Breaking Barriers

Honoring Asian American Women in the Creative Arts

Benefiting the Asian American Leadership Council's Silk Fund

April 8, 2009 at Flatwater restaurant in Chicago

Chicago Foundation for Women's Asian American Leadership Council hosted Breaking Barriers so women can network with dynamic women in the creative arts--and raise money to benefit women and girls of Asian descent in the Chicago area.

Julie Nakagawa was one of five Asian American women honored for their leadership in the creative arts. Nakagawa's daughter, Stefanie, introduced her mother and moved the crowd with her sincerity and strength. Nakagawa said she is proud that she and the other honorees can break down barriers for her daughter and all young women. Emceed by "Scrubs" star Sonal Shah, the event celebrated five artistic women in Chicago's Asian American community: Cheryl Hamada (stage and screen actress), Mary Anne Mohanraj (writer and literary activist), Julie Nakagawa (dancer and creative director), Yoko Noge (band leader/singer/pianist) and Nancy Tom (academic and philanthropist). Proceeds benefit the Asian American Leadership Council's Silk Fund, supporting Chicago-area programs for women and girls of Asian descent.
Flatwater logo - click here to visit their website
Thanks to our community for their creative nominations and to Flatwater for their generous support of Breaking Barriers and the Asian American Leadership Council.


Breaking Barriers in photos
Clockwise from upper left photo: Honoree Julie Nakagawa with her daughter, Stefanie; emcee Sonal Shah and honoree Mary Anne Mohanraj; Asian American Leadership Council co-chair Sharmila Rao Thakkar with Malik Gillani and Jamil Khoury; Ramona Gupta with honoree Yoko Noge; Alumnae Council member Juju Lien, honoree Nancy Tom, board chair-elect Gail Ludewig and board chair Mae Hong; a guest with Susan Patel.

Photos from Breaking Barriers 2009 - captions above

History of Breaking Barriers
Since 2004, Chicago Foundation for Women's Asian American Leadership Council has been part of an annual event held to honor Asian and Asian American women in the Chicago area who are breaking barriers in their fields. The event began as a partnership with the Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce. Over the years, it has become a staple celebration of the accomplishments and advances of women in our community, as well as one of the key gatherings of Asian business and community leaders in Chicago and statewide. 

Previous celebrations have included the following themes and honorees:

  • In 2008 we honored Asian American women in science and technology: Yin Kean, president, Real Estate Channel, Suncast Network Inc.; Alaka Wali, PhD, John Nuveen Curator of Anthropology and director of the Center for Cultural Understanding and Change at the Field Museum of Natural History; Christine Wu, PhD, professor and director of cariology research in the Department of Pediatric Dentistry, University of Illinois at Chicago; and Jinhong Zhu, PhD, assistant professional scientist, Illinois State Water Survey, Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
  • In 2007 we celebrated Asian American women in Illinois: Tammy Duckworth, director of the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs; The Honorable Sandra R. Otaka, judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County; and Alpana Singh, director of wine and spirits at Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Inc. and host of the restaurant review show “Check Please!” on WTTW 11.
  • In 2006 we recognized the achievements of Asian American women entrepreneurs: Alison Chung, TeamWerks; Tiny Chung, Horizon Contractors, Inc.; Mabel Moy, Four Seasons Travel and Services, Inc.; and Smita Shah, SPAAN Technology, Inc.
  • In 2005, we honored Chinese American women who are leaders in the media: Judy Hsu, co-anchor of ABC Chicago 7 Morning News; Nesita Kwan, HealthWatch reporter and co-anchor, NBC Chicago 5; Joanie Lum, general assignment reporter, CBS Chicago 2; Nancy Loo, reporter, Fox News Chicago; Judy Wang, anchor, CLTV Chicago; and Linda Yu, co-anchor, ABC 7 Chicago weekday news.
  • In 2004, we honored female Chinese American business leaders: Alison Chung, founder and president of TeamWerks; Rita Ho, director of Short Term Trading and Sales, Bank One; Sue Ling Gin, chairwoman and CEO of Flying Foods Group, Inc.; Amy Tu, assistant corporate secretary and counsel, Boeing Co.; and Julia Zhu, vice president of Commercial Market Group, Citigroup.

Learn more about the Asian American Leadership Council.

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