By Donna Wong. Posted September 25, 2018.
“The South is the new destination for Asian immigrants,” – Karthick Ramakrishnan, the founder of AAPI Data.
Karthick Ramakrishnan’s statement certainly holds true for Georgia. The Asian American population has quickly doubled in Georgia, attracting more families and immigrants to move and live here. As a result, more communities are organizing to become a united voice for change in policies, for resources and for political representation in all government positions—local and state-wide.
In Georgia, the number of Asian Americans grew 136 percent from 2000 to 2016, and now accounts for over 375,000 people or 4 percent of the total population. The predominant ethnic groups of the 305,000 Asians living in Metro Atlanta are South Asian Indian, Korean, Vietnamese and Chinese. In 2018, Morrow, Duluth and Johns Creeks are metro Atlanta communities with around 30% Asian American residents.
About two-thirds of the Asian population in Georgia are citizens of the U.S. The number of Asian Americans registered to vote in Georgia doubled from 2004 to 2012 and turnout increased 168 percent. Around 80 percent of Asian-Americans voted Democrat in Georgia.
In Atlanta, Georgia, Asian Americans are out—canvassing door-to-door, registering voters, informing them about absentee ballots and early voting deadlines, fundraising, and organizing Georgia Democrats to elect Democrats in November and turn the state of Georgia Blue.
On September 17, 2018, I people attended “The AAPI Business Leaders Reception with Stacey Abrams” to meet Abrams and hear her talk about her vision. The reception also featured Asian Democratic candidates in local races. It was a wonderful opportunity to hear these leaders and to see a strong gathering of Asian Americans of different ethnicities and ages—all in support of a Democratic platform.
My friend, Lani Wong, a leading member of the Georgia Advancing Progress PAC, helped coordinate this fundraiser-outreach event along with Grace Choi, the first appointed Georgia Democrats-AAPI Coordinated Campaign Director. The event was Standing Room Only with 150 people at the Canton House dim-sum restaurant on Buford Highway, a global food corridor known for its ethnic diversity. Several TV news outlets and local media covered this event, capturing the diverse atmosphere and enthusiasm.
In introduction of Stacey Abrams, Lani Wong said, “For Asians, we heard ‘go to school, work hard, and take care of each other.’ Like many of us, first generation Asians immigrants, Stacey’s family also struggled to make ends meet. Stacey and her five siblings grew up in Mississippi. Her parent’s unwavering commitment to education, to provide educational opportunities for their children and led the family to Georgia. Stacey and her siblings were educated right here in Dekalb County. Let’s welcome Stacey.”
Stacey began her presentation by talking about her opposition to the constitutional amendment that would strip away the rights to publish information in any language other than English. This bill would have made it unlawful for teachers and public health officials to print and share information with the public in other languages, and for attorney general to print information about civil rights in other languages. It would require all communications to be in English only. Note that ten percent of Georgia’s population was born in another country.
Even though Stacey Adams represented a district that has a small population of Asian Americans and Latinos, and is largely African American and majority white, she worked to overturn this bill in 2016.
”As a Georgian and as an American woman, I had to stand up and speak against that bill. Working with others, we were able to defeat that bill that would have stripped away rights from everyone in the state of Georgia.
I’m running for Governor of Georgia because I believe every Georgian here should have the freedom and the opportunity to thrive. We can’t cherry pick the Georgians that we want to succeed. We have to look beyond those that are already successful and help with everyone else,” said Abrams.
Abrams continued, “If we stand together, we will all be made whole. I want service cancelable college loans (for teachers, doctors, first responders) and to create need based aid (not every family has the means) to send children to college who should have the opportunity to go. We need to do the work for education, but we need to build a thriving diverse business economy for all 150 counties and not just for the counties but for the communities in those counties.
We know Georgia has a reputation for being a #1 state to do business in, one of the top states. But the problem is we also have one of the highest poverty rates in the states—18.4%. We have one of the top maternal and infant mortality rates in the country. We have a low high school graduation rate. So, that means if we want to be the best state FOR business, we have to become the best state to DO business— the business of living and the business of life. That’s what we need for our next Governor!” The audience enthusiastically applauded Stacey and signed up for volunteering, yard signs, and donating to her campaign.
Part of Stacey Abrams speech included a passage that marks her guts and grace. She recounts an encounter with racism that left her more determined than ever to seek justice for everyone.
Before Abrams spoke, five Asian American Democratic candidates for local offices gave brief remarks and advocated for healthcare, education, immigration-refugee policies, support for small businesses, and equal opportunity.They pointed out the urgent need to change politics in Georgia to support all communities. These diverse candidates also pledged their support for Stacey Abrams to become the first African American woman Governor of Georgia.
Here are five Asian American candidates who will change the face of Georgia politics:
Ben Ku is a Chinese American candidate for Gwinnett County Commission, District 2 (Peachtree Corners, Norcross, Tucker and Lilburn): “It’s a big district. I am committed to improving our transportation, accessibility, and equality, and engaging all residents.”
Aisha Yaqoob, is a Muslim American and a former lobbyist, and now a candidate for GA House District 97 (Duluth, Suwanee) . Aisha founded the Georgia Muslim Voter Project, an organization whose mission is to increase voter turnout in the American Muslim community. Aisha is a professional advocate for immigrant rights at the state Capitol, working with legislators on both sides of the aisle to push for civil rights for immigrants and people of color. “We must do all that we can to make sure that immigrants have the opportunity to participate in — and grow — Georgia’s economy and workforce.”
Angelika Kausche , a candidate for House District 50, is a retired professor and a German immigrant and U.S. naturalized citizen who running to represent the diverse residents in Johns Creek. “I’m working to reach out to voters who have not voted before. The Johns Creek district is over 50% people of color.” She knows that many immigrants often get overlooked by the conventional campaigns. She is a strong advocate for public education. https://www.facebook.com/AngelikaForGA/