Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Student Activist: Carrie Kagawa (Chicago, IL)

Every so often, I plan on having an entry just for strong student leaders within the Asian American community to share their insight and experiences to the future leaders of this community. What better way to kick things off right than with one of the CoChairs of the MAASU Spring Conference 2007,
Carrie Kagawa!

What is your cultural background?
I am half Chinese and half Japanese.

What is your favorite television show?
The Hills. LC is my BFF. Haa, jk. No seriously...

What is your favorite color?
Teal

What have you been previously involved with in the Asian American community?
During my four years in college, I was primarily involved with the Asian Pacific American Coalition, serving as a Community Outreach member (1 semester), Secretary (2 years), and Intercollegiate Off Campus Representative (1 year). I was also a strong supporter of the MAASU conferences during my four years. I attended 6 conferences total! Haha.


When did you first get started with Asian American activism?

I received my first taste of Asian American activism my freshmen year of college. One of my older peers reached out and suggested that I apply for the Asian Pacific American Coalition. I applied and then got heavily involved in the Asian American community. This was my first experience with Asian American activism. Coming from a small town in east central Illinois, there were limited opportunities to get involved with culturally based organizations, specifically Asian American organizations. So this first experience really made an impact on me, and I am thankful that my peer reached out to me and that I got involved right away.

As one of the Co-Chairs for the MAASU SC 07 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, how was the whole experience for you and how did that align with your vision for this conference?
The whole conference experience was fantastic. Everything from the fundraising events, to the board members, to the conference attendees, to the actual conference weekend was a pleasure. There were obviously hard times that we had to work through. But after this experience I have complete faith in the power of student mobilization. My vision for this conference was to try and incorporate all facets of Asian American life. This is everything from politics, to activism, to entertainment, to career building, to Asian American health. I feel our board did a great job of creating an all encompassing conference that was as well rounded as possible. And this display of student organization shows how much students can accomplish.

What do you consider to be the most pressing social issue affecting the Asian American community?
There are many pressing social issues facing the Asian American community, such as racism and discrimination, issues of the glass ceiling, immigration, and employment. However, one issue that I feel is of great importance is the lack of Asian American presence in the education system. In general, there is a lack of Asian American figures and events in the history textbooks. This lack of presence severely neglects a large part of America's history. Asian American history is a great part of the larger American history. And the bipolar nature of history (as a purely black and white story) needs to be adjusted to be more all inclusive.

Who would you say is your hero (besides me)?
Other than Ajay Alexander, my grandmother is my hero. She immigrated to the United States, and literally had $30 when she immigrated to Hawaii. My grandmother then worked three jobs, and eventually brought over my grandfather, my mother, and her three siblings. The struggle she went through to make life better for our family is truly remarkable.


Thank you Carrie for taking the time to share your insight and time with us all. You definitely rock!

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