By: Nabila Ikram Photo Credit: Anas Alkatib
The Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote (APIA-Vote) is an organization that promotes civic and political engagement amongst the Asian American community. On Friday, February 17th, the Michiganchapter of the APIA-Vote held a 2012 kick-off event entitled, “New Faces of Leadership” at the Philippine American Community Center of Michigan in Southfield.
The event featured established local and state politicians, including Congresswoman Judy Chu, Congressman Hansen Clarke, State Senator Hoon-Yung Hopgood, Dr. Syed Taj of Canton Township, and Kevin Ketels of Grosse Pointe Woods. Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence was also present and gave an introduction to the event. She stated the importance of all communities, native-born and immigrant, to stand together and voice their views on topics important to them, as they are all Americans. She quoted Barack Obama by saying, “One voice can change a room, and if one voice can change a room, then it can change a city, and if it can change a city, it can change a state, and if it can change a state, it can change a nation.”
As mentioned earlier, APIA-Vote is an organization to mobilize the Asian American community. It does this by working on issues such as immigration/immigrant rights, education, health care, voting rights, and standing up against prejudice against the Asian American community. With the 2012 election campaign in full swing, much of the focus of the organization was on encouraging more Asian Americans to vote, since statistics show that the Asian American community has a lower rate of registered voters than other communities. APIA-Vote also has a youth division called the Youth Leadership Corps. Members of the corps are currently working on the Immigration Stories Project.
The project consists of high school students interviewing members of the community and recording their stories of immigration from their homelands to the U.S.After an introduction to the organization and its many activities and causes, the panelists introduced themselves and were asked a couple of questions from the moderator before the floor was opened for a Q & A session. One question dealt with what moment in their careers/lives made them proud to be Asian American. While all of the panelists had different personal stories to connect to this point, all said that their election to their respective positions created a proud moment for them.
Seeing their, and other, communities trust them and come out and support them was a source of pride. They were all honored by the fact that in their own ways, as some of the panelists were the first few, if not the first, Asian Americans to be elected to their positions, they were chosen to represent the community.
By: Mohammad Hassam Kang
The 11th disctrict in Michigan has endured many various twists and turns, and now has been completely redrawn amidst the election period, where it was recently announced that Dr. Syed Taj announced his bid for election to U.S Congress.
The hotly contested district which no longer includes large municipalities, like Westland and Garden City, now includes over 28 communities in Oakland and Wayne counties, and poses a threat to imcumbent congressional seats, the likes of Representive Thaddeus McCotter, who has relied on areas of Livonia and Northville for support.
The new congressional district already has seen sparring matches between primary
challenger State Senator Mike Kowall and McCotter, that could be a positive game changer for the only Democratic nominee at this point, Dr. Taj, who says he will be using a "retail politics" approach to campaigning when facing the cash strapped McCotter. Taj's campaign managers say McCotter will be sending out leaflets and pamplets for re-election on the tax payers’ dime.
Alienating many voters with his 2011 presidential run, where an Oakland County newspaper branded his bid as "scary" and "arrogant", McCotter is now at a setback stage when considering the strong support for Dr. Taj from Michigan Democrats and the political opposition of a State Senator.
In his grandiose and opinionated book entitled "Seize Freedom", McCotter outlines the need for a belief in "American Exceptionalism", in that other societies are barbaric and maladapted. On the oter hand, the diversity in the room as Dr. Taj announced his run for Congress was really a sight to behold, almost as a glistening repute of the hardline conservative ideology of exclusion. At Dr. Taj's announcement to run, his campaign office in Novi found him speaking to a crowd of black, white, asian, hispanic, and other supporters, as well as elected officials like Judge Mark Slavens.
Whereas Dr. Taj had been a devout member of his community mosque for many years, Thaddeus McCotter tried to brand the threat of terrorism as one posed by "Islamo-fascists", when only a small percentage of terrorist attacks inside the U.S have been conclusively linked to Muslims or Islam. Congressman McCotter also reaffirmed that he thought the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which a majority of Americans opposed, was essential to the
preservation of "freedom". He believes in shrinking government and especially social programs that Dr. Taj vows to fight for.
The hardline conservative rhetoric of his opponent certainly puts Dr. Taj as a feasible candidate, however campaign field manager, Chet Hodges, says that much work is to be done, as the core of Michigan politics has taken on a Republican tide, and the neoconservative movement has gained a telling resurgence. However Dr. Taj contended in his speech that we must expunge those that are blocking sound legislation in Washington, which are arguably primarily Republicans. With only 13% approval ratings, the congressional seats are more like a game of musical chairs, as voters’ dissatisfaction plays a pressing role each year in eliminating seats that have been there for a while. But the new 11th disctrict itself has vastly changed this time from back ten years ago when Thaddeus McCotter was, as a State Senator, sitting on the committee that helped apportion the congressional district where he would later run. A petition containing 2,000 names of potential voters is required to run.
Dr. Taj said his focus will be on the middle class, in terms of increasing jobs in the
faltering Michigan economy, as well as a focus on health insurance, which with his experience as Cheif of Medicine at Oakland Hospital, is not unknown territory for him. Dr. Taj is also a small business owner and feels that his experience will help regulate policy on such matters. With a focus on protecting social security, health insurance, and various social programs, he also seeks to bring more better wages to the stage along with better jobs.
His patriotic stance, as Dr. Taj has a deep love for this country, may shock some people such as Thaddeus McCotter, who believes Islamic principles are vastly different from American values. Although political campaigns are expensive, one campaign manager noted that even unemployed members of the Democratic party have sent money for his congressional run. Yet, much support is still needed.
Dr. Taj also puts a main focus on the educational system, himself being from a family where education was emphasized. He began his medical career at the young age of 23 inBihar, India, where he taught many, and quickly graduated to his post as Medical Officer in Bihar State Health Services, but soon moved to England, where he started his own private practice. In 1983 his family moved to the U.S, and Dr. Taj extended his career by becoming
Staff Physician, and then vice-chief of medicine at a hospital in Dearborn.
He ran for Canton Board of Trustees in 2008 and won, becoming the only Democrat seated on a council of all Republicans. State Senators Marc Vorriveau, John C. Stewart, as well as, Community Democrats of Canton, Wayne County Commissioner Kevin McNamara, Candidate for State Representative and Candidate for Congress, are just some of the few that supported his run. He has also recieved backing from the Michigan Muslim Democratic Caucus, and many notable 11th district Democrat groups.
Images courtesy of:
Anas Alkatib, Nabila Ikram