Why I’m Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month
For me, it’s important to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month each May because I want to honor the sacrifices of the generations before me and fully embrace every part of who God created me to be.
When my Filipino grandfather, motivated to gain citizenship, enlisted in the U.S. Navy, my family received our ticket to America. Many families who came to America were refugees. I’ve heard many stories from Asian and Pacific Islander friends whose family endured circumstances like the Cambodian genocide or even swam across large bodies of water to gain the freedom their family now enjoys. They endured hardship and sacrificed so much without having the time to fully process all that had happened to them. Then, as they established themselves in America, they had to adapt to a much different culture.
I’m from California, where many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders immigrated. So I grew up in an environment where my culture was already woven into my everyday life — like familiar Filipino dishes served at my church’s potluck, quick trips to one of the many Asian/Filipino supermarkets in town, or seeing an “auntie” or “uncle” at Walmart even though they were not actually in my family tree. I didn’t know how different I was until I came to the Southeast.
I moved to South Carolina from California because I felt God tell me to care for my grandparents who live here. Growing up, they were basically my second set of parents! In my culture, all of our family members help care for one another. Our families give us an enormous sense of belonging and identity.
I’m so grateful for the family I have and the place I grew up. Jesus used those experiences to prepare me for a life of following Him in a place that isn’t as diverse as my childhood home. Because of Jesus, I experience a sense of belonging in my community in a deep way that reminds me of the belonging I have in my own family.
I hope you will celebrate AAPI Heritage Month with me. It gives each of us an opportunity to show more honor and intentionally pursue deeper friendships with people who are different from us. Celebrating this month can look like a lot of things, but below are just some suggestions.
1. Ask God to see people as He sees people. When we see as He sees, we’ll love as He loves.
2. Ask questions. Pursue intentional relationships with people from different backgrounds. Be present and provide a safe space to discuss differences.
3. Share a meal with us! If there’s one thing we Asians love to do, it’s eat! Initiate a dinner with an AAPI brother or sister. Look up a recipe or dine at your neighborhood Asian-owned restaurant together!
4. Learn about AAPI heritage. Before you dive into movies like Minari or Raya and the Last Dragon, look up some articles and books about the history and hardships of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.