Stephanie Chang is a Michigan state representative. Chang was elected to office in January of 2015. During her first term, she served on the Committees on Criminal Justice, Education and Judiciary. Now in her second term, she serves on the Committees on Education Reform, Natural Resources and Law and Justice, for which she serves as Minority Vice Chair.
Of her role as the Law and Justice Minority Vice Chair, Chang is the leading Democrat on the committee. She explains what bills came out of the committee to the other Democrats so that they have the information they need to make an informed vote, and works with the other Democrats on the committee to make sure everyone knows what's going on, to find out where people are at on certain bills and to be able to relay information back and forth with the Republican chair of the committee. "What's been nice is to have a good bipartisan relationship with our chair, which actually allowed us to get a really great bipartisan package of bills through last month that are related to female genital mutilation," she says. "It's a great role; I enjoy it."
Grace Lee Boggs remains one of the most iconic figures in Detroit history. At once an author, activist, philosopher and feminist, she challenged individuals to think critically about their own activism, and empowered countless communities to create change on their own terms.
That sentiment is echoed in one of her most notable quotes: “We are the leaders we’ve been waiting for.” A message that also resonates in the work of Detroit Lover and Michigan State Representative, Stephanie Chang.
“Grace really cared about Detroit and inspired so many people to rethink the way we do things in our communities, whether in education, the economy or simply the value we give our neighborhoods. You could never really have a conversation with her without being given some type of assignment, like an article to read or some issue to think and write about. And she especially loved hearing what young people had to say about issues in their communities.”
Chang’s own passion for serving others was galvanized during her undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan.
“I majored in psychology and minored in Asian/Pacific Islander American (A/PIA) Studies, and was active as a student organizer on a lot of issues affecting students of color on campus. I actually wanted to be a civil rights lawyer, so my first few years of college I was planning to go to law school.”
Those plans began to change as she progressed through school though.
“I had two professors — Emily Lawsin & Scott Kurashige — who were very active in Detroit and got me involved with the Detroit Asian Youth Project. It was through that and our A/PIA Studies program that I met Grace Lee Boggs. She came to our closing ceremony in 2005 and somehow knew that I wanted to stick around Detroit, so she invited me to be her live-in assistant. Many years later, I served as the Community Engagement Coordinator at the Boggs School working with friends I had met those first two years in Detroit.”
She accepted the offer and moved to Detroit, beginning a new chapter that would come to define much of her career moving forward.
“I lived at the Boggs Center for two years and it really influenced the way I view the history of Detroit, as well as my perspective on grassroots organizing in neighborhoods. It also introduced me to people like Jackie, from Avalon, and other people that were doing great work with their communities. It not only shaped how I approach things as an organizer, but also as a legislator and Detroiter.”
Despite her growing commitment to service, politics didn’t enter the picture until later.
“Politics weren’t really on my radar. I was working as an organizer on a number of different issues — affirmative action, immigrant rights, voting rights, criminal justice reforms — then Rashida Tlaib and other friends asked me to consider running for office when Rashida reached her term limit. I was reluctant at first, but I ultimately realized it was a great opportunity to make a difference in a bigger way.”.