"From Michigan to the Movement: A Korean American's Awakening" by Steven Choi, Executive Director, The MinKwon Center for Community Action

I was born in 1976 in Taylor, Michigan. My parents had come to the United States just one year before, and they embody a typical Korean immigrant story—they arrived here in the United States as a newly married couple with a baby (my older brother), a couple of suitcases, and less than $500 to their name. My father had graduated from Yonsei Medical School and had dreams of being a doctor, as did my mother. But since no American hospital would recognize their medical degrees, they made their way across the Midwest, taking grueling resident jobs so they might eventually reach their dreams.

My earliest memories are of growing up in the Bronx and in Elmsford, NY a blue-collar town in Westchester. We weren’t very well-off, but I was close friends with a diverse group of kids—mostly black and white. I spent most of my childhood being one of the only Asian kids in my school. Even at that time during the early 1980s, none of my friends had any idea where Korea was; they only had a rough idea about Japan and China. Once they found out I was Korean, their next logical question for me was, “Are you Korean or are you American?” It was my first time trying to think of my identity, and we were all a little befuddled until one of my friends said, “Well, you were born in America, right? So you must be American, just like the rest of us.” That seemed to settle it for the time being.

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