Illinois first state to mandate teaching Asian American history

  • Sean Emmanuel Atienza

    Sean Emmanuel Atienza

Posted7/19/2021 5:30 AM

By Madhu Krishnamurthy


Illinois recently made history as the first state to require public schools to teach Asian American history.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the Teaching Equitable Asian American History Act into law this month. It will take effect in elementary and high schools statewide in the 2022-23 school year.

The law calls for teaching a unit of Asian American history in Illinois and the Midwest and for recognizing the contributions of Asian Americans in the arts, sciences and civil rights. It ensures inclusion of crucial stories and lessons, such as the wrongful incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II and the heroic service of the Army's 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II.

The legislation was introduced amid a surge in violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Anti-Asian hate incidents reported nationwide rose from 3,795 in March 2020 to 6,603 in March 2021, according to Stop AAPI Hate.

Asian Americans are among Illinois' fastest-growing populations -- more than 700,000 people as of 2019.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Chicago and other Asian nonprofits helped get the law passed. The Asian American Education Project is offering free training and lesson plans online to help teachers incorporate Asian American history into the curriculum.

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Eid festival

INCA Chicago will host its annual Eid Fest Friday through Sunday at the DuPage County Fairgrounds, 2015 Manchester Road in Wheaton.

The Islamic festival, which typically draws thousands of Muslims, will mark its 10th year in the suburbs. It was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We are expecting around 20,000 people over three days," said Zain Hussain, a volunteer helping organize the Islamic Circle of North America Chicago event.

Festivities will run from 5 to 11 p.m. Friday, 2 to 11 p.m. Saturday, and 2 to 9 p.m. Sunday. Attractions include a petting zoo, carnival rides, pony rides, games and bazaar vendors selling food, clothing and ethnic/cultural goods.

Hussain said while COVID restrictions on large events have been eased, organizers are spacing out booths and attractions. Signs will be posted urging attendees to follow state masking guidelines.


"If you are not vaccinated, wear a mask," Hussain said. "We're trying to make sure it is as safe as possible. We can't really enforce anything."

To register, visit

Helping Latino workers

The National Latino Education Institute will host its first Swing to Support Latinx Futures golf classic on July 27 at Cantigny Golf Club in Wheaton.

"After a year of COVID, this golf tournament will be a fun way to bring our community together in a safe and socially distanced manner," said Elba Aranda-Suh, executive director of the nonprofit dedicated to advancing Latinos in the workforce. "In our 20th year of service, NLEI remains strong and committed to our mission of advancing the economic independence of our Latinx community."

The event will begin at 9 a.m., with a shotgun start at 10:30 a.m. at the golf club, 27w270 Mack Road. It will include a hole-in-on contest for a new car, as well as longest drive and closest to the pin contests. Proceeds will support the group's education, training, employment and advocacy efforts.

Sponsors and foursomes can register at

Racial healing film

Ten Illinois students recently were named winners of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation's No Malice Film Contest for their creativity in promoting racial healing through short films.

Among the second-place awardees was Sean Emmanuel Atienza, 18, a graduate of Niles West High School, whose film "Puzzles" explores hate crimes against Asian Americans. He won $1,000.

Atienza, who is an Asian American, said he was motivated to make the film because of the rise in hate crimes and violence against Asian Americans.

"But it's not just about those cases," he said. "It was just to encourage people to listen more to what other people are experiencing."

The short films are part of Healing Illinois, a racial healing initiative of the Illinois Department of Human Services in partnership with the Chicago Community Trust.

Winning films will premiere at Ebertfest at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Sept. 8-11. Illinois schools will use the films and supplemental curriculum created by educators to talk about race, bias and injustice.

Helping Latino students

Waubonsee Community College is among three Illinois colleges to receive a Title V grant to strengthen and expand educational opportunities for Hispanic and low-income students.

The Sugar Grove college's enrollment is more than 30% Latino students.

As a Hispanic Serving Institution and under the college's strategic plan, officials are focused on improving Latino student access, retention, graduation, and increasing Latino employees.

The college hired its first Latinx resource manager, Franklin Ortega-Palaguachi, and additional staff members to run its new Latinx Resource Center located at the Aurora downtown campus.

The center provides resources, support services, community engagement and educational experiences to support students' academic and social success. It's also a venue for all students to learn about Latino culture, heritage and traditions.

The center will partner with the college's Adult Education Department to provide resources and support to serve predominantly Spanish-speaking students enrolled in the high school equivalency or English language acquisition programs. Waubonsee also has launched a new financial literacy program for low-income Latino students who are at risk of dropping out.

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