Two Asian American women are shattering glass ceilings in the North Carolina General Assembly. Representatives Maria Cervania and Ya Liu are the first Asian American women to serve at the statehouse. For both, it's an honor to be there.
"We didn't set out to break barriers. We wanted to serve our community," said Liu.
Representative Cervania is a California native who moved to North Carolina in 2014. In 2020, she became the first Asian American woman elected to serve as a Wake County Commissioner.
"My primary election was the day of case zero of COVID-19. I was able to serve as an epidemiologist and to be able to educate and vaccinate," she said.
Representative Liu immigrated to the United States to pursue education opportunities two decades ago and she settled in to raise her family in the Triangle in 2005. She is a small business owner and attorney, who was the first woman of color elected to the Cary Town Council. She had a hand in launching the senior advisory board.
"The board is looking into ways of how we can better serve the senior population in Cary." Said Liu.
Both women are modest about shattering glass ceilings in the North Carolina General Assembly. Cervania represents House District 42. Liu represents House District 21.
"My district has the highest Asian population in the entire state. I think over 40 percent," she said.
North Carolina Asian Americans Together executive director Chavi Khanna Koneru calls this representation at its finest.
"Now my kids and others in the community can see themselves represented among policymakers. That's really deeply meaningful. Representatives Liu and Cervania have shown young people that it's not only possible but pivotal to the type of change we want to see in North Carolina," said Koneru.
Her statements moved Cervania.
"We don't come here as politicians. We come as public servants. It's resonating that we hear our community," she said.
The representatives are two months into their job. They're already looking ahead to introducing legislation that would require schools to teach Asian American Pacific Islander history.
"Students say we don't know about our history. So with this legislation, they'd learn that," said Liu.
This comes as hate crimes against the Asian American community rises.
"As a child, our parents told us to be quiet and turn the other cheek, but we can't be that way anymore. When we work together, we'll be strong together. Equity and equality can be achieved," said Cervania.
The representatives are working to establish the first Asian caucus in the General Assembly. They are hoping to have it formed by May, which is Asian American Pacific Islander heritage month.