Immigration, the DREAM Act, Buddhism, and the myth of the “quiet Asian”- Part 3

In a three part series, Karn Saetang, a Chicago youth organizer for the Korean American Resource and Cultural Center, shares his personal story, how his Buddhist faith guides his work, and how Asian-American youth in Chicago are busting the myth of the quiet Asian.

Today, Karn writes about his organizing experiences in Chicago. If you read parts 1 and 2 of this series, you know he’s not the son of a quiet Asian mother, and if you read on, you’ll see that just because Karn was ordained as a novice monk does not mean he’s submissive. The struggle continues…

There’s a really big stereotype out there that Asians are quiet.

About 6 years ago, a handful of local Chicago area Asian American high school students decided to start a youth group in KRCC (Korean American Resource & Cultural Center).  They wanted to bust that stereotype.  They wanted to make noise, and they wanted their voices to be heard in a city with big voices.  Eventually settling on the name FYSH (Fighting Youth Shouting out for Humanity), what started out as 5 students has now grown to a core of roughly 15.

Every year, the group decides on an issue that affects their community, and empowers their fellow youth to work and organize around these issues through education and advocacy.  In the Korean American community, 1 out of every 5 Korean Americans are undocumented, so every year, FYSH has been working on DREAM.  When a person thinks about immigration or the DREAM Act, rarely do they picture an Asian American.  With a greater lack of opportunities, and very few language accessible resources, the undocumented Asian American population continues to struggle within and outside the movement.  Every year that passes, we turn away future doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, and future leaders from pursuing their dreams.

To help relieve this, FYSH establish the Dream Scholarship fund in 2007.  Throughout the year, FYSH members raise money through various events and fundraisers to raise money and awareness for the fund as well as the Dream Act.  And then award the money to deserving Asian American minorities who have faced undue hardships, regardless of their legal status.

In 2008, FYSH started the “Wake Up to the DREAM Act!” campaign.  Members sent artfully decorated pillows to 9 legislators.  Each pillow represented the dream of a youth participant, and every week one pillow was sent to specific, targeted Members of Congress until they publicly announced their support for the DREAM Act.  After a number of legislative visits and sending pillows every week, FYSH was able to get the committment of 3 legislators to co-sponsor, Senator Burris, Congressman Mike Quigley, and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky.

On March 21st, 2010 in Washington, D.C., FYSH was part of thousands of Asian Americans stomping around the streets of D.C., banging traditional Korean drums, waving gigantic banners, and yelling at the top of their lungs for change.  They were tearing down that “quiet asian” sterotype.  Traveling over 12 hours on a bus from Chicago to D.C., FYSH members were now expanding their voices in the nation’s capital.

Thanks for sharing, Karn, and keep up the great work!  Follow the Korean American Resource and Cultural Center on FB.

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