September Business Meeting – Grace Pai, Director of Advancing Justice–Chicago

Our September Business Meeting was attended by about 70 CALL members. President Lindsey Carpino opened the meeting by thanking outgoing board members (Jessie LeMar, who is now Past President, Joe Mitzenmacher, and Jesse Bowman) and welcoming the board members that joined in May (Vice President/President-Elect Jamie Sommer, Treasurer Tom Keefe, and Director Mandy Lee). Lindsey noted that we’re maintaining our usual schedule as best as possible, including virtual Business Meetings, calls for grants and awards, and continuing education events. Virtual happy hours have been popular and will continue. Further, we will ramp up diversity and inclusion efforts this year.

Jamie Sommer introduced our speaker, Grace Pai, who is Director of Organizing at Asian Americans Advancing Justice–Chicago (Advancing Justice). She has been organizing in the Chicago area for seven years and joined Asian Americans Advancing Justice in April 2018 as the Senior Community Organizer for the Midwest and moved to her current role in 2019. Ms. Pai has traveled across the region training Asian American organizations and their staff on building frameworks, civic engagement, and issue-based advocacy. In 2017 the organization “adopted a new racial equity mission” to expand its network and “win on issues that affect all marginalized communities.”

Ms. Pai spoke more specifically about the idea of building power, which means organizing money and people around ideas. Advancing Justice doesn’t bankroll political candidates but is focused on making sure marginalized groups have the ability to make decisions. They want to make sure that no community is negatively impacted by what the organization seeks and move resources to areas with the greatest need.

Ms. Pai outlined how Advancing Justice seeks to achieve this. They engage with other groups on issues of immigrant rights at the local, state, and federal level. At the local and state level, they’re focused on ending collaboration between local authorities and ICE, and they supported passing the Illinois TRUST Act in 2017. At the federal level, they have worked with other groups to stop the separation of families at the border and otherwise interrupt the criminalization of immigrants.

They also focus on language access. Because immigrants with limited English proficiency have a difficult time getting to important information or services, they are trying to expand the required languages that information must be given in. They seek expanded funding to make sure that these efforts are targeted where they’re needed and want a statewide Language Justice Act. Ms. Pai pointed out that our communities do not all have equitable access to voting for the officials and policies that impact them, and poll watching regularly identifies issues for those already eligible when it comes to language access. An increase access to in-language resources and ballots would effectively expand access. Advancing Justice runs the largest non-partisan poll watching program in Illinois focused on language access.

Regarding education equity, Ms. Pai noted that most schools don’t have adequate resources to ensure immigrant and refugee students have equal opportunity for success. They push for investment in resources that cater to immigrant and refugee students, advocate for culturally relevant curriculum that includes immigrant histories, and seek change to CPS policies that disadvantage English language learners. Through their youth-based KINETIC program, they also support a shift resources away from policing in CPS, enacting a state-wide bill to mandate that Asian-American history be taught as part of the Illinois public school curriculum, and developing the leadership skills of immigrant and refugee youth.

A final prong of their advocacy concerns police accountability. Advancing Justice asserts that policing, as part of the larger prison industrial complex, is an inherently racist institution and actively harms communities of color, especially Black communities. They seek to hold police accountable, divest from policing, and invest in community resources like schools, mental health clinics, and workforce development programs.

Question and Answer
Q: How have organizing efforts changed during the pandemic?
A: Because this is a census year, we’re focused on getting people to respond to that. We’re doing a lot of phone banking, working with people who speak the language of who we’re contacting. We’re putting ads on social media and other digital infrastructure. We’ve seen engagement with our posts, which is good for geographically dispersed communities that may not have been reached physically otherwise.

Q: I’m curious about the Asian-American community having the ability to make decisions.
A: State-wide the population is about 10%, mostly focused in Cook. It’s the fastest growing community in the area and country, and we want to make sure it’s involved in decisions that impact it.

Q: What’s the impact on the work of your organization in Asian countries?
A: We’re mostly focused on domestic work, but we have increasingly had to deal with international issues. We pay attention to the Philippines (their anti-terror bill criminalizes dissent, which can have an impact outside of that country), and decisions in India end up affecting the community here. We have been asked to weigh in on things like this.

Q: What information or resources are provided to assist you, especially by libraries? Do you have any legislative partners in Springfield?
A: We haven’t worked with libraries, and we don’t provide legal services. We’re mainly focused on advocacy. We’re one of a few pan-Asian organizations in the area working to bring people together, so that’s why they focus on advocacy. Regarding legislative partners, there are a few Asian American legislators in Springfield. There’s now an Asian-American caucus, which didn’t exist before 2014. We also work with officials who aren’t Asian American but have constituencies that largely are.

Q: Could you share any volunteer opportunities?
A: Our big priority right now is passing the Fair Tax. Many of our partners work with state funding, so budget cuts have been harmful. We can use volunteers for phone banking, and we have an app to help people reach people on their contact list.

Committee Announcements

  • Community Service – Jesse Bowman noted you can donate to today’s organization, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, on their site. The committee will also send a message with volunteer opportunities
  • Membership – Clare Willis announced that an email reminder to renew will go out to members who haven’t done so already. If you are furloughed or laid off, email Jessie LeMar and your dues for the year will be cleared.
  • Grants and Chapter Awards – Joe Mitzenmacher announced last year’s award winners, since we didn’t meet in May:

The Agnes and Harvey Reid Award for Outstanding Contribution to Law Librarianship went to Diana Koppang and Clare Willis.

Outstanding Lifetime Achievement in Law Librarianship went to Kathleen Powers Goodridge.

The Outstanding In-House Publication Award went to Jesse Bowman for his work on the Alexa Skill setup to give information about the Pritzker Legal Research Center, including hours, research guides, and more.

  • Nominations and Election – Joe Mitzenmacher announced that the committee is currently seeking 2021-22 nominations for Vice President, Secretary, and Director.
  • Continuing Education –Todd Hillmer announced a webinar on September 28 from 12:30-1:30 on nailing your AMPC proposal.
  • Bulletin – Matt Timko announced that the next (this) issue (257) will focus on how re-opening during the pandemic has looked like for CALL institutions.