Power and Politics - I am Not the Yellow Peril

The life and times of an Asian American activist who tells all the truth (and dishes news and analysis) but with a leftwards slant.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Philly City Council vote tomorrow

Andy Toy is poised to become the first city councilman in Philadelphia - the vote is tomorrow! He is a third generation Chinese American who has been a community leader and public servant.

I am seriously proud of all of the Asian American men and women who are stepping up and changing the face of politics. We are coming into our own as a political community, and making our voices heard. Even more, I am proud that we have candidates who don't run from being Asian American, but who are not simply limited to being a candidate of color, who run to represent Asian Americans and all Americans. Sam Yoon is a good example of an elected official who care about race and class, but is able to speak authentically to multiple communities.

Indeed, the similarities and parallels between the two are very interesting:

Sam used to work on economic development issues at ACDC; Andy worked on economic development for Philly. They also both have a Masters in Public Policy and went to Ivy League schools (Andy to UPenn for both and Sam to Princeton undergrad and Harvard grad.) Both are Asian American men. (C'mon sisters, we need more Madison Nguyens and Jennifer Kims!) Both built progressive, multi-ethnic coalitions that helped elect them to at-large city council positions - well, Toy will win ;)

Stewart Ikeda writes:

The diversity of his supporters will be key to Toy’s victory. Sure, he hopes to, and would be proud to, become the first Asian American councilman in his city. Unsurprisingly, his face is all over Chinatown, and he has attracted attention of national groups such as APAs for Progress, even as Boston’s Sam Yoon did in 2005. But although he served on Governor Rendell’s Commission of Asian Americans and as Board Chair for the city’s Chinatown Development Corporation, Toy knows he can’t win the at-large seat as the “Asian American candidate,” and he really doesn’t want to.

But he does believe that building multicultural connections among the city’s often-segregated communities is imperative to the survival and success of them all. Diversity is a key theme of his campaign, but for Toy, fostering educational, employment and financial equity is not just campaign rhetoric. He believes strongly that creating such opportunities is a necessity – that attracting, training, and retaining people of color and, significantly, immigrants is crucial to reversing the city’s slide.

Toy is the descendant of immigrants who struggled against hard odds, through the usual ups and downs of building lives and small businesses in America. In a campaign video by the Chinese-American filmmaker Eric Byler, Toy compares Philadelphia to other turned-around cities. “We have to realize…” he says, “What stemmed the population loss and helped New York, Boston and Chicago is that they had a lot of immigrants come in and create vibrant communities and a great mix. It’s an economic development issue, really.”

Well, perhaps this is a trend emerging in Asian American candidates, and we can see a path to success from the similarities between the two men.

Also, in light of the immigration bill currently wending its way through Congress, which might gut family reunification provisions that have allowed Asian Americans to reunite with loved ones here in America, I point to both Sam, a member of the 1.5 generation, as one of the finest examples of what Asian American immigrants have accomplished for this country. Toy recognizes that the immigrant spirit is what keeps America's entrepreneuism alive and thriving. Let's hope our elected officials in Congress do the same.

PS: I'll post the final results of the race tomorrow or the day after. Yeah, I'm a political junkie, and the internet feeds my habit so badly. I spend all day attached to my keyboard like I'm freebasing (not that I actually have first hand experience.) I go to sleep next to my laptop and the first thing I do in the mornings is check the blogs. Someone send me to a clinic, stat!

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