Photo Credit to Kheel Center, Photographer Unknown
By Bobby T.
Growing up and working in the diverse DMV area has provided me exposure and a great appreciation for the vast cultural backgrounds and traditions of both friends and colleagues. Each of us has so much to offer and contribute toward enriching each other’s lives when sharing our personal narratives, including struggles, triumphs, and experiences. Having a month each year dedicated to recognizing AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) heritage, achievements and influences is great, but it also raises the question of “why?”
Why the month of May? Two events stand out that cemented May as AAPI Heritage Month when it was proposed in the 1970s. Back on May 7, 1843, the first Japanese immigrant arrived in the U.S.; over two decades later, on May 10, 1869, the “Golden Spike” was driven into the first transcontinental railroad, which was completed using Chinese labor. President Jimmy Carter signed a joint resolution on October 5, 1978 that proclaimed a week annually during the first 10 days of May. It was later extended to a month by President George H.W. Bush in 1992.
In 1978, my parents and I risked a tremendous amount by fleeing Vietnam during the war in hopes of a better life in “The Land of Opportunity.” I recognize that dedicated months and holidays can fail to address historic misunderstandings, or lack of representation of specific groups of individuals who feel or are even told that they do not belong. This has been more prevalent in recent years and it has unfortunately been a disturbing trend that negatively impacts society through an escalation in violence and racism.
I welcome the diverse programs I have worked on as an ActioNeter, along with observances and celebrations of popular traditions. However, there are also ways in which we can be impactful during these times. Hopefully, more of us will care to speak up or act when our colleagues or friends are hurting or are treated unfairly instead of choosing passivity. There are many people without a voice or representation; it is important for those who do have the privilege or platform to use it to help those in need. By doing so, these individuals can contribute to positive changes in our society. Please consider standing with us by standing up to hatred and violence toward the AAPI community. Donations to advocacy and community groups (such as stopaapihate.org) are helpful and appreciated. Acting when witnessing any form of injustice or assault can also help more than you know.