Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM) is a month-long observance in May that honors the history, achievements, and contributions of people of Asian and Pacific Islander (API) descent in the United States. The month was selected to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. In 1990, President George H. W. Bush and Congress voted to expand the celebration from one day to a full month.
This year’s celebration took on a more serious tone as the Port’s Asian Pacific Islander employee resource group organized over a dozen events and activities to raise awareness about the issues that impact the API community in light of the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes over the past year. Between March 2020 and February 2021, almost 3,800 anti-Asian-American/Pacific Islander incidents were reported nationally by the Stop AAPI Hate organization.
“As we observe Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the API ERG could not in good conscience proceed business as usual and focus solely on the food, the clothing, the aesthetics and the parts of our culture that have long been fetishized without acknowledging the rise in violence and harassment targeting our communities and reaffirming our commitment to #StopAsianHate,” said API ERG co-chair, Christian Aniciete. “A deep examination and look into our history and identity reveal that these attacks are not new. They are deeply rooted in this country’s history. But time and time again, the API community continues to persevere as we link our struggle with the BIPOC community for racial justice.”
This year’s schedule grew to include film screenings, discussions, guest speakers and behind-the-scenes advocacy throughout the month, culminating in guest speaker conversations and fundraisers to support local, BIPOC-owned small businesses. Highlights include:
- PBS’ “Asian Americans,” a five-hour film series that chronicles the contributions, and challenges of Asian Americans, opened this year’s heritage month with a weekly one-hour viewing. The viewings culminated in an informal, in-depth discussion on the Model Minority Myth.
- The API ERG launched its two-part fundraisers with a partnership with Leslie’s Lumpia, a local Filipino-owned business that specializes in Filipino-style spring rolls filled with beef, pork, and vegetables rolled in a thin crepe wrapper. Proceeds from the fundraiser benefit the Port’s E4E Program, which raises money annually for scholarships awarded to children of Port employees.
- API ERG members, families and allies gave their volunteer time and energy at Topaz Farm to help the Sauvie Island Center get their Discovery Garden and First Foods Forest ready for summer camps that teach elementary school-aged students about plant life cycles, pollination, soil science and more. Participants broke down the clay-like soil, aerated, fertilized and planted kale and beets. They also learned about the process and cycle of farming as well as the history of Sauvie Island and the indigenous Wapato people.
- Director of Business Oregon Sophorn Cheang gave inspiring remarks as the guest speaker at a Port town hall conversation with employees. During the event, she said, “The moment that you’re in, embrace that, make a difference. Making a difference starts with you. It starts with all of us. Creating an inclusive workplace and a welcoming work environment requires all of us to work together.”
- In partnership with the Port’s leadership team, the API ERG signed Rise Against Hate Oregon’s call for support as it launched its campaign aimed at focusing attention on the rise in hate violence against the API community. Community leaders and elected officials took part in the event held virtually at the Lan Su Chinese Garden.
- The Port was a sponsor of API Forward‘s 6th annual Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Celebration, which honors the diverse community and raises funds to educate local students and young professionals of API descent to become leaders in the community. Thanks to the API ERG, the Port was also the 2021 Forward Leadership Program partner. Students participating in the program worked with W+DN to understand the reasons behind apparent disparities by gender and ethnicity regarding advancement at certain pay levels.
- The API ERG partnered with another local BIPOC-owned small business, Sweet Violets Baked Goods, to raise funds to support its campaign to raise awareness and advocate for seafarers. Over the past year, the API ERG hosted a holiday drive, brought in a guest speaker, and delivered care packages to seafarers at Terminal 6.
- Building on last year’s heritage month, the API ERG once again promoted opportunities by Hollaback! to offer bystander intervention trainings. The trainings are specifically designed to respond to anti-Asian harassment and xenophobia.
- To wrap up the month, Port Commissioner and President and Co-Owner of Bambuza Hospitality Group, LLC, Katherine Lam, met with Port employees to share her inspiring story as a Vietnamese immigrant, entrepreneur, philanthropist and community leader.