WBEZ | Asian-Americans http://www.wbez.org/tags/asian-americans-0 Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Candidate filing period marks milestone for Asian-Americans http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/candidate-filing-period-marks-milestone-asian-americans-109259 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Josina Morita (1).JPG" alt="" /><p><p>On a recent, frigid morning, <a href="http://friendsofjosina.com/">Josina Morita</a> stood bundled up in a quilted coat at the Ravenswood Metra station. Clutching a coffee in one hand and a clipboard in the other, this has been Morita&rsquo;s routine at least three mornings each week since August.</p><p>&ldquo;Morning, how are you doing today?&rdquo; she says, as she approaches commuters waiting on the platform. Morita&rsquo;s gathering signatures and introducing herself as a candidate for the board of the <a href="http://www.mwrd.org/irj/portal/anonymous/Home">Metropolitan Water Reclamation District</a> (MWRD.) She needs 7300 valid signatures to qualify for the primary ballot.</p><p>Morita often has to explain the function of the MWRD, which manages the reclamation and treatment of stormwater and wastewater for Cook County residents. Many voters have never heard of the obscure agency. Fewer still realize the significance of Morita&rsquo;s bid for the office.</p><p>Morita is the first Asian-American candidate to be slated by the Cook County Democratic Party for elected countywide office, marking another milestone in a tide of Asian-American political ascendancy in Illinois.</p><p>&ldquo;You just have to hustle and get to know the kingmakers,&rdquo; said Jae Choi Kim, president of the<a href="http://www.aaa-fund.org/chapters/chicago.php"> Asian American Action Fund of Greater Chicago</a>, a Democratic Political Action Committee.</p><p>Kim said the slating process has long been a challenge for Asian-American candidates. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a very closed loop system, and that is why I think it&rsquo;s so hard for newcomers who are not in organized politics to win in Cook County.&rdquo;</p><p>Kim acknowledges that Asian-Americans make up only 7 percent of the Illinois population. But she warns that political parties ignore Asian-Americans at their own peril, since the racial group is the fastest growing in the state. Kim believes Asian-Americans have sufficient numbers to be the margin of victory in some local elections. She says that&rsquo;s why AAAF has focused on boosting Asian-American voter engagement, and has started to nurture candidates for public office.</p><p>&ldquo;Our experience is when you are not at the table, they&rsquo;re not talking with you, they&rsquo;re talking about you, and they don&rsquo;t necessarily have the facts about you proper,&rdquo; said Kim. &ldquo;And so we want to be at the table to discuss and better represent and properly represent who we are. Because we&rsquo;re a very complex, dynamic community.&rdquo;</p><p>Morita says she is proud of her half-Japanese, half-Chinese heritage, and grateful for the support of the AAAF and the Indo-American Democratic Organization, another group that mobilizes Asian-American political support. But Morita says her campaign is structured to appeal to a broad spectrum of voters.</p><p>&ldquo;I can run only as an Asian-American, and try to get only the Asian-American vote,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;but that is not a strategy to win, and it&rsquo;s also just not a strategy to represent the community the way that it should be represented.&rdquo;</p><p>Morita says she&rsquo;s banking on broad support across racial and ethnic lines. She says her primary assets for the position have nothing to do with race, but rather are her urban planning background and experience as Executive Coordinator of the United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations, a grassroots coalition that takes on issues of social justice.</p><p>Still, Morita says recent wins by Asian-Americans, and her own candidacy, are part of a changing tide in Illinois politics. She points to her friend and early supporter, Ameya Pawar, the first Asian-American alderman on Chicago&rsquo;s City Council. Morita also looks at the election of Illinois Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (D-8th), for whom she volunteered.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s been a lot of work that I&rsquo;ve been a part of with so many other people at grassroots level to engage Asian-American voters for decades,&rdquo; said Morita, &ldquo;and my election, or my candidacy is a piece of that.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau Reporter. Follow her on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 26 Nov 2013 10:39:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/candidate-filing-period-marks-milestone-asian-americans-109259 State government lags in hiring Asian-American workers http://www.wbez.org/state-government-lags-hiring-asian-american-workers-106789 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP429581287377.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>State agencies are starting to plan how they&rsquo;ll hire more Asian-American workers. Tuesday, a <a href="http://appointments.illinois.gov/appointmentsDetail.cfm?id=442" target="_blank">new Asian-American Advisory Council</a>, handpicked by Governor Pat Quinn, meets with agency representatives to identify barriers to Asian-American employment and promotion in the state labor force.</p><p>The council will also chart out how they&rsquo;ll recruit, retain, and promote more Asian-Americans.</p><p>The effort comes from the <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/publicacts/fulltext.asp?Name=097-0856" target="_blank">State Asian-American Employment Plan</a>, passed in the General Assembly and signed by Quinn last year.</p><p>The effort is similar to other plans for Hispanics and African-Americans, aimed at ensuring the mix of state employees reflects Illinois&rsquo; diversity. A report released in February shows that although Asian-Americans represent about 5 percent of Illinois&rsquo; population, they comprise only about 2.5 percent of the state&rsquo;s workforce.</p><p>The report surveying Asian-American employment in state agencies is the first of its kind in Illinois, mandated yearly by the underlying legislation.</p><p>&ldquo;We do want to make sure that the workforce reflects the diversity of the state and that everyone in the state, regardless of their background or language ability, has the ability to access services provided by state government,&rdquo; said Theresa Mah, Senior Policy Advisor and Director of Asian American Outreach to the Governor.</p><p>Mah said the Advisory Council will meet quarterly to follow through with state agencies on the plan&rsquo;s implementation and results.</p><p>&ldquo;There might be misconceptions about the availability of positions, or just not enough word-of-mouth that there are opportunities,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>The Asian-American Employment Plan was one of several recent political victories by an ethnic group that is growing in both population and political clout in Illinois. Several organizations, including the Asian American Institute and the Pan Asian Voter Empowerment Coalition have lobbied state legislators lately to create an <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/asian-americans-have-state-caucus-98917" target="_blank">Asian-American caucus</a> in the General Assembly and to consider Asian-American concerns in the legislative redistricting process.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&#39;s North Side bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/oyousef" target="_blank">@oyousef.</a></em></p></p> Tue, 23 Apr 2013 08:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/state-government-lags-hiring-asian-american-workers-106789 Duckworth victory a milestone for Illinois’ Asian-Americans http://www.wbez.org/news/duckworth-victory-milestone-illinois%E2%80%99-asian-americans-103735 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/photo (2).jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois&rsquo; Asian-American community is hailing Tammy Duckworth&rsquo;s win in the 8th Congressional District as a milestone, as it seeks greater political representation and involvement at all levels government. Duckworth&rsquo;s victory over Republican incumbent Joe Walsh is the highest elected office achieved by an Asian-American in the state. She will represent a district where Asians make up a significantly larger portion of the population than they did in 2010. State legislators recently redrew the district lines to include more minorities.</p><p>Tuyet Le of the Asian American Institute said Duckworth&rsquo;s success is the culmination of several trends, including the rapid growth of Illinois&rsquo; Asian-American population, and a sustained, deliberate effort to register more Asian-American voters. &ldquo;The growth of the community has allowed the operations to be more sophisticated in pairing candidates and representatives with the grassroots movement that is able to identify the needs in our community, and push whomever it is,&rdquo; Le said.</p><p>Duckworth, born in Bangkok to an ethnically Chinese mother and an American father, took care at her election night rally in Elk Grove Village to thank Asian-American organizations and volunteers for their support during her bid. Duckworth said she is proud to be the first Asian-American elected to such a high office from Illinois. &ldquo;We add to the wonderful diversity of our country, of our state,&rdquo; she said after her victory speech, &ldquo;and I think we make this country stronger.&rdquo;</p><p>Asian-Americans make up about 5 percent of the state&rsquo;s population and about 12 percent of the 8th Congressional District. Historically, few have pursued public office, but interest has grown in recent years. Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar (47th) became the first Asian-American elected to City Council in 2011.</p><p>More recently, Duckworth squared off with Raja Krishnamoorthi, an Asian-American candidate of Indian descent, in the 8th Congressional district Democratic primary. Krishnamoorthi later endorsed Duckworth, and said he feels that Illinois&rsquo; congressional delegation should reflect the diversity of the state&rsquo;s population. Speaking of Duckworth, &nbsp;Krishnamoorthi said, &ldquo;I&rsquo;m really looking forward to her speaking on issues of concern and significance to this community, along with all the other issues that she&rsquo;s going to be talking about.&rdquo; In particular, Krishnamoorthi said, Duckworth&rsquo;s positions on immigration policy and public education will be of great importance to her Asian-American constituents.</p><p>No Asian-Americans has yet been elected to Illinois&rsquo; General Assembly, but the body has recently created an Asian-American Caucus of representatives from districts where the minority group is concentrated.</p><p>&ldquo;The growing population of the Asian-American community in Illinois is getting to a point where there is a tipping point of people really understanding what representation means and how they need it,&rdquo; said Le. &ldquo;And so I think that this is just going to be a continuing trend of Asian-Americans being involved in politics and running for office, as well as people mobilizing the grassroots vote.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 07 Nov 2012 15:56:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/duckworth-victory-milestone-illinois%E2%80%99-asian-americans-103735