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Asian American Leadership Forum 2016

The Asian American Leadership Forum (AALF) is a unique conference whose goal is to bring together people from different professional sectors, industries, and backgrounds to share, learn, and network. We seek to educate and train attendees on issues, needs, and successes within the Asian American community. Attendees develop new skills to encourage multi-disciplinary development. AALF focuses on current issues, events and volunteer opportunities to connect education and training to action and impact in Chicago and across the Midwest.


Date & Time 
Saturday, February 20th, 2016

Columbia College Chicago

Film Row Cinema, 8th Floor
1104 S. Wabash
Chicago, IL 60605

**Dress code is business casual.

Early Bird Pricing (ENDS February 5, 2016):

Corporate Rate – $50.00
Non-Profit Rate – $40.00
Student Rate – $20.00

Regular Pricing (STARTS February 6, 2016):
Corporate Rate – $60.00
Non-Profit Rate – $50.00
Student Rate – $30.00

***Breakfast and Lunch will be provided to all participants.

The Roosevelt L stop (green, orange, and red line) is 0.2 mile away, and most major Michigan Ave. bus lines are 0.2 mile away.

Parking is available at a $12 Saturday flat rate at the following lots:

  • Central Parking at 1001 South Wabash Avenue, Chicago, IL 60605
  • One Place Garage at 1 E 8th Street, Chicago, IL 60605
 AALF 2016 Schedule
Track Descriptions

(Click on the track title below to see the description to the right)

2016 Elections and Issues Impacting Asian Americans…Political Advertisements…Endorsements…Talk Shows…there are plenty of voices out there telling you who to vote for, but are they always representing the best interests of our community? Join us as we dive into some of the critical issues impacting the Asian American and immigrant/refugee communities here in Chicago and Illinois. By the end of this workshop, we hope that you will have more knowledge with which to evaluate your “best option” when voting in the upcoming elections.

The right to vote is one of the great pillars of our democracy. A right we need to continuously and actively protect. History has shown us the countless ways communities of color and limited English speakers have been turned away from the polls, by law and through illegal means. Advancing Justice | Chicago’s annual pollwatching work ensures the right to vote for immigrants and limited English-speaking individuals in communities with high rate of Asian Americans. Pollwatchers have an important role in the democratic process: to safeguard every citizens’ free exercise of their civic duties and make their voices heard on Election Day. Participants in this training will learn about rights for limited English voters, history of voting rights, and how to engage in voter protection work. This training will prepare you to pollwatch for the March primary!

Professional Leadership Development Track has been sold out. 

Come join us for the Professional Leadership Development track to explore your personal identity and take the first step in developing the foundation to build your professional development skills. Participants will begin by documenting their own personal story in order to see the parallels with the broader historical timeline of Asian Americans in the United States. We will then review the concept of bicultural identity (being both Asian and American) and how to integrate this concept of personal identity into the professional world. Once participants are comfortable with the understanding of the integration of identity in their professional lives, we will dive into skills building around influencing as a powerful tool to implement in both a professional and personal setting.

As we move into the 8th month of not having a state budget, many organizations have found themselves looking for other sources of income to just survive. While it is difficult to look beyond the big sources (Federal, State, Private Foundations), there is a need now to focus on grassroots fundraising methods, or individual donor cultivation. This workshop will introduce you to some best practices for individual donor cultivation whether you are non-profit direct service agency, a student group, or a startup.

The Midwest Asian American Academic Advisory Council Track is a gathering of professors, academics, and graduate students who have worked to uncover new empirical evidence about the Asian American community in the Midwest. With a focus on communities in Illinois and Michigan, the research track sets the stage for connecting policy and action in a very real way — research collected by track attendees in the region informs new policy, which sets up communities to mobilize and ensure that change has been accomplished. This session will inform planning for regional research in the next 15 months, and serves as the first convening of the Midwest Asian American Academic Advisory Council. Please contact Brandon for more information at

In this workshop, students will develop skills to share their stories using visual art.  Students will leave this workshop with a completed visual art project illustrating a personal narrative.  This track is qualifies for Service Learning credit, and is closed to CPS High School students.  This track will be run entirely in Cantonese.  Please contact Vi for more information at

Keynote Speaker

plenary speaker _ LesTalusanPhoto

Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed’s an activist, storyteller, and politico based in Los Angeles.

An electoral organizer by trade, she’s mobilized thousands of Asian American & Pacific Islanders to the polls in over seventeen different languages in the past fifteen years. In 2004, she founded South Asian American Voting Youth (SAAVY), a national organization that organizes South Asian American youth to have a political voice and get involved in the electoral process. She has since worked at Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles and Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance employing in-language culturally competent tools to mobilize hundreds of thousands of AAPI voters to the polls. She currently is a Campaign Strategist at the Asian American new media organizing group 18MillionRising.

With a Master in Public Policy degree with concentration on racial justice policy from UCLA’s School of Public Affairs, she was part of a student led initiative to bring Critical Race Theory into public policy. While at UCLA, her thesis project entitled Barriers to Student Voting examines the various barriers that students in California face when exercising civic engagement. An experienced campaign trainer, she has led workshops with EnviroCitizen, APIA Vote, the League of Young Voters, and Campus Camp Wellstone.

Essayist, poet and now podcaster, her media content developed around creating a counternarrative for the communities that she belonged to – whether youth, Muslim, South Asian or counterculture. She is cohost of The #GoodMuslimBadMuslim Podcast that has been featured in O Magazine, Wired, Buzzfeed, Mother Jones and NPR. An avid essayist, she had a monthly column called Radical Love, was a blogger for Sepia Mutiny, has written for Truthout, The Aerogram, The Nation, Left Turn Magazine, Angry Asian Man, MTV Iggy, Taqwacore Webzine, Wiretap Magazine, Alternet, Falling Star Magazine and more. She is published in forthcoming anthology Good Girls Marry Doctors: South Asian American Daughters on Obedience and Rebellion (May 2016) and Tia Chucha Press’ poetry collection Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes & Shifts in Los Angeles (April 2016). In 2012, she was notably published in the anthology Love, Inshallah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women. Her third poetry chapbook Emdash and Ellipses will be published in early 2016.

Additionally, Taz is an editor and curator for the South Asian American music website Mishthi Music where she co-produced Beats for Bangladesh: A Benefit Album in Solidarity with the Garment Workers of Rana Plaza. A mixed media artist, her annual #MuslimVDay Cards have been featured in Colorlines, NBC News and Audrey Magazine. Her artwork was recently featured in the group shows Sharia Revoiced (2015), in Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center digital art exhibition “H-1B” (2015), and Rebel Legacy: Activist Art from South Asian California (2014). In 2012 she had her first solo gallery show called Maghrib Memories.

You can find her rant on twitter @tazzystar and at​

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