Issues and concerns affecting Asians were raised during a town hall meeting conducted by the Michigan Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission (MAPAAC) last June 13 in the Sala Thai restaurant in Sterling Heights.
One top concern raised was how Asian Americans can avail themselves of state government services such as those for health care, education and business.
The need for an Asian center was also raised during the meeting attended by at least 20 leaders from the Thai, Vietnamese, Laotian, Chinese, Indian and Filipino community.
The meeting, which was presided over by MAPAAC Commissioner Ryan Rosario and MAPAAC Executive Director Denise Yee Grim, was intended to find out, among others, what Asian Americans would “like to see MAPAAC do for you and your community.”
The two representatives of the Laotian community were concerned about how they can preserve their culture and traditions and worried about the education and “future of their children 10 to 20 years from now.”
They said the Laotian Americans need help but they don’t know “how, when and where to get help.” They also need funds for their community programs.
The Vietnamese representative said there is an urgent need for a program for the teaching of basic English to Vietnamese Americans, stressing that their biggest obstacle is the language barrier. They have a hard time communicating because they don’t know how to speak English.
The representative said he had struggled hard to study English, and it took time before he can speak understandable English. He said that there should be an Asian center where new immigrants from Asian countries can learn English.
The representatives of the Thai and Chinese communities supported the proposal for an Asian center, saying it is a good idea.
The Indian American present at the meeting, Jatinder Kaur, raised the issue of bullying of Asian children in school. She said her sons, who were wearing turban, were bullied, ridiculed and called “girls.”
At the conclusion of the meeting, Rosario and Grim told the audience that the issues and concerns raised will be brought by MAPAAC to the attention of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and members of the legislature.
State Representative Martin Howrylak, who attended the meeting, commented that the Medicaid program does not always work properly. He urged Asian Americans to visit their elected officials and tell them the concerns of their communities.
Howrylak said, “You should not be shy when you want to avail yourselves of state government services.”