Wisconsin’s 48 Most Influential Asian American Leaders, Part 4


    This is the fourth in a five-part series. Part one is available here, part two is here and part three is here.

    Chimeng Yang is the recently-appointed market manager for Old National Bank in Milwaukee. He is also the Vice President of the Hmong Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce. Throughout his career, Yang has held many positions in finance and banking and used his knowledge to support HWCC in their goal of providing financial resources to technical assistance to business and community development activities. Yang is also a member on the Board of Directors for the Special Olympics Wisconsin. Yang graduated from the University of Minnesota.

    Zong Sae Vang won the November 2018 election to serve as the president of the Hmong 18 Council of Wisconsin until 2022. The three candidates that ran for the president of Hmong 18 Council of Wisconsin were Zong Tze Vang from Milwaukee, Nao Vai Yang from Milwaukee, and Nao Nhia Thao from Madison. Wisconsin Hmong community is the first Hmong community in the United States to allow Hmong individuals who live in Wisconsin to vote for presidential candidates running for Hmong 18 Council of Wisconsin. 

    Francesca Hong is co-owner of Morris Ramen and is poised to become 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. A labor activist and community leader, she announced a run for the 76th Assembly District, representing downtown Madison, in May. Earlier this month, she won a crowded primary for the Democratic nomination and is virtually assured a victory in the deep blue district to become the first person of Asian descent to serve as an elected representative in the state capitol. 

    Kou Vang is President of the Hmong American Partnership (HAP) in the Fox Valley. He also serves as a board member for WUCMAA, an ethnic non-profit coalition that builds capacity and advocates for the advancement of underserved communities. As Board President of The HAP, Kou works to meet the needs of the Hmong community in Appleton and surrounding areas. Originally founded as the Fox Valley Lao-Hmong Association in 1980 by settled refugees, the Hmong-American Partnership coordinates services and educational activities. Since the agency was launched it has become a vibrant hub of the Hmong community and newly arriving refugee communities including, but not limited to Somali, Iraqi, Burmese, Cuban, and Congolese. In February, Kou spoke out about the U.S. proposal to deport some Hmong immigrants and refugees living in the United States. More recently, The HAP announced they are participating in a statewide collaboration led by The Hmong Institute to address the immediate COVID-related needs of underserved immigrant communities across the state.

    Alexa Alfaro is the co-owner of Meat on the Street, the first Filipino food truck in Milwaukee, and the popular ELEVEN25 food hall in the old Pabst Brewery building. Since opening the food cart in 2014, Alfaro has appeared on The Food Network’s Guy’s Grocery Games, been published in “The New Filipino Kitchen” cookbook and been interviewed by NBC News for their Asian American Pacific Islander month article, according to her LinkedIn profile. She has also won the Jackens award: Risk taker,  honoring women that make a difference in Milwaukee and was a speaker at the Trek Bicycle’s Innovation Summit. 

    Thay Yang is the manager of creative services with Milwaukee Public Television and is the CEO of Nyob Zoo Milwaukee TV. The TV news platform, which was founded in 2017, aims to provide impactful news to enrich the lives of under-served Hmong Americans and the Asian community in southeastern Wisconsin. It is the first over-the-air Hmong news show in Milwaukee and the only such show in Wisconsin. Thay Yang has worked at MKE Public Television for more than 20 years. 

    Paula Phillips, who works to empower women and promote diverse leadership at the Medical College of Wisconsin, was first elected to represent the 7th District of the Milwaukee Board of School Directors in April 2017. In her current role, Phillips is focused on expanding leadership opportunities for women in Academic Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Phillips is a first-generation college graduate and Filipina American who attended Milwaukee Area Technical College and earned a bachelor’s of science in Agricultural and Applied Economics with a certificate in Global Health from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has developed a lifelong passion for education after seeing the tremendous impact it had on her own life and the stabilizing influence it can have on those who have difficult lives at home. 

    Kaleka Pardeep Singh is the author of “The Gift of Our Wounds: A Sikh and a Former White Supremacist Find Forgiveness After Hate.”  In 2012, he founded Serve 2 Unite, an organization that engages communities in local and global peacemaking by utilizing service learning, artistic response, and global engagement to address violence, conflict, and radicalization from a trauma-informed lens after his parents were killed in the Sikh temple shooting in Oak Creek. Singh grew up in Milwaukee and earned his bachelor of arts degree at Marquette University and masters of science at Alverno College. A former police officer and educator in the inner city of Milwaukee, Singh is a therapist who specializes in holistic trauma-informed treatment with survivors of assault, abuse and acts of violence.  

    Mai Xiong is a member of the Eau Claire city council and founder of the Hmong American Leadership and Economic Development (HALED) organization in Eau Claire. She is also the regional director of development for Special Olympics. HALED aims to build leadership and increase economic prosperity for Hmong Americans by providing education, expanding networks and elevating social equity, according to its mission statement. Xiong won the council seat in April 2020 with 65% of the vote.

    Masood Akhtar is an Indian-born Muslim entrepreneur and activist who now lives in MIddleton. He is the founder of the state-wide non-partisan movement “We Are Many: United Against Hate,” a movement to end hatred, racism and intolerance of others and where people who are urban and rural, spiritual and secular can unite together to build an inclusive community.  Akhtar has served on Dane County’s “Immigration and Refugee Task Force” aimed to build trust between local law enforcement officials and the immigration and refugee communities and thus reduce fear.  In 2019, Akhtar received the prestigious national FBI’s 2018 Director’s Community Leadership Award (DCLA) at the FBI headquarters in Washington, DC from FBI Director Christopher Wray.   

    Part Five coming tomorrow!