By Nina Huang
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Every year, we celebrate the many achievements of Asians around the world. From the local food scene, to historic political achievements, to representation wins in the media, this list highlights 10 of those amazing accomplishments.
1. “Yang Gang”
Since launching his presidential campaign in late 2017, Andrew Yang’s supporters have grown and his once deemed long-shot campaign has picked up momentum.
With increasing online popularity, due to his campaign’s heavy reliance on Internet-based campaigning, the New York Times dubbed Yang “The Internet’s Favorite Candidate.”
2. Local politics
Sam Cho won the general election on Nov. 5, 2019 for the Port of Seattle Commission to represent Position 2 in Washington state.
Satpal Sidhu beat incumbent Tony Larson for the Whatcom County Executive position.
3. Recognizing Seattle’s amazing food scene
Several local Asian chefs received nominations for the prestigious James Beard Award this year:
Shiro Kashiba of Sushi Kashiba was nominated for Outstanding Chef.
Junko Mine of Cafe Juanita was nominated for Outstanding Pastry Chef.
Shota Nakajima of Adana was nominated for Rising Star Chef of the Year.
Taichi Kitamura of Sushi Kappo Tamura, Mutsuko Soma of Kamonegi, and Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi of Joule were nominated for Best Chef: Northwest.
4. Same love
Taiwan became the first Asian nation to legalize same-sex marriage in May of 2019.
The legislation grants same-sex couples most of the rights given to their heterosexual counterparts under the civil code. It also grants one of the partners the right to adopt a child who is a blood relative.
Over 200,000 people participated in Taiwan’s Pride Parade held on Oct. 26, 2019, where over 2,000 couples have since wed after the legalization earlier this year.
5. Know her name: Chanel Miller
In September 2019, Chinese American Chanel Miller published Know My Name: A Memoir describing her trauma and identifying herself as the victim of Stanford University’s Brock Turner’s sexual assault case.
Convicted on three counts of felony sexual assault, Turner was sentenced to six months in county jail and probation. In a pivotal moment during the Me Too movement, Miller’s victim impact statement went viral in 2016.
Miller’s memoir was named one of the top 10 books of 2019 by the Washington Post and several other best-seller lists. She was also named Glamour’s Woman of the Year, along with 2019 TIME 100 Next list.
6. Social and scientific impact
Abhijit Banerjee shared the 2019 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with his wife Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer for their work alleviating global poverty.
Akira Yoshino was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2019, alongside M. Stanley Whittingham and John B. Goodenough for their contributions to the development of lithium-ion batteries.
In addition, Yoshino also won the 2019 European Inventor Award for his lithium-ion battery development. He was also one of the six recipients selected for Japan’s top cultural award, the Order of Culture.
Afroz Shah was named one of CNN’s 2019 Heroes of the Year for his efforts to clean up Mumbai’s Versova Beach and ‘his mission to save the world’s oceans from plastic pollution.’
7. Entertainment firsts
Saturday Night Live cast its first-ever Asian American cast member, Bowen Yang. He made his debut on the series last year as a writer.
Simu Liu will be Marvel’s first Asian superhero in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. The upcoming film marks Marvel’s first feature with an Asian lead.
Directed and written by Bobby Rubio, “Float” is the first Pixar film to feature Filipino Americans. The short film was inspired by personal stories of Rubio’s son.
Filipino American Josh Dela Cruz is the new host of the reboot series “Blue’s Clues & You!” Dela Cruz grew up watching the original show and will now be able to introduce “Blue’s Clues” to a new generation of kids and Asian American families who may feel underrepresented on TV.
Korean boy band BTS had a record-breaking year. According to Variety, they joined the Beatles in a record-breaking run of three No. 1s in one year. Also, BTS ranks second in album units (1.4 million and climbing) and No. 1 in song sales. On YouTube, their videos have logged more than 11 billion views.
Another K-pop sensation, BlackPink, made history this year when they became the first K-pop group to perform at Coachella.
8. Female pilots make history in Indian Armed Forces
In May 2019, Flight Lieutenant Bhawana Kanth became the first woman pilot to qualify to undertake combat missions on a fighter jet.
In early December, Sub Lieutenant Shivangi, who goes by one name, became the Indian Navy’s first woman pilot. Shivangi joins other women pilots in India’s armed forces to make history.
Shivangi will be tasked with flying Dornier aircraft, which are used by the navy for transport and maritime reconnaissance, taking off and landing on the shore, rather than from an aircraft carrier.
The Indian Air Force started enlisting women pilots for the first time in 2016.
9. Representation wins in pageantry
At the end of October, Miss Bangladesh Shirin Akter Shela became the first Miss Universe contestant from an Asian Muslim country. There had been other Muslim contestants in the past, but they hailed from the Middle East or Africa.
For the first time in 68 years, Shela represented Bangladesh in the competition. While Shela didn’t win, she made her country proud. Miss South Africa Zozibini Tunzi went on to win Miss Universe, which is still another great win for representation.
Seattle local Jennifer Le became the first Vietnamese woman to be crowned Mrs. World.
In 2018, Le took home the crown as Mrs. Vietnam World, which led her to the Mrs. World pageant in Las Vegas back in May. Le beat out 34 other candidates from all over the world for the crown and title of Mrs. World.
Working as a tech recruiter for her day job, Le seeks to help eliminate the gender gap in tech.
10. 8-way tie for National Scripps Spelling Bee
There was an eight-way tie this year at the National Scripps Spelling Bee. Shruthika Padhy, Erin Howard, Rishik Gandhasri, Christopher Serrao, Saketh Sundar, Sohum Sukhatankar, Rohan Raja, and Abhijay Kodali were all champions.
Because of this, next year’s spelling bee will have fewer participants and a more challenging word list.
Nina can be reached at email@example.com.