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How the AAPI Coalition of Wisconsin is working to change education and engage voters

AAPI coalition of Wisconsin
Jessica Boling (second from left) and Lorna Young (far right).

Six percent of the population of Wisconsin identifies as Asian. And according to the latest census, Asian populations have steadily increased — including here in Milwaukee County. But, AAPI communities aren’t fully represented in local politics or in the state’s history books.

Jessica Boling and Lorna Young are the executive committee of theAsian American Pacific Islander Coalition of Wisconsin. They both share more about their efforts to increase Asian American history in state education and engage more AAPI voters.

Young starts, "The AAPI Coalition of Wisconsin is comprised of over 20 organizations and leaders across the state, and one thing we realize is that it would help to pursue a couple pathways to achieve the mission of having Wisconsin implement an educational curriculum that includes AAPI history, culture and contributions."

She continues that the AAPI Coalition of Wisconsin is taking two routes to achieve this. One is through the state Legislature by trying to amend Act 31, which mandated the education of history and heritage of Native Americans, Black Americans and Hispanic Americans. However, attempts to add Asian Americans into that legislation has been meet with deaf ears, Young explains.

The other route has been administrative. "MPS developed a resolution which was passed up through the channels in the WASB, or the Wisconsin Association of School Board," she explains. And, 70% of the school districts voted yes to include AAPI history.

Boling adds that if the state starts teaching AAPI history from a young age, there can be a chance to have more visibility, education and understanding around the AAPI community.

It can leave the AAPI community feeling stuck with this idea of being the perpetual foreigner, she says.

"When you don't see yourself reflected in history, when you're looking at American history that perpetuates this idea even more, but to see yourself included, I think as this identity of we are American, and that we're not this perpetual foreigner— I think it increases identity and pride in your country as well, when you can see yourself reflected in history," Boling explains.

When it comes to voter issues, Boling emphasizes candidate forums so that candidates can connect with the AAPI community and hear the needs.

Still, she acknowledges that people from the community still don't feel as though their vote matters here in Wisconsin.

"The more they are feeling accepted in their communities, but also feel strong about their identity, more likely they are going to engage in the civic environment that they are living in and have and seek ways to make change and also to support what is going well in their country," says Boling.

Mallory Cheng was a Lake Effect producer from 2021 to 2023.
Kobe Brown was WUWM's fifth Eric Von fellow.
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