By Todd Travis
Over the last 20 years, the Chin-Burmese community has grown from a handful of residents to close to 30,000 residents today. They have steadily worked to make the Southside of Indianapolis a place where they can thrive and support one another as well as the surrounding community. Much of this growth has been focused on basic needs and well-being. As the community has begun to stabilize, they have realized that now is the time to begin getting politically involved.
“After 20 years, we are maturing as Americans and realizing the importance of representation in the political realm. Our community now makes up more than 30% of the school population for Perry (Township) Schools. A recent meeting with the school superintendent and his group encouraged us to pursue a position on the school board,” said Peter Thawnhmung, president of the Chin Community of Indiana.
Some of the leaders of the Chin community asked Dr. Hre Mang if he would be willing to accept this responsibility. While he was already very busy with other responsibilities in the community, he decided he would add this to his plate, given the blessing from his wife.
Dr. Mang is the pastor of Falam Christian Church of Indianapolis but also volunteers his time as a member of the executive committee for the Indiana State Southern Baptist Convention, member of the board of directors for the Indianapolis Theological Seminary, serves as vice president of Cobblestone Homeowner Association, and as vice president of Crossroad Baptist Association.
“The need for engagement has been increasing over the years as our community has grown. We’ve been talking about this over the last three years – we need to contribute and take responsibility in the community. Chin people tend to stay home, work hard, and go to church. They haven’t really engaged much in politics and (their) voting rate was very low. So we are trying to encourage our people to take more civic duty,” Dr. Mang explained.
“Where we came from, the government took control of everything. The government owns the school, so parents and community members don’t really have responsibility in deciding the policy there. So this is different for us,” he added.
On voting day, Dr. Mang showed up at the school to meet people and to ask for their vote. He was happy to see how people responded so warmly to him and was pleased to earn his seat on the board. He became the first Chin person to win an elected position in the state of Indiana.
“I think this is one of the key points where community members are invested, and I strongly believe that my participation on the school board will contribute to bridging the gap and bringing people together for a better future,” Dr. Mang stated.
Thawnghmung noted that voter participation from the Chin community was higher for this election and sees this is a momentum builder for the Chin people in future elections and for other elected positions. He also noted that a good majority of the votes came from non-Chin people and feels encouraged by the support of the members of Perry schools.
“This is a first step for our people that is very encouraging. There are already people talking about what positions the Chin people may be able to run for next year and what ways they can participate in the future. It’s a small step in the grand scheme of things, but it is the first spark that will ignite enthusiasm for the future,” Thawnghmung mentioned.