History of the South-East Asia Center

South-East Asia Center (SEAC) is a multi-ethnic service organization.

The Center’s apolitical, non-sectarian, cross-cultural approach is welcoming to people of all countries of origin, ethnicities, religions, beliefs, colors, and classes.

Because the culturally diverse immigrant community we serve includes groups that in many cases were ancient enemies – we have found that cultural pride or celebration of simple diversity activities only reinforce old differences and disputes.

Discovering & celebrating our cultural commonalities is much more constructive.

We aim to bring people together by studying all major cultures and how they are similar deep down. We emphasize peace heroes rather than war heroes and study similar holidays around the world, not one or two.

From 1988-1992, SEAC gathered all major Asian groups (a first) in Chicago for a united voice in the Great Chicago School Reform. The group helped elect 62 Asian immigrants to Local School Councils and one to the Chicago School Board.

We invited African- and Hispanic-Americans to join with a common voice for common needs. Rather than labelling each other as ethnic or racial opponents, SEAC fought against divisiveness with the message that we all have the same basic needs and need to work together.

SEAC published seven ground-breaking cross-cultural bridge-building newsletters called Building Bridges delivered to one thousand multi-cultural schools, childcare centers, local school councils, and principals.

In 1981 SEAC was the first Asian group in Chicago to appoint a non-Asian executive director. Peter Porr was working on a Ph. D. program in the Politics of Education at the University of Chicago. But he took his assignment seriously, volunteering his services for the first ten of his 31-year tenure while also donating his home to the Center.

Mr. Porr and San O, SEAC’s Director of Programs, donated half of their moonlighting salary, over 31 years, caring for a mentally disturbed, brain-damaged Chinese man in their home, establishing the David Tom Settlement House.

Peter Porr’s home on Ainslie Street (now designated San O and Peter Porr Way) was converted and expanded as SEAC’s first headquarters and is probably the only school in Illinois in modern history built by the sweat equity of its future students together with their parents and grandparents.

SEAC’s innovative, ground-breaking teaching methods at The Bridge International School have been called refreshing and one of the two best program proposals by Chicago Department of Human Services for SEAC’s cross-cultural bridge-building approach funded to teach cross-cultural bridge building daily in Goudy and McCutcheon Public Schools for some 13 years from the early 1980’s.