© 2020 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Government, Politics & Issues

Anna Crosslin would bring a lifetime of immigration experience to Human Rights post

International Institute of St. Louis president and CEO Anna Crosslin, today, and with her parents in Tokyo in 1952.
Anna Crosslin
International Institute of St. Louis president and CEO Anna Crosslin, today, and with her parents in Tokyo in 1952.

The head of the International Institute of St. Louis says she is looking forward to taking her passion for equity to a statewide level.

Anna Crosslin is one of Gov. Jay Nixon's two nominees to the Missouri Commission on Human Rights. The Commission investigates complaints about discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on factors like race, gender, and national origin.

Crosslin has spent the last 38 years helping refugees and immigrants through the International Institute, but her relevant experience  goes back to when she was a young child.

Learning from her mother’s struggle

Crosslin was born in Tokyo - her father served in the U.S. military during the Korean War. He met her mother in Japan, and the family came to the U.S. in the early 1950s, when Crosslin was 2 1/2. But a few years later, her father was lost at sea in a military transport accident. Her mother was only 31 years old, with four young children.

Anna Crosslin and her mother, who is now 90 years old.
Credit Anna Crosslin
Anna Crosslin and her mother, who is now 90 years old.

Crosslin saw her widowed mother struggle with language and cultural barriers in the restaurant business.

“It really gave me a bird's-eye view of how difficult it is for some people to get a fair shake in this society,” she said.

Crosslin said her mother was ultimately successful in running a number of establishments, including an Italian restaurant. The experience left Crosslin with a passion for helping underserved citizens navigate a maze of red tape.

“So many different kinds of rules and regulations that are difficult  for most of us to understand are especially hard for people who may have limited language, limited education and limited knowledge of how all these processes work,” Crosslin said.

She said she believes a lot of discrimination is rooted in people who don't understand others who aren't like themselves. 

“The way you really get to break down those barriers is when people who are different enter your family structure, enter your friendships, really mix and mingle,” Crosslin said. “Then you discover in the middle of all of it, a lot of commonalities.”

The Commission currently has five seated members and six vacancies, two of which would be filled by the new appointees. The other nominee, David Thomas of Columbia, spent 16 years as head of St. Louis’ Logos School, which serves struggling students. Confirmation hearings are expected next month.

Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.