Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Month

What does AAPI month mean to you?

AAPI month is about celebrating Asian and Pacific Islanders who have made history in the U.S but it's also celebrating the AAPIs right here in our own community. It's my roommates, it's your classmates, my sister, leaders right here on campus making a difference, the workers at Bolton, your co-workers, and some of my new friends at Wesley. It's about celebrating and acknowledging the AAPI voices whose voices are so worthy of being heard, loved and listened to. To me, it's learning and unlearning so much about what society has taught us about my own community because of the brave people who have led the way. This month is a time to reflect and champion on those who came before us and who are here now!

Who is a figure in Asian American history who has inspired you lately?

I first learned about Dr. Kazue Togasaki while doing some research for another project on Asian American history but coming from an interest in science and maybe attending nursing school in the future, I am inspired by Dr. Togasaki’s bravery and compassionate heart. Dr. Togaski was the first Japanese American nurse and physician in the U.S but faced discrimination throughout her practice. When Pearl Harbor happened in 1941, she and 120,000 Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps. Despite this, she provided medical care. Once she was released, she returned home but both her house and her medical practice were destroyed. This did not stop her and she continued to see people of all races and ethnicities for the next 40 years. Her story has shown me that there is always a way to show love and care to those who need it, even when all things are unfair. It also is inspiring because Dr. Togasaki used medicine (her passion) to bring people together and to unite Asian Americans.

What are some ways you would like to see AAPI month celebrated by institutions and/or the church?

I think this blog is a great place to start! Having spaces like this for students within the AAPI community to talk about their lived experiences is so important not just for us but also for people outside of the community to celebrate with us! You can read about the history of AAPI month on any website, but you cannot get the voices or experiences of Asian Americans unless you make the space. I also think having more events like Let’s Talk at churches would help celebrate Asian American poets/artists/activists/& preachers by bringing in a fresh perspective and challenging some of the preconceived notions that some might hold. Churches should be the place that can have these types of events and where we can begin the conversations of how to not only celebrate but support Asian American students, especially when it is predominantly white.

What is something you wished people asked you more about your experience as an Asian American?

There is not one question I wish people asked more because I do not think our experience as Asian Americans can be answered in just one question or one sitting. But rather I wished more people just listened. But listened intentionally and fully. I wished more people were willing to be open to sit in on stories of our experience as Asian Americans. Be willing to sit in the joyful moments but also some of the painful, uncomfortable ones. I think if people knew that the Asian American experience was different for everyone, my story included, it would create more dialogue than questions. It would create more prayerful discussions than assumptions.

Who - famous or not - would you like to honor who has had a tremendous effect on your life?

My sister, who is also Asian American, has had a tremendous impact on my life in helping me navigate life but more specifically in helping shape my identity as an Asian American and woman of God. We do not agree on everything but our relationship has shown me that God works together with those who love him (Romans 8:28). It is through some of our differences that I have become more confident in who I am. My sister challenges me to think beyond what society says and has been my sounding board when the world gets a little chaotic. She is passionate about the people she loves and shows me that I can live my truth but that I always have the support when I need it. This is one of the few relationships that I have been able to experience something like this.

How can you encourage others to find value in their unique experiences as an Asian American?

This is something I am constantly working on and want to say I am grateful to the people who have and continue to encourage me to find my own value in my identity and my experience as an Asian American. It can sometimes be hard to encourage others when your own cup is feeling low. Being a Chinese adoptee, I have fought with the idea of where I fit in with being both Asian and American but have found that it is time and patience that has helped me the most. Time to discover my own voice, time to learn about my self and the history of Asian Americans, and time to sit with friends, people I trust, and with God to reflect on different matters. Important matters. So with that, I would encourage others to take all the time they need to find their own worth and value as an Asian American. Because once they do, once they begin to understand that it’s unique, then they get to decide who and how they want to share it. And finally, I would encourage them to be gracious with themselves just like God is. There is so much grace for when it gets overwhelming and when it feels like no one hears you or sees you. You do not have to figure your identity out all in one night and have all the answers. I know I don't and that is what makes our experience as Asian Americans unique.

Author  |  Lia Herrera

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