News

09.19.2022

Are You #VoteReady? September 20, 2022 is National Voter Registration Day

September 20 is National Voter Registration Day. The midterm election is less than 50 days away. Now is a great time to check if you, your friends, and family members are registered to vote. For Illinois, the statewide deadline for online voter registration is October 23, 2022. Illinoisans can also mail in their voter registration form, but make sure it’s postmarked by October 11, 2022. For Chicago and suburban Cook County residents, you can visit the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners’ website and the Cook County Clerk’s website to download a printable version of the registration forms, which are available in Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Tagalog and Spanish, in addition to English.

 Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago builds power through collective advocacy and organizing to achieve racial equity. Learn more at www.advancingjustice-chicago.org 

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09.01.2022

Advancing Justice | Chicago Announces New Board Members

For Immediate Release

Contacts:

Sangini Brahmbhatt, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago

sbrahmbhatt@advancingjustice-chicago.org

Kevin Hsia, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago

khsia@advancingjustice-chicago.org; 224-289-5486

CHICAGO, IL — September 1, 2022 – Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago is proud to announce two new board members, Mary “Mimi” Mam and Maria Odiamar Racho.

“Together, Mimi and Maria bring their impressive talents and passion to the board of Advancing Justice | Chicago.  I’m excited to work with them and add their networks and influence to scale the organization’s impact,” said Board President Khai Yang.

Mary “Mimi” Mam – (LinkedIn) 

Mimi is mother of two, a supply chain professional, ERG leader, LGBTQ+ ally, and mental health advocate. She currently works as a vendor performance manager at US Foods and leads a team of Asian Americans and allies with the development of an ERG strategy focused on cultural preservation and development. Mimi’s intention is to push social and cultural progress in the workplace, enact purpose in others to help them connect with their true selves, and promote wellness in individuals and communities. She draws from her experiences as a Southeast Asian woman and daughter of Cambodian refugees overcoming PTSD and assimilation difficulties.

“Immigration and racial advocacy have been a passion of mine since childhood and I have a deep understanding of the need for funding to help these programs support their respective communities,” said Mimi. She spent her childhood helping her parents sponsor and support refugees and immigrants’ resettlement, adjustment, and integration phases into the United States.  Her passion for inclusion originates from her personal story with the Cambodian Association of Illinois (CAI) and she deeply understands the needs of community advocacy and development.

“My father was a refugee case manager and co-founded CAI and Cambodian Network Council. I spent many years at the CAI office helping the underserved find pathways to citizenship while bringing awareness and preservation of culture to the Cambodian and Southeast Asian Communities,” Mimi shared.

Mimi hopes that in joining the Advancing Justice | Chicago board she will build a deeper connection to her identity as a child of Cambodian refugees, advocate for marginalized AAPI and BIPOC communities, and be part of change.

Mimi graduated from Roosevelt University in Business and attended Lewis University’s graduate organizational and leadership development program.

Maria Odiamar Racho – (LinkedIn) 

Maria is an intrapreneur, C-suite advisor, and community builder turned investor with experience in large scale business transformations, building over a dozen Asian American and Filipino networks, and founding a 700 person corporate incubator called Intrapreneurs@Allstate (i@a).

Maria is co-founder and Managing Partner of FilKor Capital, whose mission is to empower resilient Asian Americans to build enduring companies. Its initial focus is on underserved parts of the community, particularly Asian American women.

Maria shared, “My introduction to Advancing Justice | Chicago was almost two decades ago when it was still called the Asian American Institute. I helped co-found 3AN, the Allstate Asian American Network, and even at that time, AAI was creating community, making Asian Americans visible, and building leadership. We sponsored AAI/Advancing Justice | Chicago and through my research on Asian American Leadership, I took an active role leading one of the tracks of the AALF (Asian American Leadership Forum), an annual cross-organizational effort Advancing Justice | Chicago led.”

Maria hopes that by joining the board, she will be part of a passionate, talented, driven team pushing boundaries and creating systemic change for the AAPI community.

“The systemic impact that Advancing Justice | Chicago has made through the years is what stands out most for me and what I desire to contribute to as a board member. The Illinois TEAACH Act is one example of that, not only influencing change locally, but setting a precedence nationally,” shared Maria.

Maria has an Executive Master of Science in Organization Development from Pepperdine University, where she is also an adjunct faculty member. Maria currently serves as a board member of the Organization Development Network – Chicago, a mentor in the 2022 Global Insurance Accelerator, and published researcher and speaker on Asian American leadership.

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Founded in 1992, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago’s mission is to build power through collective advocacy and organizing to achieve racial equity. We have achieved landmark wins in racial equity and policy by advocating for immigrant rights, education equity, language access, voting rights, and criminal justice reform the past 30 years. As an organization with an unshakeable commitment to the advocacy and reinvestment of the Asian American community, the induction of new board members enriches our work and continues a rewarding collaboration with our staff and community.

www.advancingjustice-chicago.org

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08.26.2022

Volunteer Opportunity: Poll Watching – General Election (November 8, 2022) 

Be a part of Advancing Justice | Chicago’s long-running poll watching program. Help protect democracy and language access at the polls!  

When: Tuesday, November 8, 2022  

Where: Polling places in Chicago, Suburban Cook County  

Volunteer poll watchers are dispatched to polling places on election day to monitor  for fair and equitable access to the polls.  No prior experience is needed. Volunteers will be trained on the legal requirements governing language and disability access, and will be equipped with the tools necessary to resolve a variety of potential election-day issues. 

 Note that this is an in-person volunteer opportunity. You will be asked to enter indoor voting locations where you will encounter poll workers and voters who are not required to wear masks. Please take this into consideration when deciding whether you would like to participate in our program.  

Volunteer Requirements:  

  • Poll watchers must be registered Illinois voters, pursuant to State law  
  • No prior experience necessary  
  • Legal and non-legal backgrounds welcome
  • Must be fully vaccinated
  • Basic English skills (limited English fluency is completely fine)
  • No language skills beyond English are required. However, background in any of the following languages are a plus: Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, Vietnamese, Hindi, Urdu, Gujarati and Filipino/Tagalog.   

Time Commitment: Advancing Justice | Chicago values our volunteers. We do our best to accommodate our volunteers’ schedules.  In addition to volunteering on election day, new volunteers are expected to attend a 90-minute virtual training. Volunteers are also expected to travel to their assigned polling places. Transportation costs will be compensated.  

Deadline to sign-up is October 25

Sign Up To Volunteer  

Questions regarding Advancing Justice | Chicago’s Poll Monitoring Program can be directed to Kim Leung at kleung@advancingjustice-chicago.org  

 Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago builds power through collective advocacy and organizing to achieve racial equity. Learn more at www.advancingjustice-chicago.org 

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08.22.2022

Asian American History Requirement Starts in Illinois Public Schools

By Eunice Alpasan 

Starting this school year, every public elementary school and high school in Illinois must include a unit of instruction on Asian American history.

Illinois became the first state to implement the requirement when Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the Teaching Equitable Asian American Community History Act, or TEAACH, into law last summer.

“We need to teach students the honest history of the United States and show all the ways that Asian Americans both have been victimized and also have been champions of justice in their own communities and in solidarity with other communities,” says Grace Pai, executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice Chicago.

The organization is hosting free development workshops for Illinois educators to prepare them to teach lessons on Asian American history.

The Illinois State Board of Education will enforce the mandate by surveying all schools and including the mandate in the first three years of its annual survey, Pai said.

Because of the state board’s limited scope, she hopes students, parents, teachers and community members will ask their schools and districts about how they will implement the TEAACH Act.

Mueze Bawany, an English teacher at North-Grand High School in Chicago, said some of the ways he plans on incorporating Asian American history in his class is through a graphic novel unit and a poetry unit.

“I often thought about my experiences and not being able to understand my story and my history, and it kind of felt like looking into the mirror and not seeing anything back,” Bawany said.

“The opportunity for Asian American students in our district to be able to learn, to learn their stories and also for others from so many different backgrounds to learn the stories of Asian Americans in this country, it’s just beautiful,” Bawany added. “This is what education is about, right?”

Click here to read the story and watch the video

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08.01.2022

Asian American Civil Rights Groups File Amicus Briefs in Support of Holistic Admissions in Higher Education

August 1, 2022

Contact:

Michelle Boykins, Advancing Justice – AAJC, Mboykins@advancingjustice-aajc.org

Niketa Kumar, Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, media@advancingjustice-alc.org 

Liza Ameen, AJSOCAL, lameen@ajsocal.org

Kevin Hsia, Advancing Justice – Chicago, khsia@advancingjustice-chicago.org

James Woo, Advancing Justice – Atlanta, jwoo@advancingjustice-atlanta.org

Asian American Civil Rights Groups File Amicus Briefs in Support of Holistic Admissions in Higher Education

Washington, D.C. – Today, Asian Americans Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice) filed two amicus briefs before the U.S. Supreme Court in SFFA v. Harvard, affirming our longstanding support for race-conscious admissions in higher education

The five organizations comprising the Advancing Justice affiliation, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Lawyers For Civil Rights, and pro bono counsel Arnold & Porter filed an amicus brief on behalf of a multiracial group of alumni students of color at Harvard who support holistic admissions policies that take into account the entirety of a student’s assets and experiences. 

In their brief, the student and alumni amici attested to how a diverse campus benefits all students, including addressing racial isolation and increasing cross-racial understanding and cultural competency that better prepared them for their professional careers. Asian American amici also affirmed benefiting from race-conscious admissions policies at Harvard, which provided them the opportunity to share their whole story, including their race and ethnicity, background, and diverse experiences.

The Advancing Justice affiliation with pro bono counsel, Ballard Spahr, submitted a separate amicus brief joined by 37 Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) civil rights groups, advocacy organizations, professionals, and student organizations in support of race-conscious admissions programs that improve equal access to educational opportunities for all.

The amicus brief affirms that Harvard and UNC’s race-conscious admissions programs do not discriminate against AAPI students, but rather expand their access to higher education. The brief also highlights the educational benefits of racial diversity for AAPI communities and asserts that eliminating the consideration of race in admissions programs will harm AAPI and other students of color.

“For centuries, communities of color, including Asian Americans, have struggled against racial discrimination and faced systemic barriers to education, employment, and immigration, among other challenges,” said John C. Yang, President and Executive Director of Advancing Justice – AAJC. “Race, ethnicity, and our lived experiences are integral parts of our personal story and collective history. Holistic admissions ensures all students have the opportunity to share their whole story in addition to their academic achievements.”

“Our communities know better than to give into extremist strategist Edward Blum’s years-long mission to deny Black, Latinx, Asian American, and other communities of color equal voting rights and educational opportunities,” said Aarti Kohli, Executive Director of Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus. “As a parent, my children have had more chances to grow and thrive because of affirmative action, diversity, and anti-discrimination programs in our education systems. As a civil rights lawyer, there’s no question these attacks on the constitutionality of race conscious programs are a thinly veiled strategy to limit educational opportunities for all students of color.” 

“For too long, the model minority myth has propagated a false premise that AAPIs don’t benefit from race conscious admissions practices,” said Connie Chung Joe, CEO, Asian Americans Advancing Justice Southern California (AJSOCAL). “The reality is that our communities also face discrimination and barriers to opportunities that race conscious admissions can address. And for AAPI students and other students of color, having a racially diverse student body is not only important to their educational experience, but often necessary to fully articulate the hurdles, achievements, and personal development experiences intrinsic to college admissions evaluations.”

Justice Roberto A. Rivera-Soto, former Justice of the Supreme Court of New Jersey, former partner/now senior counsel at Ballard Spahr LLP, adds, “We are proud to work with Advancing Justice to support holistic admissions policies that have allowed countless numbers of students to attain great heights and contribute to bettering society for us all. We must continue to cultivate the potential of all students — including all who have struggled and continue to struggle against discrimination — to bring us closer to the promise of an equitable society we all deserve.”

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About Asian Americans Advancing Justice

Asian Americans Advancing Justice is a national affiliation of five leading organizations advocating for the civil and human rights of Asian Americans and other underserved communities to promote a fair and equitable society for all. The affiliation’s members are: Advancing Justice – AAJC (Washington, DC), Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, Advancing Justice Southern California (AJSOCAL), Advancing Justice – Atlanta, and Advancing Justice – Chicago.

Ballard Spahr

Ballard Spahr is an Am Law 100 law firm with more than 600 lawyers in 15 U.S. offices, serving clients across industry sectors in litigation, transactions, and regulatory compliance. We provide clients—from startups to Fortune 500 companies, governments, and nonprofit organizations—with a comprehensive scope of practice and strong regional market knowledge. Ballard Spahr consistently ranks among the top 50 law firms in the annual Am Law Pro Bono Report and is the recipient of numerous awards and honors for outstanding commitment to pro bono representation.

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