Celebrating Chinatown, celebrating community

CHANGE Illinois was honored to receive the C. W. Chan Chinatown Partner Award from the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community (CBCAC) at its 25th anniversary celebration. The award recognized our support for the Chinatown community’s redistricting efforts in 2021–22 through CHANGE Illinois’ work as the organization that created and supported a resident-led advisory ward redistricting commission, the Chicago Advisory Redistricting Commission (CARC). The people-powered commission was the first to draw an Asian-American majority ward around the Chinatown neighborhood. An Asian-American majority ward eventually was adopted by the Chicago City Council.

“We’re honored to receive this recognition for our work in support of independent, community-powered ward mapping,” said CHANGE Illinois Executive Director Madeleine Doubek. “We’re also thrilled to have had CBCAC’s partnership and congratulate the community for speaking up for its right to have a ward and representation that works for its people.”

To celebrate the power of community and advocacy, CHANGE Illinois staff joined our fellow activists, organizers, luminaries and elected officials at the New Furama restaurant in the Armour Square neighborhood for CBCAC’s annual fundraiser. The program and dinner was an excellent opportunity to reflect on the past 25 years for the dynamic and engaged Asian American and Pacific Islander community in Chinatown to assess the current state of the neighborhood, with Chicago’s first-ever majority Asian-American ward, and to ring in the next 25 years for the area.

 CHANGE Illinois, along with a diverse set of partner community groups and advocates, launched the resident-led independent commission—without ties to city government. The 13-member commission was tasked with drawing a ward map by and for the people of Chicago. In September 2021, the commission was the first group to engage with the community and release a publicly-drawn map based on community input containing a majority Asian-American ward, wherein the electorate around Chinatown would be able to select the alderperson of their choice for the first time in the city’s history. All ward maps produced subsequently followed the resident commission’s lead, reflecting the AAPI community’s strong testimony that such a ward should be drawn. 

CBCAC also recognized Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Chicago for its leadership and advocacy in recognizing the centrality of demographics in the Chicago redistricting process this decade. AAJC partnered with CHANGE Illinois and CBCAC in the Illinois Redistricting Collaborative CHANGE convenes. Other honorees included Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez, Ald.Jason Ervin and Ald.Gil Villegas.

The C.W. Chan Chinatown Partner Award is named for C.W. Chan, the founder and a long-term board member of CBCAC. A ceaseless advocate for Chinatown and a perennial presence in its robust community dialogue, Chan has worked to illuminate the issue of redistricting, and the importance of an Asian-majority ward, for five decades. Chan served on the independent selection committee for the resident commission, choosing commissioners for the work that would ensure a diverse racial, gender, age and geographic representation for the group that drew the first-ever ward map that prioritized community input and full transparency.