SAAPRI was delighted to sponsor and participate in a panel about AAPI political empowerment along with other community organizations: Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy – AAPIP, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Chicago – AAJC, Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community- CBCAC, and Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights – ICIRR. The event was hosted by Woods Fund Chicago.
Tuyet Le and Andy Kang of AAJC kicked off the event with an overview of the policies that have shaped Asian American power, such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which covered the right of citizens to have in-language materials, have bilingual election judges, and register in their own language.
C.W. Chan of CBCAC then detailed Chinatown’s role in the election of Theresa Mah, the Democratic nominee for Illinois 2nd District State Representative. He also spoke about how policies like the Voting Rights Act and redistricting affected Chinatown’s inhabitants over the years, particularly in terms of keeping a majority of Chinatown’s residents in one district to protect the community’s political power.
Along with Theresa Mah, SAAPRI Board Member Harish I. Patel joined WBEZ reporter Odette Yousef to explore the role of race and identity in their General Assembly primary races. They spoke about the importance of connecting to their constituents on a personal level. Harish and Theresa also examined the challenges and opportunities of engaging AAPI communities in the 2016 general election and beyond.
The event wrapped up with a panel featuring SAAPRI Executive Director Reema Kapur, Lawrence Benito of ICIRR, Andy Kang of AAJC, and Jennifer Choi of the McCormick Foundation. They discussed the impact of redistricting, automatic voter registration, and voter education and mobilization strategies.