Chicago

How to Support the AAPI Community in Chicago

Stand in solidarity.

Nam Y Huh/AP/Shutterstock
Nam Y Huh/AP/Shutterstock
Nam Y Huh/AP/Shutterstock

During the pandemic, there have been 3,800 anti-Asian racist incidents in the US according to Stop AAPI Hate’s recent report. Although many of the events occurred on the East and West Coasts, Illinois ranks in the top 10 states where complaints originated from.

“Like Black, Latinx, and indigenous communities, Asian Americans have been targeted by racist policies and violence instigated by hateful political rhetoric,” writes Grace Pai, director of organizing for Asian Americans Advancing Justice in Chicago. “Throughout history, our community has been scapegoated by elected leaders for the loss of American jobs, war-time attacks, and the decline of American industries.”

The term “Asian,” can mean many things. It is not a one-size-fits-all definition to describe the hundreds of cultures and ethnicities it blankets. The largest Asian American and Pacific Islanders ethnic groups in Illinois are Indian, Filipino, Chinese, Korean, Pakistani, and Japanese-with 45% of the total population residing in and around Chicago. The community is hurting during the pandemic, but anti-Asian sentiment is not new. It’s been prevalent throughout American history. We might not be able to change the past, but by showing up today we can make Chicago a better, more inclusive place starting now.

Donate

The aforementioned Asian Americans Advancing Justice in Chicago is a great place to support organizing. Also consider the Chinese American Service League. For more than 40 years the CASL has provided childcare, scholarships, employment, wealth-building services, and senior care to Chinese Americans. They’ve built a community where newly arrived immigrants can find support. The HANA Center (hana means ‘one’ in Korean) is a merger of Korean American Community Services and Korean American Resource and Cultural Center. The community organization provides immigration and legal services; COVID-19 assistance programs; senior housing and youth empowerment and organization. Their mission is rooted in Korean culture but they provide assistance to immigrants, women, youth, people of colour, low-income families, older adults, LGBTQ+ folks, and adoptees. They believe that their history, culture, and unity strengthens them. And Axis Lab is the incubator for where art and advocacy collides on Argyle street-a historically Asian corridor on Chicago’s Northside. The community organization provides a number of programs (in food, architecture, film, art, educational programming and urban design) designed to empower and promote ethical development for immigrants and refugees. Founded by Patricia Nguyen all members of Axis lab are first and second generation immigrants and refugees who have a stake in the Argyle community. They provide materials in Hmong, traditional and simplified Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Tagalog, Cambodian, Japanese, and English. Their work seeks to root out anti-Black sentiment in the Asian community, as much as empowering their constituents. Their GoFundMe goes to support art education in Uptown.

Push for legislative change 

Asian Americans Advancing Justice in Chicago is leading the campaign for the Teaching Equitable Asian American Community History Act (TEAACH). The bill mandates that Asian American history be taught in all Illinois public schools. It passed out of the state House on March 17, 2021 and is heading to the floor for a vote.

“Growing up, I didn’t learn about the leadership of Asian Americans like Yuri Kochiyama and Grace Lee Boggs in the Civil Rights Movement,” writes Pai on why this issue matters. “I didn’t learn about the solidarity between Filipino and Mexican labourers that led to the formation of the United Farm Workers and revolutionized the labour movement in America. The multiracial and multilingual organizing of the United Farm Workers inspires my own community organizing work, and I want students today to be inspired by these stories.”

Call or email your state Representative to voice your support of the piece of legislation.

Support Asian journalists and media 

Were it not for the Korean to English translations of Wei Ting, and the on the ground reporting by The Korea Times Atlanta, details surrounding the deaths of six Asian women murdered in Atlanta would be scarce. Follow the Asian Social Network, a trusted news source on the Asian and Asian American community. The Chicago Asian Network is building community through their social channels by promoting Asian owned businesses. Support the Windy City chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association which provides resources, scholarships, and educational support to their community. Here they have compiled a list of information in regards to anti-Asian violence and the Atlanta shootings, which includes a number of community organizations and mental health support.

Educate yourself and speak up 

In response to the uptick in anti-Asian hate crimes caused by the pandemic, the Asian Americans Advancing Justice in Chicago, CAIR Chicago and Hollaback!, launched a (virtual) bystander intervention training in October 2020. To date, more than 1,000 people have completed the one-time, 60 minute class and registration is open for multiple classes in April.

Courtesy of Japanese Culture Center
Courtesy of Japanese Culture Center
Courtesy of Japanese Culture Center

Celebrate the culture 

To not know the depth of Asian culture in Chicago is to not know the city. The Chinese American Museum‘s “Great Wall to Great Lakes,” is a permanent exhibit that explains Chinese migration to the Midwest through immigrant stories. Pre-pandemic it also hosted educational events, film screenings, discussions and community workshops. The Japanese Culture Center, established in 1977, offers martial arts, crafts and philosophical teachings from Japan to the public. It is described “not as a museum where lifeless objects are displayed; it is a school where living skills are passed on person to person from generation to generation. You become an active participant in arts that have been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years.” In 2012, Illinois became the first state to formally adopt the Cambodian Day of Remembrance led by the National Cambodian Heritage Museum’s Killing Fields Memorial. The idea originated in the ’70s thanks to a group of Cambodia’s determined to preserve the culture of Cambodian refugees fleeing the Khmer Rouge regime. The museum offers programs rooted in social justice.

Spend with small businesses 

Be conscious of where you’re spending and support the AAPI community. You can’t go wrong with a visit to Devon Street. The area, with streets stained in paan, is a hub for South Asian immigrants. While it may be known as “Little India,” there are a number of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Nepalese owned businesses. Beyond Devon Street, other Asian-owned businesses in the city include Fat Miilk coffee. The Vietnamese-owned brand pays homage to its founder’s ancestral home. They source all their products from Buôn Ma Thuột, the capital city of Đắk Lắk Province in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. The seeds are harvested, handpicked, and processed on a family coffee farm where they employ and support the local people with a direct-trade relationship to suppliers. Hello Society is Chinese-owned and offers gender-neutral children’s clothes. Oriana Kruszewski is a horticulture expert in the Midwest and owner of Oriana’s Orchard and Nursery. Originally from Hong Kong, she is known for her Asian pears. The Hawaiian family Lee owns and operates Aloha Eats, a fast casual hole-in-the-wall serving fare from the island. And if you’re a hospitality brand in need of a publicist. Consider KLPR, founded by Karrie Leung, it is one of the few Asian-owned PR businesses in the city.

Ximena Larkin is a Thrillist contributor.

Chicago

8 Reasons to Drive to Galena, Illinois

You're just a short day trip from preserved-in-time architecture, pristine farmland, and singular history.

Shutterstock/Michael John Maniurski
Shutterstock/Michael John Maniurski
Shutterstock/Michael John Maniurski

In all its sky-scraping towers and equally sky-scraping deep-dish pizzas, Chicago is a decidedly un-subtle city that tends to dominate the cultural conversation in Illinois, but beyond the confines of America’s third largest metropolis, there’s a whole world of pastoral prairies, rolling green hills, and charming towns that are well worth the cost of gas. Galena is one such place. Located on the northwesternmost corner of Illinois, near the Mississippi River and the Iowa border, it’s a breath-of-fresh-air town that’s basically the antithesis of Chicago. While only a three-hour drive, it feels more like a three-century drive with its preserved-in-time architecture, pristine farmland, and singular history covering everything from US presidents to Kraft Cheese. So the next time you need a break from the hustle and bustle of Chicago, and its tourist-snarled summer streets, here are 8 reasons why you should make the drive to Galena, Illinois.

VisitGalena.org
VisitGalena.org
VisitGalena.org

The town is like a time warp

A stark contrast to Chicago’s shiny towers and even shinier Bean, Galena is the town that time forgot-and we mean that with love. It’s nice to hole up someplace that feels of a simpler era-one filled with barn dances and ice cream parlours. The downtown area still looks the way it did in the 19th century, replete with brick walkways and buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Much of this is on full display along Main Street, where more than 100 businesses-from candy counters and wine bars to restaurants and toy stores-are nestled inside original buildings from the 1800s.

Beyond shopping and snacking, history is everywhere in Galena. This is particularly prominent with its Presidential lore, as the town was home to President Ulysses S. Grant, whose former abode is managed by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, and is available for tours. President Abe Lincoln also had Galena ties, including a famous speech he made from the DeSoto House Hotel. The Victorian-style inn is the oldest operating hotel in the state, and Lincoln impersonators still host old-timey dinner theater events on the property, complete with chicken Fricassee and apple pie. For more historic eats and sips, check out Mulgrew’s Tavern & Liquor Store, one of the oldest bars in Illinois (in operation since 1921), famed for its cheap beer, foot-long chilli dogs, and slot machines. Then there’s Council Hill Station, an 1850s general store-turned-saloon, with live music, country breakfasts, and summer barn dances.

Goldmoor Inn & Dining
Goldmoor Inn & Dining
Goldmoor Inn & Dining

Farm-to-table dining doesn’t get any purer

In general, for a town with a population of a few thousand, Galena’s dining scene impresses with its array of restaurants and its mix of old and new, from adorably dusty saloons to a newfangled queer-owned bakery slinging empanadas and Argentinian cheese bread. Considering the town is surrounded by bucolic farmland and fresh water, it’s not surprising that much of its restaurants are seasonally driven and locally sourced, like cedar-planked walleye and espresso steak at Fried Green Tomatoes, or artisan cheese plates and Illinois wines at Woodlands Restaurant & Lounge. The belle of the ball when it comes to local fine dining, though, is the Goldmoor Inn, a historic manor-like hotel that applies a modern interpretation to its farm-fresh fare. For the ultimate Galena foodie vibe, dine at the chef’s table overlooking the kitchen and feast on 10-hour sous vide pork belly, lamb loin with za’atar carrots and chorizo jus, and housemade agnolotti with morel mushrooms, candied hazelnuts, charred leeks, and dashi beurre blanc. In the morning, rise and shine at Galena Bakehouse, a contemporary cafe owned by husbands Geoff and Alex Arroyo-Karnish, who moved to Galena from Manhattan in 2019 to ply the town with a mix of scratch-made American pastries (e.g. muffins, cinnamon rolls, cupcakes) and well-travelled treats (empanadas, tres leches cake, and Argentinian cheese bread called chipas).

Flickr/Michael John Maniurski
Flickr/Michael John Maniurski
Flickr/Michael John Maniurski

Outdoor recreation abounds

In Chicago, outdoor recreation is typically limited to urban beaches and drinking cocktails on rooftops. In the quieter, wide-open terrain of Galena, however, outdoor activities are a bit more bountiful. Hiking and biking opportunities can be found throughout the town’s parks, forests, and prairies, including the nearly nine-mile long Galena River Trail, Apple River Canyon State Park, and Casper Bluff Land & Water Reserve, where you can traverse trails and theorize about ancient Native American effigy mounds in the Earth.

With waterways criss-crossing the region, there are plenty of aquatic options to choose from too, including fishing on Lake Galena (just be mindful that bald eagles might provide some competition, since Illinois is home to the second largest wintering population outside of Alaska). Or you can rent kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards from Galena River Outfitters, offering guided jaunts on the tranquil Galena River. After exploring Galena by land and water, it’s time to buckle up and hit the sky-Long Hollow Canopy Tours provides adrenaline-pumping zip line tours through Tapley Woods, at speeds up to 40 mph and heights that reach 75 feet.

Hoof It - Galena
Hoof It – Galena
Hoof It – Galena

You can commune with goats

Since literally any outdoor activity is improved by the presence of goats, Galena is a veritable paradise of cute outings with hooved critters. A company called Hoof It Goat Treks does exactly what their name promises, taking guests on leisurely guided hikes through prairies and forests with baby goats in tow. For adults, the company also provides goat trek/wine tasting combos, wherein hikers can stroll the forest with a glass of wine, followed by a tasting of wine and goat cheese (naturally). Even those not able to make it to Galena can get in on the goat action-in quite the pandemic pivot, Hoof It now provides “goat calls,” so you can have a goat join your Zoom business meeting.

Goat yoga is another popular local pastime, best experienced with Galena Goat Yoga on Silver Linings Farm. Each 45-minute session, the perfect combination of stretching and snuggling, provides yoga mats in an air conditioned studio. Or if you’d prefer something more relaxed, the studio offers hour-long coffee breaks in a furnished corn crib with pastries and about a dozen goats. The company also provides private goat events, in case you’d really like to take your bachelorette party to the next level.

It’s the birthplace of Kraft Cheese

It isn’t just goat cheese in Galena. If you prefer your dairy products with an unnatural orange hue and a curiously high melting point, then you’re gonna want to drive to Galena for the cheese alone, as the town is the birthplace of Kraft. Everyone’s favourite thinly sliced cheese product was born in the tiny suburban town of Stockton, and the company’s all-American lore is on full display at the Stockton Heritage Museum. The pint-sized museum tells the story of J.L. Kraft & Bros. Co., who opened their first cheese plant in the town and began delivering milk from local dairies to the facility via horse-drawn wagon. Nowadays, museum visitors can snap selfies with one of said wagons, gain inspiration from Kraft-inspired cookbooks, and learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the invention of Velveeta.

Chestnut Mountain Resort
Chestnut Mountain Resort
Chestnut Mountain Resort

The mighty Mississippi is teeming with activities

In terms of epic all-natural Americana, it doesn’t get much mightier than the Mississippi River. The iconic waterway traverses the western border of Illinois, along the edge of Galena and the state of Iowa, so naturally such a major body of water is going to provide some staggering scenery. Visit the riverside Chestnut Mountain Resort for a choose-your-own-adventure of Mississippi-adjacent activities, from the Soaring Eagle Zipline to mini golf courses and an Alpine slide that zooms down the banks of a forested palisade to the shores of the river. The resort also provides Mississippi River cruises, for an informative guided immersion into the river’s ecosystem and wildlife.

Chestnut Mountain Resort
Chestnut Mountain Resort
Chestnut Mountain Resort

There’s no shortage of family-friendly fare

As evidenced by the surplus of zip lines and baby goats, Galena is a wholesome wonderland for families and kids. For food and activities alike, most everything in this quaint town caters to visitors of all ages-except maybe the wineries and wine bars, of which there are surprisingly many. Galena is a sweet tooth paradise, teeming with old-timey ice cream parlours and candy shops, including the 50-year-old American Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor and Candy Carnival for all your taffy, popcorn, and mini donut needs. In terms of shopping, Gabby’s Gifts is a quirky spot filled with kid-friendly knickknacks like puzzles, toys, and childrens’ books, while the P.T. Murphy Magic Theatre is sure to be a hoot with its silly theatrics and close-up sleight of hand. One ongoing activity that’s fun for the whole brood is Live at the Plaza, held every last Thursday of the month at Green Street Plaza through September. The free events offer something for everyone and all ages-live music, food, extended hours in nearby shops, and other performances, all with different themes like diversity and inclusion, or Hispanic heritage.

Lacoma Golf
Lacoma Golf
Lacoma Golf

It’s a goldmine for golfers

In addition to paddling, hiking, and screaming for ice cream, golf is another mainstay activity in Galena County, as the lush region boasts some of the most meticulously manicured greenways in the Midwest. There are 11 courses in the area, ranging in size and scope from leisurely nine-hole courses to championship-level courses for the seasoned golf pro and/or masochist. Standout options include the Apple Canyon Lake Golf Course, with nine holes weaving by canyons, hills, and bluffs, and Lacoma Golf Course, a veritable Disneyland of golf that’s grown from a nine-hole course in 1967 to a 45-hole complex consisting of three different courses, plus a driving range, full practice facilities, a pro shop, and a bar. If you’re looking to try something a little more novel and a little less rage-inducing, try your hand (or your foot) at FootGolf, a soccer-golf hybrid at Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa. Essentially, it looks like a jumbo version of golf, with soccer balls in place of golf balls, and over-sized holes and flags to aim for.

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Matt Kirouac is a travel writer working on a memoir about the epic ups and downs from life on the road as a gay couple-and the lessons learned along the way. Follow him on IG @mattkirouacofficial.

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