Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Young Professional Spotlight

Meet Liz Koh

Occupation: Anchor & Reporter

Organization: WAFB Channel 9

Tell us a little about your Baton Rouge Story. What brought you to Baton Rouge?  

I moved to Baton Rouge from Lake Charles in August 2016. Prior to that, I was working at WAFB’s sister station in Lake Charles (KPLC TV). On my first day at WAFB, I covered the first day back to school at Brusly High School. My second day was covering the historic flood of 2016. I was the reporter who got stuck on I-12 with thousands of other South Louisiana residents. I still remember every live shot so vividly. Each community we visited was dealing with the incessant rain. In the following days and weeks, we kept moving south to cover where that water was going. I will never forget my first month in Baton Rouge.

Tell us more about how you’re involved in Baton Rouge (job or organizations). 

Most of the organizations I’m involved with I discovered while doing stories. I previously served as the Media Representative on the Board for the Gardere Initiative – an incredible organization serving the children and families of the Gardere community. There are some amazing volunteers there who work tirelessly to create and offer resources and programming. They’re also trying to meet the needs of the growing Latino/a community there by offering bilingual programs.  
After volunteering on a couple of builds with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Baton Rouge, I joined their Family Services Committee. It’s been very eye-opening to see the entire process of how someone in our community becomes a Habitat homeowner. It’s not easy but Habitat ensures these homeowners understand the responsibility of owning a home and helps them successfully get to that endpoint. It’s a beautiful process to be a part of from start to finish. 
I also sit on the Mid City Makers Market Board where I’ve learned so much about how creative artists, makers, and entrepreneurs strive to make it here. We have so many creative individuals in our community who all have something unique to offer but it can be hard to find the space to do that. It’s been fascinating to learn what goes into planning events like these and the thoughtful effort it takes to make it happen.  

What is your favorite thing about Baton Rouge? 

I have a lot of things on this list but it always comes down to the people. As much as I love the food and culture in Baton Rouge, neither of those things would be what they are without the people behind them. I wasn’t born or raised here, but I often feel like I was. When I first moved here so many people made me feel like I was home. That’s an indescribable feeling. It’s someone welcoming you into their home for a homecooked meal, inviting you over for a glass of wine on the patio or porch, or taking the time to get to know you over a cup of coffee. There’s Southern hospitality, but then there’s Baton Rouge hospitality which is in a league of its own. Also remember, since I moved here right when the flood happened, I saw humanity at its greatest. Strangers offering to rebuild the home of strangers, volunteers cooking and distributing food for people ripping out the guts of their homes, people dropping off cold bottled waters in neighborhoods – the kindness just kept overflowing.

How are young professionals like yourself shaping Baton Rouge, especially in being a member of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in the Capital Region? 

I think this is such a unique community to be a part of because it’s a growing demographic. I feel excited whenever I meet another Asian American in our community and I get to learn their story.  

In terms of shaping Baton Rouge, I think just being present and sharing Asian American stories and experiences, including my own, opens the conversation about diversity and inclusivity. One of the best compliments I’ve ever received was from a parent in our community. I was co-emceeing the Manners of the Heart Gala a few years ago when this sweet woman approached me and told me she adopted a little girl from China. One morning, her daughter was watching WAFB and said, “Mom, she looks like me!” That filled me with so much hope and joy for her daughter and anyone who looks like me. I hope they know that they can do what I do as a career.  
There are a lot of Asian American individuals, especially young adults, in Baton Rouge making a name for themselves in Baton Rouge. Business owners, restaurant owners, artists, chefs, moms, dads, engineers, doctors, athletes, and lawyers are all doing incredible things right here in the Capital Region. It’s wonderful to see the community patronize these businesses and embrace these individuals while learning their origin stories. There’s still a lot of progress to be made here too. 

What changes have you seen in inclusivity for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders across the BR Area? What changes would you like to see? 

Over the last year, I’ve learned that there is local support for the Asian American community through conversations and interactions via social media. I really value and appreciate what the LSU Reilly Center for Media and Public Affairs is doing. They have been hosting a series of conversations titled “Racism: Dismantling the System.” They hosted one about Anti-AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) Racism and its effects. It was enlightening to hear from my colleagues across the nation about issues they are facing with AAPI Racism. I would like to see and hear about more conversations like this happening within our community. What are the needs of our AAPI community? What kind of issues are they facing? Culturally, I think many Asian communities tend to not speak up when there are problems, but I think having and sharing in some of these conversations would be helpful for everyone to learn from.  

What are some resources that you think Asian American and Pacific Islander business owners in the Capital Region should utilize? 

I think AAPI business owners should seek out every grant opportunity possible. Getting a business started from scratch is hard, but staying in business is even harder. Seek every opportunity and resource out there possible. I think it’s always worth it to get advice from local leaders, too. If someone reading this has a great business idea they’re just about ready to launch, this would be a great time to take advantage of BRAC’s new small business services program.

What is your Baton Rouge favorite: 

  • Place to eat?  Chow Yum Phat, Sweet Society, The Chimes 
  • Place to hang out? French Truck Coffee, Zippy’s 
  • Place to capture the perfect Instagram pic? The wall outside of Chow Yum Phat 
  • Place to people watch? Mississippi River levee 
  • Place to network? Local shops, Don Juan Cigar Bar, LSU & SU sporting events  
  • Way to give back? Donate your time or money! It doesn’t require too much of your time or too much money. Habitat for Humanity of Greater Baton Rouge & The Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank are two easy and great local organizations to help.  
  • Event? The Flower Fest benefiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital 
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