May 27, 2021

Mayor Lightfoot Honors Chicago’s Asian American And Pacific Islander Community Leaders

Virtual event will highlight industry leaders who have gone above and beyond in advocating for Chicagoans through these unprecedented times

CHICAGO – Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot will join other City and community leaders today for a celebratory virtual event to commemorate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month by honoring 12 community leaders for their commitment to supporting and advocating for their communities and the entire City of Chicago. 

"For centuries, our AAPI communities have contributed to the vibrant cultural and economic landscape of Chicago and have remained resilient in the face of a new wave of racism, xenophobia, and misogyny," said Mayor Lightfoot. "That's why it has become all the more important to highlight and uplift their contributions through events like these, which prove just how deeply rooted the accomplishments of our AAPI communities are within Chicago. It is my distinct honor to recognize the many AAPI individuals and organizations who have and continue to give so much to our great city." 

Recipients were selected based on their leadership and contribution to Chicago through various industries including, art and culture, health and medicine, technology, business, community empowerment, civil and immigration rights, education, and youth outreach. 

While the work of these individuals has always been important, their dedication has been vital in overcoming challenges facing all communities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including Filipino nurses who have significantly borne the burden of the virus within the medical profession. Additionally, the increased incidents of violence and harassment aimed at the AAPI community are indications of the need to appreciate those who offer their support.  

Among the extraordinary leaders honored tonight is the legacy recipient Tereza Lee— an immigration advocate who helped inspire the DREAM Act. Lee learned that she was undocumented as a child. After winning a piano competition and performing with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as a teenager, her teachers at Merit School of Music helped her contact, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, to ask for help with her immigration status. Senator Durbin began drafting a bill which would come to be known as the DREAM Act, that would help Tereza and many others like her to have a path to citizenship. Decades later, the federal DREAM Act has still not been passed, but Tereza and many other immigration activists are hopeful that the current Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill in Congress, which includes the DREAM Act, has a chance. 

"Celebrating our AAPI heritage is vitally important to ensure our stories are told and the contributions to our communities are recognized. I am honored to receive this award from Mayor Lightfoot and to share my story with others. And I hope those who are facing similar immigration struggles remember that despite how helpless it may seem our determination must overshadow the fear." Said Lee.   

Accessibility Advocacy  

Jae Jin Pak, Advocate 

Arts and Culture  

Chantala Kommanivanh, Artist & Professor  


Eddie Duly, Star of Siam  

Civil and Immigrant Rights  

Andy Kang, Asian American Advancing Justice  

Community Builder  

Jennifer Pham, Haibayô Events 

Community Healer  

Dr. Ishaq Lat 

Florence Palmaira, Philippine Nurses Association of Illinois  

Economic Empowerment  

Rebecca Shi, American Business Immigrant Coalition 


Dr. Rohany Nayan, Chicago Muslims Green Team 

LGBTQ+ Activism  

Kim Fountain, Center on Halsted 


Mimi Rodman, Stand for Children - Illinois 

Legacy Award 

Tereza Lee, New York Manhattan School of Music 

The City of Chicago will provide a livestream feed of the event on Mayor Lightfoot’s social media channels including Facebook and Twitter. It will also debut a PSA Against Asian Hate created by FCBChicago on the Mayor’s YouTube Channel.