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IN THE LIFE A look at i2i's core leadership team
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times
2018-11-28

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Invisible to Invincible: Asian Pacific Islander Pride of Chicago ( i2i ) has seen many changes to its leadership team since its founding in 2005. The group, according to its Facebook page, "celebrates and affirms Asian/Pacific Islanders who identify as LGBTQQA in the Chicago area."

i2i has held many events over the years including, most recently, a No Cop Academy Brunchraiser, Palestinian Struggle 101, a Queer Asian/American Storytelling workshop and Samcha Chicago: A Gathering for LGBTQ Koreans.

Currently, the core leadership team consists of seven individuals ( one of whom has asked to remain anonymous ) who deal with communications, logistics, programming and the group's finances.

Here is the leadership team:

—Lexi Chu

Your background/mini-bio: "I am a Chinese-American woman who was born and raised in Chicago and is allergic to dogs but still loves them."

Preferred pronoun( s ): She/Her

Sexual orientation/gender identity: Bisexual transgender woman

Neighborhood: Rogers Park

Role within i2i: LGBTQQA Families Gathering Group lead with Tri-C. Liaison between i2i and #NoCopAcademy.

Reason why you joined i2i: "The i2i community helped me so much when I found them including teaching me what it meant to be API and how important it is to have allies around you. I joined so I could give back to i2i what they gave me.

Your profession/job: Emergency medical technician- basic

Favorite snack and/or dessert: Chocolate ice cream

Favorite thing to do in Chicago: "Go to the beach when it is warm. Likewise, complain about the cold in the winter months."

Dream vacation location and why: "Hong Kong. The only time I have been there was when I was a little kid, much too young to remember. If I go back now, I will be able to appreciate it much more."

—Liz Haas

Your background/mini-bio: "I am a multiracial Chinese/white American who grew up in the Chicago area."

Preferred pronoun( s ): She/her or they/them

Sexual orientation/gender identity: Gay/queer, gender nonconforming woman.

Neighborhood: "I live in the Northern suburbs."

Role within i2i: Co-treasurer

Reason why you joined i2i: "When I was in my senior year at Smith College in Massachusetts, I heard about i2i from Professor Laura Fugikawa, who used to teach at University of Illinois, Chicago and found the Queer Asian American Archive there. When I moved back to the Chicago area after graduating, I was interested in finding community with LGBTQ+ Asians and Pacific Islanders, so I sought out the group, and the rest is history. This year, I also joined the Queer Asian American Archive project as a volunteer."

Your profession/job: Non-profit development/fundraising

Favorite snack and/or dessert: "Taro bubble tea, probably—but it is a hard choice."

Favorite thing to do in Chicago: "Seeing plays. I love the theater scene here."

Dream vacation location and why: "Somewhere with mountains, so maybe Colorado and I have a close friend who lives there, which helps."

—John Kaleekal

Your background/mini-bio: "I am originally from Lenexa, Kansas, and lived in South Korea for two years before moving to Chicago last September."

Preferred pronoun( s ): He/Him

Sexual orientation/gender identity: Gay/queer and cis male

Neighborhood: "I live in suburban Aurora but I commute to the city every day for school at the University of Illinois-Chicago ( UIC ) or work in the Medical District."

Role within i2i: "I help with general programming and planning."

Reason why you joined i2i: "I wanted to connect with the queer/trans Asian American community in Chicago. Growing up, I never found a space that catered to this intersectionality of my identity ( queer Malayalee/South Indian ) so I found the space to be very healing and helpful. I have been able to make strong connections in Chicago that have served as my chosen family."

Your profession/job: "I am currently an MPH/MBA candidate at UIC's School of Public Health and the Liautaud School of Business. I also work in HIV research for LGBTQ+ adolescents and young people at the Ruth M. Rothstein CORE Center. I work on the Keeping it LITE study."

Favorite snack and/or dessert: "I love jalapeno chips."

Favorite thing to do in Chicago: "Outside of spending time with my queer API community, I really enjoy going to art museums/galleries and also dabble in amateur Instagram photography."

Dream vacation location and why: "I really want to check out Switzerland. I think growing up in Kansas makes me over-appreciate mountains because they were non-existent there and also here in the Chicago area."

—Sunjay Kumar

Your background/mini-bio: "I am a mixed Indian diasporic American. I grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, but I have been in the Chicagoland area my entire adult life."

Preferred pronoun( s ): He/him or they/them

Sexual orientation/gender identity: "I am queer in both senses."

Neighborhood: Uptown

Role within i2i: Co-treasurer

Reason why you joined i2i: "My first year out of university, I was looking for ways to get more involved in social justice activism. One of my roomates, Anne Watanabee ( who was also a core member ), told me about some things that i2i was doing. Everyone was so welcoming when I came to i2i gatherings that I decided to stay involved."

Your profession/job: "I am a software engineer at a social impact start-up called Edovo building education and communication tools for people who are incarcerated."

Favorite snack and/or dessert: "During the summer, I was eating a lot of flash-frozen berries and other fruit to keep cool. Now that it has gotten chilly, I have been drinking more hot tea."

Favorite thing to do in Chicago: "I love going to some of the smaller museums like the Museum of Contemporary Photography or the Museum of Mexican Art. They often have really cool exhibits that change frequently and deal with more complex topics than the larger museums can tackle."

Dream vacation location and why: "With winter on its way, I really want to visit some place warm that has good food like Singapore, Hyderabad in India or Naples, Italy. Really anywhere on the Mediterranean coast. Nice, France would be nice, too."

—Phyllis Liu

Your background/mini-bio: "I am a second generation Taiwanese-American mover and creator exploring gender, culture and generational heritage in the queer and/or Taiwanese diaspora."

Preferred pronoun( s ): They/them

Sexual orientation/gender identity: Grey-ace/who knows/gender nonbinary

Neighborhood: Uptown

Role within i2i: "I coordinate social events, like the bi-monthly potlucks, and manager our social media including our Facebook page. I recently organized the 'Who's on Core' introduction series. Within the core team we often overlap responsibilities to support each other since i2i is a volunteer-based organization."

Reason why you joined i2i: "API's who are queer/trans—they exist. Discovering the i2i community felt like an exploration and a homecoming at the same time. Politically, i2i also holds my same values of liberation, visibility, education and solidarity. I learn from our community members every day, and they consistently inspire me."

Your profession/job: Executive assistant at Asian Americans Advancing Justice Chicago

Favorite snack and/or dessert: "I love eggs ( in practically every form ) and Taiwanese bubble tea."

Favorite thing to do in Chicago: Biking

Dream vacation location and why: "Taiwan because my family, my ancestry, my dreams and my culture. I have been back there four times, but there is still so much I have not explored and experienced."

—Kris Tendilla

Your background/mini-bio: "I am a Philipinx-American who has worked as a national organizer for immigrant, racial and reproductive justice."

Preferred pronoun( s ): She/her or they/them

Sexual orientation/gender identity: Queer

Neighborhood: Rogers Park

Role within i2i: "I have played a major role in our organizing and political education work."

Reason why you joined i2i: "I wanted to build a loving and radical queer AAPI community. In a lot of ways, it is a political home for working on issues that are important to my community and the communities I am building solidarity with. I am committed to making i2i a space for queer and trans AAPIs to find community and grow."

Your profession/job: National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum ( NAPAWF ) Field and Campaigns Manager

Neighborhood: Rogers Park

Favorite snack and/or dessert: "I love mangoes".

Favorite thing to do in Chicago: "I love exploring all the different places I have lived in Chicago—Austin, Bridgeport and Pilsen."

Dream vacation location and why: "I would love to visit my family in the Philippines since I left there when I was a baby. My family lives in a beautiful rural mountain area in the Northern part of the Philippines."

Upcoming events include an LGBTQ APIs and Families Gathering meeting and a potluck social gathering for i2i members and others in January 2019. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/events/2121188414876564/ .

See www.facebook.com/i2iAPIPride/ .


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