News

10.28.2022

Asian American Civil Rights Orgs: We Need Affirmative Action to Counter Systemic Racism in Education

October 28, 2022

For Immediate Release
CONTACT
Michelle Boykins(202) 296-2300, ext. 0144mboykins@advancingjustice-aajc.org
Vivin Qiang202-780-9327vqiang@advancingjustice-aajc.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ahead of oral arguments before the Supreme Court in SFFA v. Harvard and SFFA v. University of North Carolina on October 31, Asian Americans Advancing Justice is calling on the court to affirm the constitutional right to affirmative action, a long-held precedent that is still needed to counter systemic racism and white supremacy in our education systems and is supported by more than two-thirds of Asian Americans.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice, an affiliation of five independent Asian American civil rights organizations, issued the following statement:

“Let’s be clear about the motivations behind these cases: extremist strategist Edward Blum and his vast network of funders are pursuing a decades-long campaign to divide communities of color and strip away educational opportunities and voting rights from Black, Latino, Indigenous, and Asian communities – and deliberately attempting to use Asian American students and families as a racial wedge for their political gain.

“We know the truth. It is rampant throughout our history, whether it is the California law that permitted segregation of ‘children of Mongolian or Chinese descent’ until 1947 or all the ways systemic racism today has blocked many Southeast Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander students from accessing high quality K-12 and college education.

“As we wrote in our amicus brief, abandoning affirmative action and race-conscious admissions will undo the progress that has been hard fought across generations, and impedes the changes we still need to make quality education a reality for all students, regardless of their wealth, their family connections, or their race and ethnicity. We urge the court to uphold the constitutional right to affirmative action that has made education better for countless students, including Asian American students, for more than 40 years.”

Civil rights organizations including Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Legal Defense Fund, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and The Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights are united in our support for race-conscious admissions policies that improve access to education for all students. In August, the Advancing Justice affiliation filed two amicus curiae briefs, including one with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Lawyers for Civil Rights, and pro bono counsel Arnold & Porter on behalf of a multiracial group of alumni students of color at Harvard who served as amici-plus and presented evidence at trial in support of holistic admissions policies that consider the entirety of a student’s experiences, talents, and potential.

The second amicus curiae brief, written with pro bono counsel Ballard Spahr, was joined by 37 Asian American and Pacific Islander civil rights groups, advocacy organizations, professionals, and student organizations in support of race-conscious admissions and the enduring need for these programs to counter systemic racism and white supremacy in our education systems.

On Monday morning, many of these signatories will join students and community members from across the country to rally for affirmative action and race-conscious admissions on the Supreme Court steps. To find reaction panels and other post-oral arguments events and analysis, follow #DefendDiversity and #AffirmOpportunity on Twitter.

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10.19.2022

Personal Safety Alarms, Trainings Aim To Give Asian Residents Tools To Protect Themselves As Attacks Rise

Credit: ColinBoyle/Block Club Chicago. People walk through Chinatown Square on a summer day in Chinatown on July 15, 2021.

By

CHICAGO — Advocacy groups are offering Asian Chicagoans personal safety alarms and defense training amid a continued surge in anti-Asian hate crimes.

The Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community is providing more than 400 handheld safety alarms to Asian Chicagoans, giving them out at events and at tables set up in the community, said advocacy manager Vivian Zhang.

Many of the people taking advantage of the offer are older and use public transit or walk, Zhang said. People can pull a pin on the alarm so it makes a loud sound in a bid to scare away an attacker or alert others the user needs help.

The initiative comes as anti-Asian hate crimes in Chicago have risen during the COVID-19 pandemic, from two in 2020 to nine in 2021 and eight in 2022, according to police data. Similar upticks have been seen throughout the country.

Credit: Personal safety alarms. Colin Boyle/Block Club ChicagoA video last month showed two people attacking and robbing an older Asian man as he rode the Red Line. The fatal shooting of Woom Sing Tse, 71, in Chinatown in December sparked calls for more cameras, lights and longer-term violence prevention efforts in the neighborhood.

About 7 percent of Chicagoans are Asian, according to the Sun-Times.

Chicago has a large population of Asian Americans — but they don’t account for as much of the overall population as some coastal cities. That means hate crimes can fly under the radar and may be underreported, said Andrea Chu, the Midwest organizing manager at Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

“This violence against our communities is not over, and I don’t think it’ll be over anytime soon,” Chu said. “When you look at Islamophobia after 9/11, that violence didn’t go away. There’s a real impact on public safety from the anti-Chinese rhetoric from politicians, in terms of COVID and economic competition, that continues to take a toll.”

Asian Americans Advancing Justice hosts bystander intervention trainings over Zoom to prepare people if they witness a hate crime, Chu said. Local community groups are also doing outreach to Asian-American residents to encourage them to report hate crimes and are partnering with police to serve as translators during home visits, said Grace Chan McKibben, executive director of the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community.

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10.17.2022

Illinois students are getting their first broad exposure to Asian American history this year

WBEZA new state law requires teaching Asian American history. Some teachers have jumped in headfirst, while others are still preparing lessons.

By Susie An (WBEZ)

In a dimly lit room on Chicago’s North Side, teacher Zach Schroeder is introducing his eighth graders to an historical figure most students — and teachers — have never encountered before.

They’re learning about labor movements, and Schroeder wants to extend his students’ knowledge beyond the important work of Cesar Chavez and the National Farm Workers Association.

He cues up a video focused on Filipino workers in the 1960s and Filipino American labor organizer Larry Itliong, telling his students to be mindful of how Itliong’s “identity helped him be a powerful civic actor.”

Students then break into groups and talk about why the efforts of Filipino American farm workers aren’t as widely known, and the importance of merging their efforts with Mexican farm workers. This was all new for Aisling Panjwani, one of Schroeder’s students.

“I think it highlights a lot of stories that maybe weren’t as prominent that maybe need to be highlighted more,” the eighth grader says.

That’s a key goal of the TEAACH Act, or Teaching Equitable Asian American Community History, which requires Illinois schools for the first time this year to teach a unit of Asian American and Pacific Islander history. It’s meant to boost cross-cultural education for all students and advance racial equity. Some teachers have jumped in headfirst, while others are still preparing their lessons. The law says every public elementary and high school should include a unit of AAPI history, but local schools have the freedom to decide what that looks like.

WBEZ
Sixth graders in Oak Park this year are learning about Asian American history for the first time in their English class. Kate N. Grossman / WBEZ 

In his social studies and civics classroom, Schroeder is weaving Asian American history throughout the year, rather than only one unit.

“This lesson today, it talks about the labor struggle and how integral not just Asian Americans, but Latinx people, Mexican American people were together,” Shroeder said. “So I think it’s just natural to smooth it out throughout U.S. history.”

Schroeder said the more lenses you can add to history, the richer it becomes.

That’s true for educators as well. Smita Garg is a parent at Skinner North and helped lead teacher trainings with Asian Americans Advancing Justice, the group that helped get the TEAACH Act passed. Garg is Asian American and has a background in education, but this was a learning experience for her as well.

“I did not know this content,” she said. “So what I try to convey to teachers upfront in the sessions is, ‘It’s okay not to know. Let’s start there. Let’s give ourselves grace for what we don’t know, but also hold ourselves accountable for learning here on out.’ ”

Garg said she’s done trainings for entire school districts and has even had teachers from outside the state sign up. There are more workshops scheduled this fall, and there’s also free online resources that teachers can incorporate into their lessons for any grade level.

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10.10.2022

JOB POSTING: Community Organizer / Organizing Manager

Community Organizer / Organizing Manager Job Description

BACKGROUND AND MISSION

Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago builds power through collective advocacy and organizing to achieve racial equity.

For 30 years, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago (“Advancing Justice | Chicago”) has worked to bring together the Asian American community and create change in our communities. We are deeply committed to grassroots community organizing and we invest in the leadership of grassroots community members through trainings, community education, civic engagement, and collaborative issue-based campaigns. In order to strengthen our work and transform the inequities in our city, state, and Midwest region, we work with multiracial coalitions that emphasize racial equity, accountability to those most impacted, and an infrastructure of grassroots leadership. Our advocacy work focuses on promoting racial, economic, and immigrant justice, including initiatives in the areas of voting rights, language access, education equity, criminal justice, and immigrant rights.

As part of the national Asian Americans Advancing Justice affiliation, Advancing Justice | Chicago is a leader in the nationwide Asian American movement. Regionally, Advancing Justice | Chicago is prioritizing the Midwest region and collaborating with partners across Midwestern states to tackle common struggles and build collective power.

Asian American Midwest Progressives builds political power through collective advocacy and electoral organizing to achieve racial equity.

Founded in December 2018, Asian American Midwest Progressives (AAMP) endorses progressive candidates, mobilizes Asian American voters, and holds elected officials accountable through issue-based campaigns. Currently, AAMP organizes in Illinois and Ohio.

POSITION DESCRIPTION

The Community Organizer position is an opportunity for a strategic and motivated relationship-builder to build power in the Asian American community, develop grassroots leadership, lead strategic issue campaigns, and move community members to take action.

Depending on experience, applicants may be considered for a Chicago Organizing Manager position, with additional responsibilities of managing community organizers, instead of the Community Organizer position. We will only be hiring one position, either a Community Organizer or Chicago Organizing Manager, depending on the applicant pool. Additional responsibilities and qualifications to be considered for an Organizing Manager position are described below.

This position will fall under the staff sharing agreement between Advancing Justice | Chicago and Asian American Midwest Progressives (AAMP) so a portion of time will be spent on 501(c)(4) activities including partisan electoral work.

KEY RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Develop grassroots leaders through A Just Chi, Advancing Justice | Chicago’s base-building program for community members who want to build power, work on issue campaigns, and advance racial equity;
  • Organize in-person and virtual events, workshops, and trainings;
  • Represent Advancing Justice | Chicago in coalition spaces and contribute to coalition-led issue-based campaigns, primarily around criminal justice reform and police accountability;
  • Organize community members to take action on key issues, such as police accountability, criminal justice reform, and the intersection of criminalization and immigration or “crimmigration”;
  • Engage a broader base of individuals through virtual outreach (e.g., SMS/texting outreach, emails, social media, etc.);
  • Assist development staff in program-related fundraising;
  • Collaborate with other staff on organization-wide initiatives.

KEY ASIAN AMERICAN MIDWEST PROGRESSIVES RESPONSIBILITES

  • Develop grassroots leaders to build political power through electoral organizing and build out year-round 501(c)(4) base-building infrastructure;
  • Assist in executing AAMP’s grassroots endorsement process;
  • Organize canvasses, phonebanks, and other voter outreach and field work;
  • Plan and execute political events such as public meetings, forums, etc.;
  • Support stewarding co-governing relationships with endorsed candidates and key decision makers at city, state, and county levels;
  • Assist in fundraising for AAMP.

ADDITIONAL/ADJUSTED RESPONSIBILITES FOR ORGANIZING MANAGER ROLE

Supervise 1-2 community organizers (fewer AAMP responsibilities to balance workplan), which includes but is not limited to:

    • Weekly supervisory check-ins;
    • Coaching and holding staff accountable to fulfilling their base-building goals, campaign responsibilities, and grant deliverables;
    • Assisting staff with program budget management;
    • Monthly check-ins with the supervisory team for support and feedback.

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