In our new weekly feature 12 Rounds, leaders will answer 12 questions — some light, some heavy — from our Publisher and CEO Henry Sanders to help the community understand them, what they do, and why. Today: Wisconsin State Representative Francesca Hong.
Francesca Hong is co-owner of Morris Ramen and in November was elected the first Asian-American in the Wisconsin legislature. The daughter of immigrants, she started in the restaurant business as a dishwasher, slowly working her way down the line as a line cook, sous chef, and eventually one of the youngest and first female executive chefs at 43 North Restaurant. She was named one of Wisconsin’s most influential Asian American leaders in 2020.
What advice would you give someone who is a person of color not from Wisconsin who is thinking about moving to Madison? Your patience will be tested but you will feel purpose. The burdens of being POC in Madison is being a part of a community that is in pain, angry but transforming. Let cautious optimism fuel your curiosities in exploring the work and play of this city.
Name 3 songs that accurately reflect how you’re feeling.
Light of a Clear Blue Morning- Dolly Parton
Lost Ones- Lauryn Hill
If you could go back in time to any point of life to tell yourself something, what age would you go back to and what would you tell yourself? 18, senior year of high school. Don’t try to measure your strength and sometimes the answer to why comes later.
What did you learn about yourself in 2020? I learned that youth leadership and our young people will provide us pathways to healing. Part of my job is to make sure harmful adults get out of the way.
At this point of your life do you feel you have found your purpose? If so, how did you figure out your purpose? I’m not sure if I’ve found purpose yet because I’m still learning so much about relationships with my family, friends, colleagues and myself.
There is a lot of division around the issues of race in politics. What can we do to lessen those divisions? Find power in vulnerability. Be forthcoming about not having all the answers but recognizing that we have to look at different historical context, recognize violence manifests in so many ways and that if we do not name racism and white supremacy delusion for what it is we don’t have a chance of finding pathways forward.
How has being an elected official changed your life? The hustle hasn’t changed but the way people support you in the hustle has changed. I’ve made difficult decisions with consequences in my personal life.
The media is reporting more anti-Asian racism in our communities. In your view, is that because there is more anti-Asian racism happening, or has it always been there and is now just being reported more? Anti-Asian violence and racism have existed and manifested in our communities long before Trump exacerbated it with his hateful and racist rhetoric. We have long been defined and minimized to stereotypes, fetishes, and projections of forced cultural experiences. (No, we are not best friends because your daughter in-law is Korean.) The trauma of constantly evolving racial identities through assimilation and erasure of violence our ancestors experienced at the expense of American militarism and colonialism have traumatized many in our communities. The aggregation of our different ethnicities have increased racialized violence and kept resources from some of our most vulnerable communities often falsely believed to be part of the “model minority”. I hope moving forward more people are willing to learn about the complex Asian American diaspora and value the diversity of experiences and contributions of our communities.
What are three things you do to relax?
Video chat with my sister
Play musical instruments
Besides being a legislator you are also a chef. What is your most popular dish? And what’s your favorite dish to make? Our most popular dish is the Morris Ramen 🙂 My favorite dish to make is soft scrambled eggs.
Basketball or football? Basketball
Your Korean name is Yunjung. My understanding is that the name has a special meaning. Can you explain? Before there was a Korean alphabet scholars used Chinese characters for language. A lot of Korean names have accompanying Chinese characters in the name definition. “Yun” refers to ethics, humanity and “jung” refers to the “royal court where policy decisions are made”
I didn’t know the significance of my name until my Dad told me after I decided to run for office. I try not to think about the significance but more that it is a reminder that preserving humanity and dignity in our communities must be the guiding light in political leadership.