Yuh-Line Niou is a Taiwanese-American Assemblymember representing the 65th district in New York. She is the first Asian-American to represent a district that is 38 percent Asian. She is the only Asian female on the state legislature. She has shattered several glass ceilings as a young woman of color taking on a seat that had been previously held by primarily old white men. In the four years she has been in the legislature, her accomplishments are significant, and she continues to advocate for low-income families, immigrants, and communities of color.
Before Niou ran for the Assembly seat, she was the Chief of Staff for Assemblymember Ron Kim, the only Asian-American in the state legislature at the time. Niou’s first campaign was a special election in April 2016 when former Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested on federal corruption charges. Unfortunately, Niou lost that election to Alice Cancel, who was a close colleague to Silver. She would run again for the seat and win 32 percent of the vote. This win was historic and symbolic. Niou continuously fights against corruption and corporate greed and taking on a seat that was occupied by a corrupt politician is truly significant.
Throughout her terms, she has been a vocal advocate for affordable housing, health care, imposing taxes on billionaires, education, and funding human services. She helped form the first Asian Pacific Legislative Task Force, which focuses on advancing the rights of Asian and Pacific Islanders in New York. Niou sponsored the bill S3662/A677 alongside Assemblymember Kim. This bill would require the disaggregation of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) data in certain state agencies, commissions, and boards. We need to remember that we are not monolithic. The issues faced by a specific community in the AAPI vastly differs from another community. Breaking down the data allows legislators and community-based organizations to pinpoint the issues that their community is facing and determine how to better serve their needs. Unfortunately, Governor Cuomo vetoed the bill. However, disaggregating AAPI data is an ongoing fight and advocates like myself will continue to raise this issue.
Niou has also advocated for the Child Victims Act, which ensures that child abusers are held accountable by extending the statute of limitations for child survivors. This law allows for a one-year look-back period in which child survivors can file their cases regardless of the statute of limitations. The look-back period would have ended on August 14th, 2020, but it has been extended for one more year due to the pandemic. Niou bravely shared her own story about her abuser on the floor alongside her colleagues. While this piece of legislation does not take away the traumatic experiences endured, it holds perpetrators accountable for their actions and gives survivors a fraction of justice deserved. For young Asian folks like myself, it was a monumental moment to see an Asian-American woman vote for a bill that will fundamentally change the lives of New Yorkers. Niou is our ancestors’ wildest dreams and living proof that Asians are able to be in positions of power in this country.
In the midst of COVID-19, her district has been hit the hardest. The pervasive racism and xenophobia caused several small businesses, restaurants, grocery stores, and vendors to lose a significant amount of business in Chinatown. Her advocacy work goes beyond legislation. She is constantly on the ground working with her constituents to meet their needs. This includes delivering hot meals and providing critical resources.
I had the pleasure of meeting her at the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus alongside my peers and she is truly a force to be reckoned with. The meeting that my peers and I had with her was not only insightful, but it also demonstrated the passion that she has in creating change. She is running for reelection this year and has just won the New York State primaries with over 64% of the votes. On behalf of the Overachiever Magazine staff, we congratulate Yuh-Line Niou on her win and we cannot wait to see what she accomplishes next.
Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.
Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.
We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.
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We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.