'Our Chicago: Asian Voices' celebrates stories of local AAPI community

Judy Hsu and Ravi Baichwal host with contributions from Cate Cauguiran and Eric Horng

Sunday, May 22, 2022
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ABC 7 Chicago is celebrating the stories of the AAPI community and sharing their voices in this year's half hour special, "Our Chicago: Asian Voices."

CHICAGO (WLS) -- ABC 7 Chicago is celebrating the stories of the AAPI community and sharing their voices in this year's half-hour special, "Our Chicago: Asian Voices."

We'll see how Chinese American Service League (CASL) is using data and research to help pinpoint the diverse needs of the AAPI community and get a one-on-one with the 11th Ward's newest and first Asian American alderwoman. Then, hear about the harrowing journey to freedom for an immigrant family from Cambodia. We'll grab a seat at two phenomenal restaurants, Thattu, a Southern Indian pop-up, and Kasama, a Michelin-starred Filipino fusion spot. Then, we'll meet an American Ninja Warrior defying the odds despite his battle with Parkinson's. And finally, we hear the healing poems of Luya Poetry, a local organization lifting up Asian American poets across Chicago.

The hosts of this ABC7 Chicago special are Judy Hsu and Ravi Baichwal, with contributions from Cate Cauguiran and Eric Horng.


Chinese American Service League (CASL) has developed a dynamic new initiative, Change InSight. CEO, Paul Luu, and COO, Jered Pruitt, sit down with Judy to explain the need behind this new program. Change InSight analyzes, disseminates, researches and publishes data around the unique needs of immigrant communities, focusing on social determinants of health data. With the AAPI community in Chicago nearly doubling between 2000 and 2019 (Pew Research), Luu and Pruitt see the program giving every ethnic group within the AAPI community their own unique voice. The data is invaluable in helping get important resources for the community.

Nicole Lee:

Nicole Lee has always been an engaged member of her community, but never imagined being a leader in it. Lee now sits as the first Asian American Alderwoman for the 11th Ward of Chicago. She talks about the rich and diverse community in her Ward, her pride in having grown up there and the gratification that comes with now being able to represent friends, neighbors and 11th Ward Chicagoans on city council.

Lao Family:

Peng and Sou Hor fled their home to the U.S. in 1980 during the Cambodian genocide with their five young children. Their harrowing journey was fraught with danger. When they finally arrived in Chicago with no money and no ability to speak English, they worked hard, persevered and maintained a giving spirit. They recall their journey to freedom and how they made the American dream come true for themselves and their children. Now more than 40 years later, their five children include two doctors, two engineers, an attorney and a granddaughter who is a pediatrician.


Vinod Kalathil and Margaret Pak are husband and wife and partner restaurateurs serving up Southern Indian delights. Their mission is to highlight the unique diversity within Indian cuisine. Kalathil, a native to Kerela, India says "Food is different. The diversity needs to be known not just in Chicago, but around the world." The couple is turning their pop-up restaurant, Thattu , into an official establishment space. They're adding more unique dishes to their delicious southern Indian menu and hoping to bring more diversity to Chicago's food scene. Thattu is scheduled to open its doors in the fall of 2022 in Avondale.


Chefs Genie Kwon and Tim Flores own Kasama, a Filipino fusion restaurant in the East Ukrainian Village neighborhood. They talk about how they went from a quaint café with plastic cups and little seating room, to a Michelin-star Filipino restaurant. Kwon says despite their modernization of certain Filipino meals, they still get customers who come in for those familiar tastes and culinary memories. With multiple reservations booked weeks in advance, Kasama has made its mark on Chicago's food scene.

Jimmy Choi:

Nothing stands in the way of American Ninja Warrior athlete Jimmy Choi, not even Parkinson's disease. At just 27, Choi was diagnosed which left him in a depressive state for years. It wasn't until he took a fall down the stairs, only to look up to faces of fear from his wife and young kids, that he decided to make major changes for his health and life. He started small, just taking walks around the block. But those walks turned into jogs and those turned into runs. Today, Choi has run in over 100 half marathons, 16 marathons, an ultra marathon and many more athletic feats. But he says his greatest accomplishment has been his and his wife's advocacy work in researching Parkinson cures, including raising over $700,000 dollars. Choi says he will always continue pushing himself and being a voice for others in the Parkinson's community.

To learn more about Jimmy Choi's work and how you can give towards curing Parkinson's, click here.

Luya Poetry:

Chris Aldana founded Luya, a local poetry organization in 2018. The idea formed when she noticed the lack of Asian poets as she was going around. "I know the people in our community have the stories to tell. So I was wondering where those folks were," Aldana says. She chose the name Luya because it means ginger in Filipino. She thought the idea of ginger, often used in Asian cultures to heal, was the perfect sentiment for the healing process many artists and poets can find at Luya.