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ElevAsian Launches Milwaukee’s First Asian Restaurant Week Celebrating Over 50 Restaurants

Teran Powell
Lucky Liu's on the east side of Milwaukee was forced to close for over a month in 2020 because of racist attacks against workers. The restaurant is one of over 50 being featured in Milwaukee's AAPI Restaurant Week.

Across the country, racist attacks on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) have only continued to grow. A recent survey done by the nonprofit Leading Asian Americans to Unite for Change, found that only 23% of Asian American responders said that they feel respected in their community.

Jenny Lee, owner of Perilla Kitchen, is a member of ElevAsian — a group of AAPI community leaders who work to promote the voices of all AAPI people in Greater Milwaukee.

Chapli kebab (left), chicken tikka (center) and mixed vegetables (right) from Peshawar in Greenfield.
Jenny Lee
Chapli kebab (left), chicken tikka (center) and mixed vegetables (right) from Peshawar in Greenfield.

As a part of ElevAsian’s celebration of AAPI Heritage Month this May, the organization created Asian Restaurant Week. From Sunday, May 16 to Saturday, May 22, ElevAsian is encouraging Milwaukeeans to support local Asian restaurants.

“This is just a way to be positive, a way to be like, ‘Hey! Please support us. Please support Asian Pacific Americans and enjoy the food,'” Lee explains.

For Milwaukeeans who may not be totally familiar with the wide range of AAPI cuisine available in the city, ElevAsian put together a list of over 50 restaurantsranging from Chinese to Hawaiian to Vietnamese.

“There’s so much you can look at, at this list and just try something new,” she says.

With the rise of attacks on Asian people since the beginning of the pandemic, Lee says anytime she goes out, the threat of someone confronting her is in the back of her mind.

The killing of eight people in Atlanta in March by a gunman targeting Asian victims happened the same week Lee got her first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. Despite feeling relief that she would soon be protected against the deadly virus, she was reminded once again of the violence that people face just because they are AAPI. Those emotions overwhelmed her when she returned to her car after receiving the vaccine, so she sat and cried.

“I started crying because it was like, because I understood that I was protected from, I was protected from COVID but I wasn’t vaccinated from racism,” she says.

That’s why ElevAsian puts together events like Asian Restaurant Week to help fight racism by exposing more people to parts of Asian and Pacific Islander culture and show that Asian American and Pacific Islanders are an important part of the Milwaukee community.

“We are part of the fabric of the United States, we’re here to stay,” says Lee. “So, we have a place here, it’s important to see the Asian American experience.”

Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
From 2020 to 2021, Jack was WUWM's digital intern and then digital producer.
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