As the prolonged festivities connected to the Asian Lunar New Year continued through the end of Winter, we attended Midwest’s Largest Asian American Gala Event at the opulent Hilton Towers Chicago. This year it was hosted by the Pakistani American community. About 1300 guests were in attendance, among whom there were many notables, dignitaries, leaders from the Asian American community, as well as Chicago and Illinois politicians and officials, including Governor Bruce Rauner and Secretary of State Jesse White.
As guests gathered, they listened to the music, mingled, took pictures, before proceeding to the dining hall. A number of speakers emphasized the unity of the diverse participants and their communities, in the face of a current trend to question the value of immigration and openness. Gala Chairperson Rehan Zaid made a vivid remark, that “Like a kaleidoscope, we are most magnificent when our colors unite…» PepsiCo Vice Chairman and Chief Scientific Officer, Global Research and Development Dr. Mehmood Khan delivered the keynote speech, and the Awards were presented to those who made exceptional contribution to the Asian American community. This year, the Grand Asian American Sandra Otaka Memorial Award went to Hon. David Orr, Cook County Clerk. The Pan Asian American Ping Tom Memorial Award was presented to Carmen D. Estacio, Senior Programs Asian American Liaison of the Illinois Secretary of State Driver Services Department.
As the evening continued, guests enjoyed a variety of entertainment by the Pakistani Scottish Flute Players, costumed dancers, drummers, and mandatory Asian Dragons, among many memorable characters. ABC-7 Weekend Anchor Ravi Baichwal, NBC5 Reporter Ash-har Quraishi and “The 21st” Show Radio Host Niala Boodhoo served as emcees for the evening.
As the organizers note, Asian American Coalition of Chicago (AACC) founded in 1983, is represented by over 16 cultures including the Bangladeshi, Burmese, Cambodian, Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Malaysian, Nepalese, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Thai, and Vietnamese American communities. The AACC’s mission is to organize and promote equal opportunities in government, education, economic development, and international affairs in order to empower all Asian Americans. Nine of the communities (Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Pakistani, Thai and Vietnamese American) take turns hosting the Asian Lunar New Year Celebration on a rotating basis.
S Telis, L Mogul for Kontinent Media
Photography by Larisa Pevtsova (Lorchique Photography)