Greater Chicago Chapter

About AAA-Fund — Greater Chicago

In Illinois, Asian Pacific Americans (APAs) make up nearly five percent of the total population. Although there are several APAs in elective office on the local level in several cities surrounding the Chicago area, there still are no APA elected officials in the City of Chicago or on the State and Federal levels.

The mission of the AAA-Fund of Greater Chicago is to encourage APA Democrats to participate in the political process and to empower the APA community so that we can address the under-representation of APAs in the political life of the Greater Chicago area. We also support non-APA candidates who are supportive on issues of concern to the APA community.

The Asian American Action Fund achieves its goals by identifying qualified Democratic candidates, providing them with financial and technical assistance, and building a local network of activists, funders, and supporters.

AAA-Fund members join by making a contribution to the Fund and pledging to help the candidates we endorse. Through our membership, the AAA-Fund empowers our candidates with the tools, financial resources, and grassroots assistance they need for victory.

Read more at AAAFGC.com.

Executive Committee Biographies

President Grace B. Hou is the Assistant Secretary at the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS). She is responsible for the oversight of DHS’ six program areas: Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Division of Human Capital Development, Division of Mental Health, Division of Development Disabilities, Division of Community Health and Prevention, and the Division of Rehabilitation Services. Prior to her appointment by Governor Blagojevich as Assistant Secretary in 2003, Ms. Hou was the Executive Director of Chinese Mutual Aid Association (CMAA). She was selected as one of 21 Rising Stars by Today’s Chicago Woman Magazine and as Crain’s Business Chicago’s “40 Rising Executives Under 40.” She has received the Asian American Institute’s Milestone 2005 Award, the Asian American Coalition’s Community Service Award, SGA’s Youth and Family Services 2006 Honoree, the PACTT Family Foundation’s Work of Heart Aware, and the Asian Health Coalition of Illinois’ 2006 Awardee, amongst other recognitions. She is also a 2001 Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow and a 2002 German Marshall Fellow.

Vice President Lawrence L. Benito: As deputy director for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant & Refugee Rights (ICIRR), Lawrence is the lead staff for the senior management team and overseas the training and membership program. He also serves as the agency’s lobbyist, monitoring state legislation impacting immigrant communities, and organizing institutional members on the organization’s legislative and budget priorities. In addition, Lawrence is the executive director of Illinois Immigrant Action (IIA) — ICIRR’s new sister organization which can engage in more targeted issue advocacy work. For the 2008 general election, he managed IIA’s first GOTV voter contact project that targeted 33,000 immigrant voters spread over 1,671 precincts in Illinois’ 10th and 11th Congressional Districts. Prior to his appointment as deputy director, he organized members in the north and northwest suburbs of Chicago, and directed ICIRR’s State-funded programs. In his spare time, Lawrence has managed, raised money, and volunteered on a number of political campaigns. He is a fellow in the 2009 class of Leadership Greater Chicago, and lives with his wife and three children on the Southside of Chicago.

Secretary Anita Banerji: Anita was born in Philadelphia and raised on the outskirts of the city. She and her family were intricately involved in the Bengali Association out there before they moved to the Midwest when she was in junior high. Anita, a South Asian American, became directly involved in Asian American issues in during her undergraduate days, as one of the first interns for the Asian American Studies program at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. She interned for then U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown one summer during college on Capitol Hill and she knew after that summer that she wanted to work to advance public policy, once she graduated. Upon graduation, she went to work for U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer’s Washington, DC office before she became the community relations associate for the Indian American Center for Political Awareness, a national Indian American non-profit organization that was based in the nation’s capital. Anita returned to Illinois to pursue her master’s degree in multicultural communications at DePaul University in 2003. She worked for State Senator Jeff Schoenberg, as his chief legislative aide for three years in Evanston and recently joined the Federation for Community Schools in Chicago, as their policy associate, as she has a penchant for education policy and would like to see some good work done to help struggling schools in the State.

Treasurer Ben Lumicao: Ben is a Counsel in the Allstate Insurance Company Law Department, where he advises Allstate and its affiliates on regulatory, legislative and compliance concerns affecting property and casualty insurance operations. He was an Angier B. Duke Scholar at Duke University, earning both an A.B. in Public Policy Studies and his law degree there. Ben is a member of the Allstate Law Department Diversity Committee and Executive Director of 3AN, the Allstate Asian American Network, one of Allstate’s employee network groups. He is a Vice Chair of the Property Insurance Law Committee of the ABA’s Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section. Among his civic activities, Ben is on the Board of Directors of the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Chicago Area. He is on the Board of Commissioners of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations and has chaired its Advisory Council on Asian Affairs since 2001, and was a past Board Member and Organizer of the Leadership Center for Asian Pacific Americans. He was a member of the Leadership Greater Chicago Fellows Class of 2004. In 2002, the Organization of Chinese Americans honored him with both its Corporate Achievement and national Community Service Awards. In 2005, Ben was named a recipient of the Chicago Bar Association’s Vanguard Award, given to institutions and lawyers who have made the law and legal profession more accessible to and reflective of the community at-large. The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association recognized Ben in 2006 as one of its “Best Lawyers Under 40.”

Selma D’Souza: Selma is a partner in the law firm of D’Souza & Gosrisirikul Ltd. in Chicago, practicing in the areas of real estate, family law, litigation, and estate planning. In addition to the AAA-Fund, she has served as a board member on other PACs, and volunteered on numerous local, state, and federal campaigns. She is a Past President of the Indo-American Democratic Organization (IADO), having served on their Board for ten years, and also has served on the Board of the Democratic Leadership for the 21st Century (DL21C). Selma currently serves on the Boards of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), and WilPower, a political action committee of the Illinois Women’s Bar Association. She also serves on Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Lt. Governor Pat Quinn’s Asian Advisory Councils, and served for three years on the City of Chicago’s Commission on Human Relations, Council on Asian Affairs. Selma was a delegate to the 2000 and 2004 Democratic Conventions and is a 2008 Obama delegate.

Anjana Hansen: Anjana is extremely familiar with the political process, as she ran her own successful campaign for an aldermanic seat in the City of Evanston. Elected in 2005, she is the only Asian Pacific American on the City Council of Evanston. Anjana is of Indian and Filipino ancestry and was born and raised in Chicago¹s Roger¹s Park neighborhood. Anjana has been a Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney since graduating the John Marshall Law School in 1997. Her specialty is in the area of criminal law. She has taught in the area of criminal law at the Institute for Paralegal Studies at Loyola University and is currently, an instructor for Evanston’s Citizen’s Police Academy. She has been a supporter of Bacara U.S.A., an organization dedicated to enriching the lives of Bacaranians living in the United States as well as those in the Philippines. Anjana is also a board member of the Democratic Party of Evanston.

Bethann Hester: Bethann consults with the non-profit and government sectors, focusing primarily on youth-development, community-inclusion, and poverty-reduction initiatives. An advocate for access to education through national service, Bethann is an alumna of Public Allies Chicago, an Illinois AmeriCorps program. She also held in progressive staff management roles with the community-leadership organization and ultimately as executive director. Bethann served as finance co-chair for Naisy Dolar’s 2007 aldermanic campaign directing a successful grassroots-fundraising effort that generated more than $250,000 from 1,000-plus donors. She grew up in the DC Metro area and has lived in Chicago since graduating from Northwestern University.”

Jin Lee: Jin Lee immigrated to the United States from South Korea at age 14. He is currently the Director of Business Planning and Development at the Albany Park Community Center (APCC) on Chicago’s northwest side working directly with community organizations, businesses, schools and public officials to
maintain community stability and promote economic development. Prior to APCC, Jin was the Executive Director of the Chicago Korean American Chamber of Commerce. Dedicated to promoting the rights of ethnic Koreans and preserving Korea’s national identity in the United States, he serves on the Asian American Advisory Council for Illinois Secretary of State and Illinois State Treasurer, Illinois Council of Minority Business Organization, Board of Trustees at Northeastern Illinois University and Village of Skokie’s Immigrant Advisory Task Force. Jin was appointed as Executive Director at Overseas Korean Political Council. Jin has received numerous awards for advocating on behalf of immigrant communities including recognitions by the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Republic of Korea and Office of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Eric Mah: Eric is President of Gim Electric Co., Inc., an electrical contracting business whose clients include Whole Foods, the City of Chicago, Northwestern University, and Loyola University. He joined the AAAF after recognizing the importance of building and sustaining pan-Asian unity and collaboration on issues of concern to the Asian American community. In 2004, when the City of Chicago changed its minority-contracting program to exclude Asian American businesses, Eric joined the fight for equitable access to the city’s affirmative action programs. Eric and other Asian American small business owners received tremendous legal and policy advice and support from local AA nonprofits that had deep experience in working with the City and in organizing for policy change. Their combined efforts ultimately led to a successful outcome for Asian American business owners. On a personal level, this experience reinforced Eric’s belief in the need for Asian Americans to have a political voice. In addition to the AAAF, Eric is a member of the Asian Giving Circle, an organization that provides funding for various non-profit and community based organizations. He also served on the City of Chicago’s Affirmative Action Committee and participates in the Chicago Public Schools Principal for a Day program.

Eric Salcedo: A transplant from New Jersey, Eric Salcedo has been active in the Chicago community for nearly a decade. As a student, he pushed for the establishment of an Asian American Studies program at Northwestern University. He is an alumnus and former board member of Public Allies Chicago and has held positions with the Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, and the Office of the Illinois Attorney General. Most recently, Eric served as the Field Director for Naisy Dolar’s 2007 aldermanic bid to become the first Asian American elected to Chicago’s city council.

Joanna Su: A second-generation Chinese American, Joanna has worked and volunteered extensively in the AAPI community. She was the founding Executive Director of the Asian Health Coalition of Illinois and previously worked as the Director-Liaison for the City of Chicago’s Commission on Human Relations’ Advisory Council on Asian Affairs and as the Women’s Health Program Coordinator for the Vietnamese Association of Illinois. As a volunteer, Joanna has served as past president and board member of the Asian American Institute, a founding board member of the Asian American Suicide Prevention Initiative, a founding board member of the Leadership Center for Asian Pacific Ameicans, and an advisory board member of Chinese Mutual Aid Association. In the political sphere, Joanna volunteered as the operations manager for Naisy Dolar’s aldermanic campaign in 2006-07 and coordinated volunteers for Judge Sandra Otaka’s campaign in 2001-02. Joanna grew up in Farmington Hills, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. She earned a master’s degree in social welfare from the University of California at Berkeley and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan.

Thu Vo: Thu is a first generation Vietnamese American and the first in her family to attend college and graduate school. She is the Chief of Strategic Partnerships and Information and Special Assistant to the Director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (IDCFS). In this role, Thu is charged with forwarding numerous strategic initiatives for the Director, including IDCFS’ role in combating human trafficking, the strengthening families initiative, the regional and statewide youth advisory boards, child welfare immigration policy, early learning initiative, and the trauma informed initiative. She previously worked as Senior Policy Associate for the Illinois Governor¹s Office of New Americans Policy and Advocacy, managing a process to create immigration integration policy changes amongst a collection of key state agencies. After graduate school at Loyola University’s School of Social work in 2004, Thu worked as a clinician at the University of Chicago Hospitals Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Department where she counseled at risk youth, earning her license in clinical social work over time. Thu has volunteered and engaged with various Asian-American organizations. She currently serves as a strategic advisor to the Illinois Vietnamese Student Union; and she was a participant and/or board member for the Leadership Center for Asian Pacific Americans, Asian Human Services, and the Southeast Asian Resource Action Center. Prior to graduate school and after her undergraduate work at Calvin College, Thu worked as a community organizer in southern California, developing programs with a Latino community outside of Buena Park. She was the recipient of the Albert Schweitzer Health Fellowship in 2004 and served as a Mentor for Fellows in subsequent years. Thu was elected to be a Presidential Delegate to the 2004 Democratic National Convention and has volunteered extensively for various political candidates.

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