Our Chicago: Changing the Narrative celebrates AAPI Heritage Month

Saturday, May 20, 2023
Our Chicago: Changing the Narrative Part 1
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ABC7 Chicago celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with a half-hour special "Our Chicago: Changing the Narrative."

CHICAGO (WLS) -- ABC7 Chicago celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with vignettes and a series of news stories and a half-hour special "Our Chicago: Changing the Narrative".

Hosted by ABC7's Judy Hsu and Ravi Baichwal, "Our Chicago: Changing the Narrative," takes a look at several leaders in Chicago making history and changes in their community for the better.

We hosted our special from the beautiful Zhou Brothers Art Center located in the historic Bridgeport neighborhood.

The half hour program airs Saturday, May 20th at 6pm, with an encore presentation on Sunday May 28th at 2pm.

Grace Pai and the TEEACH Act

Grace Pai, the executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, made history in 2021 when she led a successful campaign to require Asian American history to be taught at all Illinois public schools, making Illinois the first state to do so.

"We looked at the school code. We looked at what are the requirements on histories that have often been left out," Paid said.

With its historic passage, the Teaching Equitable Asian American History Act (TEAACH) ensures that every public elementary and high school student in Illinois learns about the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to the economic, cultural, social and political development of the United States.

Chicago's First Filipina Alderwoman, Leni Manaa- Hoppenworth

Newly elected 48th Ward Alderwoman- Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth, will be the first Filipina and queer woman of color to sit on city council.

"When we are creating policy on things that will impact the whole city of Chicago, it matters if somebody is at the table," Ald. Manaa-Hoppenworth said.

She is the daughter of Filipino immigrants who came to the states to become nurses. Manaa-Hoppenworth is a lifelong Chicagoan, living and working in the 48th Ward for more than 20 years alongside her husband and three adult children. As a progressive Democrat, she has been an active force in her community for years, including co-founding the organizations Indivisible Illinois and ILVOTE.

Joffrey's Japanese Company Dancers- Yumi Kanazawa and Yoshihisa Arai

Yumi Kanazawa, born in Tokyo, Japan, and Yoshihisa Arai, born in Hiroshima, Japan, are both company dancers at Chicago's prestigious Joffrey Ballet. Since joining The Joffrey Ballet in 2016, Kanazawa has performed in many ballets and contemporary works including Wheeldon's "Swan Lake" and "The Nutcracker".

"Joffrey Ballet is such a dream company for so many people," Kanazawa said. "And it's such a big achievement to be able to be here."

Arai began his ballet training when he was 10 years old with the International Ballet Academy and has also had a leading role in "The Nutcracker" as well as appearing as the Prince in "Cinderella." In 2018, he choreographed "Firebird Suite" for The Joffrey Ballet Studio Company. The special showcases the beauty of their dancing and explore their shared culture.

Suzanne Yoon

Suzanne Yoon has 25 years of experience in finance and has been recognized by Mergers & Acquisitions, Wall Street Journal and Chicago United.

In 2017, the Chicagoan decided to create her own business, Kinzie Capital Partners, making her one of the only women in the country to lead a private equity firm.

"I felt like if I didn't do it, and didn't try, I would regret it," Yoon said. "And I'm sure that was a lot of what was going through my mom and dad's heads when they were leaving Korea to come to the States."

Vietnam Refugee, Restaurateur and Autism Advocate - Thi Tram Nguyen

Thi Tram Nguyen was born in Vietnam during the war and, at the end of the conflict, fled the country for a better life at age 8. Her Naperville restaurant, Chez Franois Poutinerie, has a two-fold goal: to introduce poutine to area residents and provide employment opportunities to developmentally disabled adults.

"A lot of people come for the poutine, but they're going to come back for the mission," Nyugen said.

In early February, she was given the Trailblazer Award by Turning Pointe Autism Foundation for her advocacy, and she just launched a 501(c)(3) nonprofit called Friends of Franois which is committed to providing free job and social skill training to individuals with disabilities.

Indian Wedding Traditions

Jankhana Desai is a South Asian event planner who offers insight into some of the rich traditions that are part of Indian wedding culture, including the henna ceremony for the bride and the groom's barat, where he makes a grand entrance, to singing and dancing in the streets of Chicago.

"The décor is outrageous, the food is outrageous and the guest list is over 500," Desai said, "I would say it's a little more elaborate than your normal wedding day."