Asian American leaders pushing for Asian-majority ward as areas are redrawn following census

Monday, October 4, 2021
Asian American leaders push for Asian-majority ward
Chicago Asian American leaders have been fighting for decades for a majority Asian ward that includes all of Chinatown.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Every ten years Chicago aldermen get to redraw the 50 wards, and C.W. Chan, the founder and board member of the Coalition For A Better Chinese American Community, has been fighting for decades for a majority Asian ward that includes all of Chinatown.

"The fact that we have been advocating for Chinatown to be included in one single legislative district and we have succeeded with the state ten years ago but not with the city, it's not because of the lack of merit," he said. "I believe it's the lack of political will-power."

The proposed 11th Ward would also include parts of Bridgeport, Armour Square and McKinley Park.

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"The population of Asian Americans in Chinatown, Bridgeport and McKinley Park has grown tremendously over the past 30 years and it's important to make sure that there's a unified voice," said Grace Chan McKibben, the executive director of the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community.

Asians were the fastest growing racial group in Chicago from 2010 to 2020 according to data by the U.S. Census Bureau. The population increased by 45,000. Asians make up 7% of the city's population.

Currently there's not a single Asian American on city council. Some Asian American leaders said the community is often forgotten, but that seems to be changing.

Since the start of the pandemic, there's been a rise of anti-Asian sentiment. In response last summer, Illinois became the first state to require Asian American history be taught in public schools.

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"We just passed the TEAACH Act. There's momentum there. It's about representation of our community, having a voice at the table," said Paul Luu, the CEO of the Chinese American Service League.

David Wu, the executive director of the Pui Tak Center, is also pushing for a majority Asian ward.

"You have to be in the room to make a difference and hopefully we can be in the room this next decade," he said.

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With the Latino Caucus pushing for more representation on council with the city's changing demographics and the Black Caucus wanting to protect the majority-Black wards, the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community wants to make sure Asian Americans are not left out.

"People think of resources as a zero sum gain. If you gain something, I will lose something, when it's much more important to think about how we lift up marginalized voices. When some group is disadvantaged, other groups should rally around to support them," Chan McKibben said.

The city council has until December 1 to approve a ward map.