WBEZ | Asians http://www.wbez.org/tags/asians Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Nail salon workers to get access to Asian language licensing exams http://www.wbez.org/news/nail-salon-workers-get-access-asian-language-licensing-exams-109099 <p><p>It&rsquo;s no surprise to walk into a nail salon and find mostly Asian staff. But despite a concentration of Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese professionals in the cosmetology and nail technology industries, Illinois has never offered the licensing exams in Asian languages. Now the state is looking to change that.</p><p>&ldquo;You know why I opened a cosmetology school in Chinatown?&rdquo; said Mora Zheng, owner of the Elle International Beauty Academy in Chinatown. &ldquo;Because I just want to let more Chinese people work legally, have good benefits, have a good salary.&rdquo;</p><p>As a small group of students sat huddled around a table in a nearby room, applying fake nail tips to plastic mannequin hands, Zheng explained that jobs in the beauty industry are popular with Asian immigrants because the schooling only takes a few months. She said that allows them to start earning money quickly. According to the <a href="http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes395092.htm" target="_blank">Bureau of Labor Statistics</a>, average yearly income for manicurists and pedicurists in Illinois is $26,720.</p><p>But Zheng said she&rsquo;s noticed a disturbing trend: lots of students finish school, but don&rsquo;t get licensed to practice.</p><p>&ldquo;Some people, they (are) scared (of the) English written examination,&rdquo; said Zheng, referring to the licensing exam administered by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re scared to fail.&rdquo;</p><p>The <a href="http://www.idfpr.com/profs/info/NailTech.asp" target="_blank">IDFPR</a> offers the cosmetology and nail technician licensing exams in English and Spanish. Zheng said it&rsquo;s time to add Chinese, because otherwise, qualified professionals end up working illegally in nail salons, and they are not paid fair wages.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Nail%20tech%20exam%203.JPG" style="height: 201px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Most of the students at the Botanic School of Nail Technology on Chicago’s North Side are native speakers of Vietnamese, Korean, or Chinese. School owner Rosemary Hyunh has crafted a bilingual curriculum to help them pass the written licensing exam in English. (WBEZ/Jian Chung Lee)" />&ldquo;We shouldn&rsquo;t have to work harder if there&rsquo;s no rational basis for the exams to only be in English,&rdquo; said Anne Shaw, a lawyer and advocate for Chicago&rsquo;s Chinese-American community. Zheng enlisted Shaw&rsquo;s support when she started to cast around for allies to bring the issue to the state&rsquo;s attention. Shaw said the fact that the exam is already offered in Spanish shows that the state does not deem English to be an essential skill for the profession.</p><p>Shaw believes expanding language access to the licensing exams will have far-ranging, positive effects. She argued that not only would it make it easier for immigrants to earn an honest living, but that the overall state economy would benefit by easing the way for small business owners.</p><p>Still, Shaw was surprised to learn from Zheng that the licensing exams weren&rsquo;t already offered in Asian languages.</p><p>&ldquo;You know, I really don&rsquo;t believe there was any intent to discriminate,&rdquo; Shaw said. &ldquo;This is one of the downsides of not having someone that&rsquo;s elected that has an Asian-American background. We have zero state legislators that are Asian-American.&rdquo;</p><p>But Shaw and Zheng found an ally in the office Governor Pat Quinn with his appointment of Theresa Mah. Mah is a longtime activist and organizer in Chicago who serves as Gov. Quinn&rsquo;s chief liaison to the Asian-American community. The IDFPR will soon offer the cosmetology licensing exam in Chinese, and plans to offer translations of the nail technician licensing exam in Korean and Vietnamese. According to <a href="http://files.nailsmag.com/Market-Research/NAILSbb12-13stats.pdf" target="_blank">Nails Magazine</a>, Illinois is among the ten states with the largest number of Vietnamese nail technicians.</p><p>But some argue that translating the licensing exams could harm the industry.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Nail%20tech%20exam%202.JPG" style="float: left; height: 225px; width: 300px;" title="Mora Zheng, owner of the Elle International Beauty Academy in Chinatown, says many educated nail technicians work without licenses because they fear they will fail the English written exam. She is pushing to have the exam translated into Chinese. (WBEZ/Odette Yousef)" />&ldquo;I really think it shouldn&rsquo;t be translated,&rdquo; said Rosemary Hyunh, owner of the Botanic School of Nail Technology on Chicago&rsquo;s North Side. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s just going to be too many nail salons,&rdquo; she explained. Hyunh, a Vietnamese-American raised in Chicago&rsquo;s Argyle Street neighborhood, said her views are shaped by her family&rsquo;s experience in the nail industry.</p><p>Hyunh said some of her relatives immigrated two decades ago to California, where they had successful nail shops. But she said their fortunes changed once California began offering its written manicurist exam in Vietnamese in 1996.</p><p>&ldquo;It got exploded so big over there that the prices started dropping,&rdquo; said Hyunh. &ldquo;So they had to find new states to start this whole new nail industry again.&rdquo; Hyunh said her aunts and uncles fled California to start new businesses in Chicago, a relatively unsaturated market.</p><p>Could something similar happen here? Chicago <a href="http://docs.chicityclerk.com/journal/2009/may13_2009/may13_2009_Zoning.pdf" target="_blank">zoning laws</a> prohibit personal service establishments, including nail salons, to locate within 1000 feet of each other. But Mora Zheng says even if competition heats up, that&rsquo;s no reason not to translate the tests. She tells her students if they do their best, they&rsquo;ll be fine.</p><p>&ldquo;Prepare yourself well, (and) you don&rsquo;t need to worry about others,&rdquo; Zheng declared. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s why I tell my students, &lsquo;in your heart, always sunshine.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Hyunh said even though most of her students don&rsquo;t speak English as a native language, she&rsquo;s crafted a bilingual curriculum that helps them pass the licensing exams in English. She understands that translating the tests could help some immigrants get on their feet faster, but Hyunh said she won&rsquo;t be changing her teaching methods.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud" target="_blank">@WBEZOutLoud</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 06 Nov 2013 17:38:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/nail-salon-workers-get-access-asian-language-licensing-exams-109099 Asian-Americans hope new Chicago caucus will restore clout http://www.wbez.org/news/asian-americans-hope-new-chicago-caucus-will-restore-clout-107912 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Asian-American caucus.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Last week&rsquo;s announcement that Chicago&rsquo;s City Council would create its first Asian-American Caucus is eliciting both praise and puzzlement from some observers skeptical of its influence.</p><p>The driving force behind the new 14-member caucus is the city&rsquo;s first Asian-American council member, Ameya Pawar (47th), who says the need for a more unified voice became apparent in conversations with constituents.</p><p>&ldquo;What we heard over and over again was that, for example, you have a lot of family-owned businesses,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;and a city inspector goes in to talk to a business about an issue, and there almost always seems to be a language barrier.&rdquo; Pawar said this results in tense relations between minority business owners and the city.</p><p>&ldquo;While the city has done a really good job in making sure that certain documents and postings are available in Spanish and in Polish, we&rsquo;ve got to do a better job in making sure that it&rsquo;s available in more languages,&rdquo; Pawar added. &ldquo;We have to pass a comprehensive language access ordinance, so that if I&rsquo;m a business owner, (or if) I&rsquo;m a constituent who feels like I need to talk to the Commission on Human Relations because I&rsquo;ve been harassed, that I can speak to someone and have my complaint translated from Hindi to English.&rdquo;</p><p>Currently only the city&rsquo;s emergency services, such as 911, have access to Language Line, a service that provides telephonic translation for government agencies. Pawar&rsquo;s ordinance, which he said will be offered in conjunction with the mayor&rsquo;s Office of New Americans, would require other city departments to assess their language needs. If more departments require the service, Pawar would like them to have access to the Language Line.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;So I think one thing I want to address in the very near term, and I think the caucus is going to work on, is identifying funds for next year&rsquo;s budget, or at a minimum 2015&rsquo;s budget, to expand the language bank offerings,&rdquo; Pawar said.</p><p>Some Asians in Chicago say they&rsquo;ve felt frozen out of city affairs lately, starting when Mayor Rahm Emanuel consolidated or disbanded the advisory councils of the Commission on Human Relations two years ago. The African, Latino, Arab and Asian advisory councils were rolled into a single Equity Council that now advises the Commission.</p><p>The ethnic advisory councils, by some accounts, were meaningful forums that brought issues to light under former mayors like Harold Washington. Some say that under former mayor Richard M. Daley, they atrophied into something less &ndash; a place where minorities were given nominal access to city staff, but that ultimately accomplished little. Nonetheless, the councils were once a first point of contact for Chicagoans who wanted to bring complaints of discrimination to the city&rsquo;s attention.</p><p>&ldquo;I have heard through members of the community that they&rsquo;re having a little bit of a difficult time finding the right person,&rdquo; said Chris Zala, former Director of the Council on Asian Affairs to the Commission on Human Relations. Zala said many still come to him with problems, and he tries to direct them to city departments that might be helpful.</p><p>The new Equity Council has several Asian-American members, but two years after the dissolution of its predecessors, it has yet to gain traction.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re still in our first year as a council,&rdquo; said Josina Morita, a member of the Equity Council. &ldquo;So we&rsquo;re still doing our listening tours across the city and then we&rsquo;ll be identifying our points of strategy later in the process.&rdquo;</p><p>Many community members were alarmed at the disbandment of the advisory councils, and the sudden relative lack of high-level Asian-American policy advisors in Emanuel&rsquo;s office (unlike the previous Daley administration). All this came just as census numbers affirmed Asian-Americans as the fastest-growing minority group in the state, and one of the fastest in Chicago.</p><p>So will the creation of an Asian-American Caucus at the legislative level ameliorate the losses?</p><p>&ldquo;Perhaps it can help relay the community&rsquo;s concerns and ideas and concerns on up to the executive branch in one way or another,&rdquo; said Zala. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s my hope.&rdquo;</p><p>One interesting observation about the new caucus: of the 12 members that were originally announced on the caucus (two were added later in the week), Pawar&rsquo;s ward contains the smallest percentage of Asian-Americans, just over 7 percent. The council member whose ward has the highest percentage, at 34 percent, is Ald. James Balcer (11th).</p><p>An organizer who lobbies elected officials on behalf of Asian-American interests said Balcer was not open to consideration of a proposed ward map that would have kept the majority of Chinatown-area residents in one district. The source asked to remain anonymous because of the need to maintain a working relationship with city officials, but added that the rebuff wasn&rsquo;t surprising. Referring to other community organizations that work with Asian-Americans in Chicago, the organizer added, &ldquo;What they&rsquo;ve told us privately is it&rsquo;s been difficult to get some aldermen to be responsive.&rdquo;</p><p>Ultimately, many see the success of the caucus resting squarely on Pawar&rsquo;s shoulders. Pawar has declared that he intends to hold office for no more than two terms. His efforts may be buoyed by the growth in Chicago&rsquo;s Asian-American population. Community organizers have mounted <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/asian-american-voter-turnout-expected-increase-year-103665" target="_blank">successful voter registration campaigns</a> over the last several years, and have gained state-wide influence with the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/asian-americans-have-state-caucus-98917" target="_blank">creation of an Asian-American Caucus</a> in the General Assembly. These changes may persuade Pawar&rsquo;s fellow caucus members that it&rsquo;s time, again, to keep a seat at the table reserved for Asian-Americans in Chicago.</p><p>Members of the City of Chicago&rsquo;s Asian-American Caucus: Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th), Danny Solis (25th), Patrick O&rsquo;Connor (40th), Dick Mell (33rd), Walter Burnett (27th), Bob Fioretti (2nd), Will Burns (4th), Joe Moore (49th), James Balcer (11th), Debra Silverstein (50th), Harry Osterman (48th), James Cappleman (46th), Marge Laurino (39th), Brendan Reilly (42nd).</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/oyousef" target="_blank">@oyousef</a> and <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud" target="_blank">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p><p>Correction note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Pawar declared he would hold office for one term only.</p></p> Mon, 01 Jul 2013 11:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/asian-americans-hope-new-chicago-caucus-will-restore-clout-107912