO for fewer than six months. In 2021, she won her first vice presidential election. Toolsie claimed to have told other branch leaders about her plans to quit weeks earlier in a lengthy Facebook post on the Orange Country branch’s page. She said that the branch sabotaged her with unanswered emails and false information about meetings in addition to purposely leaving her out of their annual gala.
She also pointed out that in meetings and emails, “a loud and prejudiced few” consistently criticized her ethnicity. Toolsie was born in Trinidad and is of Indian ancestry. The post stated: “I have sought to fix this internally for months, but no action was taken to stop the harassment and racist marginalization by superiors prior to my resignation announcement.
I erased and reposted it later that evening. I sincerely appreciate all of the branch Executive Committee members and branch members who have consistently attempted to loudly and proudly defend me in the face of the ongoing criticism in emails, meetings, and other forums.
“However, it would be hypocritical of me to continue to stand at the head of an organization branch ‘for the equality of all persons that are against racism and oppression, while I continue to be treated with such bold disproportionate inequality, maliciously racistly oppressed as the first AAPI President of the branch to a disproportionate blatant level that I have not yet seen in any organization,” she said as she put her argument in writing.
The branch’s chairperson for communication, press, and publicity, John Cummings, responded to her post by saying, “I am concerned about this person and the claims that were made. We don’t want to purposefully ignore, demean, or in any other way worry or pose a threat to anyone. On August 31, Toolsie will step down as branch president, and Tiara Robinson, the branch’s first vice president, will assume control.
Toolsie admitted that she was initially hesitant to assume a leadership position because she is not Black, but she eventually did so after learning about the founders’ varied backgrounds. She initially joined the group as a volunteer and later oversaw projects like an Asian American and Pacific Islander liaison program with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the creation of a resolution for the national NAACP organization denouncing Islamophobia.