March 27, 2015

Tammy & Bryan welcome Abigail O’kalani Bowlsbey

Editor’s Note: Duckworth is a 2-time AAA-Fund Endorsed Candidate.

Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., spoke at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. (H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY)

We congratulate Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth and her husband Bryan Bowlsbey! Their statement:

My husband Bryan and I are thrilled to announce that we are the proud parents of a baby girl. Abigail O’kalani Bowlsbey was born on November 18. Bryan and I were deeply honored that Senator Akaka acted as Hawaiian elder and selected her middle name. We are grateful for the love and support of our family and friends. We also appreciate the respect for our privacy during this important moment in our lives.”

More at HuffPo.

Living vs dead Chinatowns, gentrification & elections

AALDEF, the NYC based Asian American civil rights organization, has a new report out about the rate of gentrification in Chinatowns in NYC, Boston, and Philadelphia. (I guess DC was just a lost cause.) In conjunction with the discussion of this article, I want to propose the idea of “living” (these three cities, Chicago, San Francisco) versus “dead” Chinatowns (DC.) In my mind, when I walk the streets of a given Chinatown, “living” connotes active engagement and residency by the Chinese American community versus the slick, big box retail feel of Washington, DC Chinatown, which most Chinese Americans fled decades ago for Montgomery County, MD, and Fairfax, VA. The shops in DC Chinatown are adorned in bright signs with Chinese characters, but have very little daily relevance to Chinese or Chinese American culture, such as the skateboard shop, the Ann Taylor, and the Legal Seafood.

It’s a very read-worthy report, and I’ve gone on the walking tour of Boston Chinatown where you can see how highway I-93 literally cuts through the enclave, with a half-sheared building standing mute but providing powerful testimony to interesting municipal planning. The report illuminated that the AAPI population in Boston Chinatown went from 70% in 1990 to 46% in 2010. Philadelphia Chinatown has been encroached upon by developers, and was under threat from a proposed casino for a significant period. NYC Chinatown was at one point overtaking Little Italy, but now with the New Museum and the gentrification of the Bowery, is being pressed upon by towering luxury apartment buildings. Not to mention, Park Row, a residential community adjacent to South Chinatown, and nearby commercial buildings (shops and restaurants) have been under the shadow of 9/11 for 12 years, with limited access for a substantial period of time (9/11 cleanup), depressing retail sales. To this day, there are armed police stations that guard the entrance path to Park Row.

San Francisco Chinatown has managed to thrive due to a high intra-ethnicity turnover rate, and Chicago Chinatown (of which, really, there are 3 – historic Chinatown, “new” Argyle (largely Vietnamese-Chinese American) Chinatown, and “new new” Chinatown, which is across the street from historic Chinatown, and includes a number of residential properties that have lured second and third generation Chinese Americans back to the city center. (There is some small degree of this happening in other cities as well, but in my mind, Chicago has done a better job than most.)

The reason that I keep rotating back to this issue of whether Chinese Americans who have “made it” come back is because it is also a large part of why “living” Chinatowns become essentially “dead” Chinatowns. Moving out of Chinatown and to the suburbs is intrinsically seen as one of the markers of success for first, second, and third generation Chinese Americans. This is antithetical to keeping Chinatowns vibrant. This is separate from biased and discriminatory urban planning decisions hatched in concert with the stereotypically greedy developers. And it absolutely doesn’t discount folks who want to stay but get pushed out – I’m just bringing this up because it’s also a real thing.

Don’t get me wrong – DC Chinatown/Verizon Center is more bustling and lively than a decade ago, and is now an economic engine and one of the hearts of the city, but the business owners by and large do not live there. Although the DC AAPI population has risen 60% since 2000, according to the 2010 Census.

In NYC, the press of developers on the boundaries of Chinatown has caused friends who have lived, breathed, and worked in Chinatown for decades to move to Harlem, where elected officials like City Councilor Melissa Mark-Vivitero have noticed the increase of AAPIs. This follows on a previous out-migration to Queens (Flushing, Woodside, etc.), Brooklyn (where there is another Chinatown), New Jersey, Long Island, Westchester, and Connecticut.

So how do we keep the living nature of Chinatowns across the country? The report proposes several solutions: reinforcing and constructing more low-income housing, subsidizing local small businesses, prioritizing green spaces, strengthening the links between satellite Asian Am enclaves in the suburbs to the Chinatown cores, and engaging in dialogue with traditional community land owners like the family associations. All of these are great, and I’m going to a step further.

What I’m fundamentally saying is that keeping Chinatown affordable and full of vitality is partially dependent upon the people in elected office. They hold hearings and have influence over city planning to varying degrees. Former At-Large Boston City Councilor Sam Yoon came out of the fight to keep one Boston Chinatown. Michelle Wu and Suzanne Lee are running for city council in Boston (different seats.) Philadelphia has yet to elect a progressive AAPI city councilmember, whereas SF has a plethora of AAPI electeds (and folks in the pipelines to run when the inevitable term limits hit.) AAAF Greater Chicago helped get Alderman Ameya Pawar, the first AAPI alderman ever in Chicago, elected in 2011. Progress is slow, but steady.

Not that AAPI candidates are necessarily going to be informed about the community’s issues, or even live in the Chinatown district. It is incumbent upon the community and those who work to keep living, breathing Chinatowns to educate candidates and elected officials, regardless of their ethnicity. Because we all need allies and champions in this effort, and sometimes people surprise you.


Rep Duckworth Shames Faux Veteran For Receiving Benefits

Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), the former Assistant Secretary of the federal VA and head of the Illinois VA, has a lot of experience with serving in our nation’s military, and in taking care of the soldiers who return. It’s no small wonder that she ripped into Braulio Castillo, a federal contractor, for his egregious abuse of the veterans’ preference system – he claimed a veterans’ injury that he sustained while playing football at a military high school. His company claimed $500 million of government contracts, and his application lists his “sacrifices to this country.”

Duckworth, on the other hand, lost both her legs and part of her right arm as a helicopter pilot in Iraq.

“Does your foot hurt,” Duckworth asked Castillo. “My feet hurt too. In fact, the balls of my feet burn continuously, and I feel like there’s a nail being hammered into my heel right now. So I can understand pain and suffering, and how service connection can actually cause long-term, unremitting, unyielding, unstoppable pain.”

“So I’m sorry that twisting your ankle in high school has now come back to hurt you in such a painful, if also opportune, way for you to gain this status for your business as you were trying to compete for contracts.”

Duckworth’s public shaming of Castillo is one of the most thorough and justified takedowns that I have seen during Congressional testimony.


(Full disclosure: AAA Fund and AAA Fund Greater Chicago endorsed Rep. Duckworth in her first Congressional campaign and in 2012.)

AAAFGC: Statement on the importance of prioritizing family in comprehensive reform

Editor’s Note: The below is from our Greater Chicago chapter. Be sure to read their recent work and victories in the April 9 elections. This post continues our recent immigration-related coverage prior to the immigration bill‘s release.

Asian American Action Fund of Greater Chicago logo

Statement on the importance of prioritizing family in comprehensive reform and call to action!

Dear Friends:

The Asian American Action Fund of Greater Chicago (AAAF-GC) joined the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), California Congressman Mike Honda, and local Asian American businesses and community leaders today for a press conference to keep Asian American families together as part of the comprehensive immigration reform package currently being negotiated in Washington.

Recent discussions reveal the legislation – expected to be announced this week – will cut funding for family visas, a longstanding pillar of American immigration policy. In fact, family sponsorship is the most common way Asian Americans immigrate to the U.S. According to ICIRR, nearly half of 4.3 million people currently waiting in the visa backlog are of Asian descent.

AAAF-GC strongly supports preserving family sponsorship as part of broader immigration reform. For decades, this mechanism has been a fair and effective way for keeping families together. Asian and Pacific Islanders (API’s) represent the fastest growing ethnic group in Illinois. API’s, like all people, are best positioned to positively contribute to our communities and the economy when our families are intact, so we must preserve family visas.

AAAF-GC commends Senator Richard J. Durbin for his leadership on the immigration issue, and thanks the chorus of Illinois House Members including Congressman Luis Gutierrez and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky who have come out in support of family visas. We reiterate that any immigration reform package must provide an avenue for family sponsorship in order to be effective.

You can take action by urging your elected officials to do the right thing and protect family visas by clicking here.

Asian American Action Fund of Greater Chicago on motorcoach bus

Thank you,

Jae Choi Kim
Asian American Action Fund of Greater Chicago

The Asian American Action Fund of Greater Chicago is a political action committee (PAC) dedicated to supporting progressive Asian Pacific Americans for elected office. Please contact us at for further inquiries.

AAAF-GC’s Endorsed Candidates Win Big on Election Day

Editor’s Note: The below is from our Greater Chicago chapter & is a follow-up to the many election activities for the April 9 elections. Their work directly enables Asian-Americans to better participate in public life to represent their constituents.

Asian American Action Fund of Greater Chicago logo

AAAF-GC’s Endorsed Candidates Win Big on Election Day!

AAAF-GC commends all candidates on a hard-fought election and congratulates the winners below, who we proudly endorsed:

Pramod Shah
Village Clerk, Village of Skokie

Jin Lee
District 207 School Board, Maine Township)

Holly Kim
Trustee, Village of Mundelein (Twitter)

Thank you to all who volunteered and helped make this a successful election for Asian American candidates! will have photos.

The Asian American Action Fund of Greater Chicago is a political action committee (PAC) dedicated to supporting progressive Asian Pacific Americans for elected office. Contact us at for further inquiries.

March 24, 26: AAAF-Chicago Events for April 9 Municipal Election

Asian American Action Fund of Greater Chicago logo

Dear AAAF-CG Friends,

One of our goals is to identify qualified Democratic candidates, to provide them with financial and technical assistance, and to build a local network of activists, funders, and supporters. Please join us and support Asian Americans running for offices on April 4.

Asian American Action Fund of Greater Chicago logo
Event #1

Asian American Municipal Candidates’ Rally!
Supporting Asian Americans for the April 9th Municipal Elections!
When: Sunday, March 24th
3:00p – 5:00pm

Where: Holiday Inn, 5300 W. Touhy Avenue, Skokie

Admission: FREE

Suggested donation of $50 or more is greatly appreciated – donations will go toward funding the endorsed candidates.

Come mix and mingle with the AAAF-GC endorsed candidates for Skokie and other suburban races!

For details, email

Asian American Action Fund of Greater Chicago logo
Event #2

AAAF-GC Operation Skokie!
Every vote Counts – Get out the Asian American vote!

Upcoming Volunteer Opportunities: phone banking-door knocking & networking

Tuesday, March 26th – 6:00p – 8:00p
Phone Bank in Skokie

Sunday, March 31st – 1:00p – 4:00p (meet at 12:45p)
Door Knocking in Skokie

Tuesday, April 2nd – 6:00p – 8:00p
Phone Bank in Skokie
Sunday, April 7th – 1:00p – 4:00p (meet at 12:45p)
Door Knocking in Skokie
Tuesday, April 9th (ELECTION DAY)
Multiple opportunities

Where: Volunteering activities meeting location:
3716 W. Dempster, Skokie (Skokie Caucus Party Office)

Why Skokie?

Skokie is a great community for Asian Americans and immigrants – diverse & inclusive. Asian Americans are already engaged in the community through various civic activities, including the Skokie Festival of Cultures. There are two Asian Americans are elected officials in Skokie: Trustee Pramod Shah and Park District Commissioner Jerry Clarito.

On April 4, Pramod Shah is running for Clerk as a slated candidate of the Skokie Caucus Party. Support Pramod and Skokie Caucus Party to get the Asian Americans out to vote! Every vote COUNTS so let’s engage our people.

Skokie facts:
64,784 residents in Skokie — 28.6% are Asian Americans.
South Asians: 4,283
Filipinos: 4,505
Koreans: 1,771
Chinese: 1,575
Vietnamese: 717
Japanese: 304
Others: 3,394

33,000 Skokie residents are registered voters.
10% of the registered voters are Asian Americans. (3,400).

Turnout is traditionally very low in municipal elections. Only 16% (4,800) to 22% (6,600) of registered voters voted in the past few Municipal election cycles in Skokie.

According to the 2010 Census, there are at least 2 precincts in Skokie with Asian American population of over 35%.

We hope to see you at our events! Network and do good for our community.

For details, email

The mission of the Asian American Action Fund of Greater Chicago (AAAF-GC) is to encourage Asian Pacific American (APA) Democrats to participate in the political process and to empower the APA community to address the under-representation of APAs in the political life of the Greater Chicago area.

Election 2012 Update

We congratulate all incoming Senators and Members of Congress:

  • Mazie Hirono (HI)
    Mazie Hirono (HI)
  • Tim Kaine (VA)
    Tim Kaine of Virginia
  • Tammy Duckworth (IL-08)
    Tammy Duckworth (IL-08)
  • Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02)
    Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02)
  • Grace Meng (NY-06)
    Grace Meng (NY-06)
  • Mark Takano (CA-41)
    Mark Takano (CA-41)
    won 57% to 43%
  • Rob Bonta (CA-AD18)
    Rob Bonta
    winning 51%-49%

Too close to call

We cannot say a huge enough thanks to everyone. Special congratulations and elated delight to AAAF of Greater Chicago whose numerous months long phone banking, website editing, email forwarding, logistical organizing, people pulling & generally good cheer & energy for the easy-to-volunteer events, sharing their many delights and overall pulling so many for so many critical last minute get out the vote all for Tammy Duckworth has given us such a brilliant example of an effective grassroot campaign.

These Congressmen & Congresswomen represent the largest caucus of Asian American and Pacific Islander Members in any single Congressional session as well as other records:

  • Hirono – first Asian American woman and first Buddhist to serve in the U.S. Senate
  • Duckworth, Meng – first Asian Americans to represent their states IL and NY respectively
  • Gabbard – first Hindu American in US Congress, first Samoan American elected as a voting member of Congress
  • Takano – first openly gay minority Member of Congress

We are thrilled not only to share in the delights of our elected officials above but also to our other endorsed candidates:

Lastly, just seen on the ED Show on MSNBC:

Demographic groups Voted for Obama Voted for Romney
Whites 39% 59%
Black 93% 6%
Latino 71% 27%
Asian 73% 26%

Thank you to all!

Update Nov 12: Our Dr. Ami Bera is leading!

Update Nov 17: Bera Wins!

AAPIs Rally for Tammy Duckworth

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Asian American groups and local elected officials rally for Tammy Duckworth, candidate for IL-8th Congressional District
Media Contacts:

Jae Choi Kim (English and Korean)

Joey Mak (English)

Theresa Mah (Chinese)

Arlington Heights, IL – Tammy Duckworth, candidate for Illinois’ 8th Congressional District, was joined during a campaign rally today by a diverse coalition of Asian American leaders and local elected officials including Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, State Senator Dan Kotowski and State Representative Daniel Biss. Over 100 people attended the rally at the European Crystal Banquet Hall in Arlington Heights.

“Unless we have a seat at the table, our voices will not be heard,” Tammy said. “The strength of our nation is in our diversity. It doesn’t matter what your background is, what your tradition is, or what your culture is. We’re all Americans and we are in this together.”

Asian American leaders and activists have been mobilizing volunteers for weeks as part of Operation: Elect Tammy, a collaborative grassroots effort between the Indian American Democratic Organization (IADO), the Asian American Steering Committee for Tammy Duckworth, the Asian American Action Fund (AAAF) and other community members.

“We are working very hard to elect Tammy,” IADO President Harendra Mangrola said.

Tammy, who was born in Thailand to an American father and Thai mother of Chinese descent, will become the first Asian American member of Illinois’ Congressional delegation if elected.

“We are here united, 100 percent, behind Tammy Duckworth,” local community leader Raja Krishnamoorthi said.

After losing both her legs in 2004 when her helicopter was hit by an RPG during a combat mission in Iraq, Tammy later served as Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs from 2006-09 until President Obama named her Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, where she served from 2009-11.

“Tammy is one of the most inspiring people I know,” Schakowsky said. “[She] encapsulates the philosophy of our country, where we make sure that we provide opportunity to everyone.”

“We now have an outstanding Asian American candidate in Tammy Duckworth, whose courage and service to our country has made her a hero to all of us,” said Nancy Chen, head of the Asian American Steering Committee for Tammy.

Her remarkable history coupled with her vision of creating jobs, improving the economy, strengthening public schools and supporting immigrant families has resonated with Asian American voters.

“An election is about the future. We’re here because we want tomorrow to be a better day for our family,” said Jae Choi Kim, President of AAAF-Chicago. “Electing Tammy will get us closer to fulfilling that vision.”

Approximately 13 percent of residents in the 8th District are Asian American with Pakistanis, Asian Indians, Koreans, Filipinos, Chinese/Taiwanese and Vietnamese making up the bulk of the voting bloc.

According to a recent Pew Research Center report, the Asian American population in the United States grew at a rate of nearly 50 percent from 2000 to 2010, making them the fastest growing racial minority group in the country. With millions being poured into campaigns this election season by so-called super-PAC’s, entreaties into the Asian American community are becoming increasingly important in races across the country.

Election Day is Tuesday, November 6, 2012.


Phone Banking for Tammy, Obama vs. Romney and Dinner

“Phone Banking for Tammy, Obama vs. Romney and Dinner!”

Asian Americans organized to get Tammy Duckworth elected to Congress

Leading Organizations

Asian American Action Fund (AAAF)

Indo – American Democratic Organization

Wednesday, October 3rd

5:30 – 8:00p Phone Banking

8:00-10:00 PM Debate Watch Party


Clarity Partners, LLC
22 W. Washington St
Suite 1490
Chicago, IL 60602

Dear Friends—

Please join us this Wednesday night for an evening of politics and fun! We will be making calls to Asian American voters in Illinois’ 8th Congressional District to get Tammy Duckworth elected as the first Asian American woman ever to Congress from Illinois. It will be followed by dinner and a presidential debate watch party!Did we mention there’s going to be food?

To join us, you can let us know by:

If you have them, please bring a cell phone and/or laptop, as well!

Please forward this email to your friends and family and join us next Wednesday for more phone banking, or in the field. We can’t do it without your help. Please join us on Wednesday and thanks for your support!

Additional Information to Volunteer and get Tammy Duckworth elected!

Happy Hour Phone Banking
Wednesdays: 5:30-8:00p with dinner and drinks at two locations

  • Oct 10
  • Oct 17
  • Oct 24
  • Nov 1 (Thursday due to Halloween)
  • Nov 5th

Clarity Partners, 22 W. Washington, Ste. 1490
Tammy’s District Office:
5105 Tollview Drive #120, Rolling Meadows, IL
Field Mobilization Days
Saturdays: 9a-2p with lunch and drinks

  • Oct 13
  • Nov 3

Tammy’s District Office:
5105 Tollview Drive #120, Rolling Meadows, IL
Operation Elect Tammy Rally
Saturday, Oct 20th, Time and location TBA
Election Day

  • Nov 6, 6a-8p

Tammy’s District Office:
5105 Tollview Drive #120, Rolling Meadows, IL

Facts about 8th Congressional District of Illinois

In the 8th District, 13% of the voting age are Asian Americans, yet only 4.88 % are registered to vote. Tammy’s campaign has identified 18,739 Asian American voters in the District. In the 2008 Presidential election, 8,138 of those registered voted.We intend to get them out, and more, to vote for Tammy!

Total Asian Americans registered voters

  • 4.88 % APAs in the District are registered to vote (18,739 APA voters!)
  • Asian (high confidence) 8,003 people, 2% of district
  • Asian (medium confidence) 10,736 people, 3% ofthe district

Top 6 ethnicities

Pakistani 5,844
Asian Indian 4,108
Korean 2,474
Filipino 1,977
Chinese or Taiwanese 1,055
Vietnamese 995

For more information about the Asian American Action Fund Greater Chicago, please email or visit

An Indian, A Texan, And A Democrat Go To Charlotte

When I first realized I was going to the Democratic National Convention, I was beyond ecstatic. It was my first convention, so naturally I wanted to make the most of it. Every day I got to go to a different event, attend another party, and meet some great new people.

I started my convention experience by attending the AAPI Caucus meeting. There, I heard from Asian-American leaders from around the country, including a panel introduced by Governor Neil Abercrombie featuring Tammy Duckworth, Tulsi Gabbard, and Mike Fong. My takeaway from that session is that minorities are going to be a force to be reckoned with in 2012. Honestly, that was the theme I witnessed the entire convention. And those of us privileged enough to be Texans felt a personal connection to that particular theme.

For the first time in history, we witnessed a Latino deliver the keynote address at a major party convention. Mayor Julian Castro’s speech was the perfect balance of inspiration and fight, but what really resonated with me was what he represented. His story is America’s story — a family who moved to America in search for a better life, who worked tirelessly to achieve the American dream, who live up to the ideal of America as a mosaic of race and religion, where hard work and smarts are rewarded, regardless of where they may have come from.

His story resonates with me, and in today’s ever-changing America, it resonates with so many others. His selection shows that Democrats are ready to embrace this new era; while at the Republican convention, we were lucky to see any minorities in the crowd. Of course, there is no reason they would be there. While Democrats are showcasing this new generation of minority leaders, the Republicans are doing everything in their power to make sure we can’t even exercise our most basic democratic right.

The rest of the convention did not disappoint. The speeches by Michelle Obama and President Clinton were two of the best speeches I have ever heard, and seeing President Obama speak in person for the first time was as amazing as I imagined. This convention proved to me that minorities are the future of the party and this country. Both parties have made their decision on how they want to handle the future, and after this convention, I know I picked the right party.

The magic of Barack Obama as President of the United States has not faded. The enthusiasm and passion have not faded. The ability of so many Americans to relate to him has not faded. I got to see it first hand: Democrats are fired up, and ready to go!

– Palak Gosar