By Nina Huang
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Every year, there is no shortage of amazing feats accomplished by Asian Americans around the country. This year, there were many “firsts” around the country of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who were elected to public office.
1. Elected firsts around the country
Patricia Lee, a Las Vegas attorney, made history by becoming the first Asian American and first Black woman to serve in the Nevada Supreme Court.
Rob Bonta was elected California’s first Filipino American attorney general.
Aruna Miller became the nation’s first South Asian woman to be elected state lieutenant governor of Maryland.
Vietnamese American Helen Tran was elected San Bernardino’s first Asian American mayor.
Sheng Thao, an Oakland City Council member, made history as the first Hmong American woman to lead a major U.S. city and the city’s youngest mayor elected in 75 years.
Dan Wu was elected Lexington, Kentucky’s first Asian American vice mayor.
Shri Thanedar became the first Indian American representative for Michigan.
Aruna Miller became the first immigrant and Asian American elected to statewide office in Maryland.
Chinese American Victoria Gu and Japanese American Linda Ujifusa (D) became the first Asians elected to the state legislature in Rhode Island.
Salman Bhojani and Suleman Lalani, both Democrats, became the first Muslim lawmakers to be elected to the Texas House of Representatives.
Five Vietnamese Americans were elected to the Oregon House of Representatives. Newly elected
Dr. Hai Pham, Dr. Thuy Tran, Hoa Nguyen, Daniel Nguyen, and incumbent lawmaker Khanh Pham are all set to take their seats in the Oregon House on Jan. 9, 2023.
In Illinois, the number of Asian Americans in the Illinois General Assembly has increased almost tenfold since 2016 and also has a historically diverse representation: Sharon Chung will be the first Korean American, Hoan Huynh the first Vietnamese American. They will have three South Asians: incumbent Sen. Villivallam, Kevin Olickal, and Nabeela Syed. Abdelnasser Rashid will be the first Palestinian American, and he, along with Syed, will be the first Muslim members.
Kenneth Mejia was elected Los Angeles’ first Filipino elected official and the first Asian American to assume citywide office as the city controller.
Taiwanese American Chen Suen became Arcadia’s first Asian American fire chief.
2. First Asian prime minister
Rishi Sunak became the first British Asian and Hindu to hold the office of prime minister of Great Britain earlier this year after he was elected unopposed on Oct. 24 and appointed by King Charles III the following day.
3. First Asian American featured on U.S. currency
Actress Anna May Wong became the first Asian American to appear on U.S. currency, about a century after landing her first leading role. Wong’s trademark blunt bangs and pencil-thin eyebrows were featured on the back of new quarters in October. Her design was included as part of the American Women Quarters Program, which highlights pioneering women in their respective fields. Wong was featured alongside Maya Angelou, Sally Ride, Wilma Mankiller, and Nina Otero-Warren.
4. First Native Hawaiian to be featured in Nike’s N7 collection
Piʻikea Kekīhenelehuawewehiikekauʻōnohi Lopes, Miss Aloha Hula 2022 and a University of Hawai’i graduate student, is the first Native Hawaiian to be featured in advertising for Nike’s N7 collection, which helps and celebrates Indigenous communities through athletic apparel that honors Indigenous cultures and traditions.
5. ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’ is everything
The sci-fi comedy about a Chinese immigrant and laundromat owner, featuring Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan, became A24’s highest-grossing title since it was met with critical acclaim in its March release. With awards season around the corner, the film has already received eight nominations for the Film Independent Spirit Awards with nods for best feature, best director, best lead actor for Michelle Yeoh, supporting actors Ke Huy Quan and Jamie Lee Curtis, and breakthrough for Stephanie Hsu.
6. Musical achievements
This year’s Grammy Awards featured several Asian American winners including Filipino American Olivia Rodrigo, R&B duo Silk Sonic comprised of Filipino American Bruno Mars and Korean American Anderson .Paak, Filipino/African American Gabriella Wilson (better known as H.E.R.), and Pakistani American Arooj Aftab.
K-pop made history at the 2022 MTV Video Music Awards with wins by BLACKPINK, BTS, SEVENTEEN, and Lisa.
7. Literary achievements
Hoa Nguyen’s “A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure” was named one of the National Book Awards 2021 finalists.
Sabaa Tahir’s “All My Rage” won the Young People’s Literature category of the 2022 National Book Awards.
Jamil Jan Kochai’s “The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories” was named one of the finalists of the Fiction category of the 2022 National Book Awards.
Jenny Xie’s “The Rupture Tense” was named one of the finalists of the Poetry category of the 2022 National Book Awards.
Yoko Tawada’s “Scattered All Over the Earth” (translated by Margaret Mitsutani) was named one of the finalists of the Translated Literate category of the 2022 National Book Awards.
Lisa Yee’s “Maizy Chen’s Last Chance” was named one of the finalists of the Young People’s Literature category of the 2022 National Book Awards.
8. James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award
Chinese American TV chef personality Martin Yan received this year’s James Beard Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award for his 43 years in the industry. Yan had his own cooking show, “Yan Can Cook,” and under PBS, he filmed over 2,000 TV episodes and published nearly 30 cookbooks. He is also the second Asian American to win the award, after Chinese American restaurateur and chef Cecilia Chiang, who won in 2013.
9. ‘America’s Top Young Scientist’
Leanne Fan, an eighth grader from San Diego, California, won this year’s 3M Young Scientist Challenge grand prize for inventing “Finsen Headphones,” a smart device that detects and treats mid-ear infections in children. She developed the low-cost wearable device by using machine learning technology and blue light therapy. Fan also won a $25,000 cash prize, which she plans to use to start processing the patent for her invention.
10. First-ever spell-off
In a historic competition this year, Harini Logan won the first-ever spell-off at the 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee. This was Logan’s fourth bee, but first-ever spell-off. The San Antonio, Texas native won a trophy and a check for $50,000. Logan spelled 21 out of 26 words correctly, while her competitor got 15 out of 19 words right.
Nina can be reached at email@example.com.