By Kiran Ahuja
Washington, D.C. (May 31, 2011) – What an incredible month of celebration it has been. As Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month draws to a close, we are honored and humbled by the many great strides our Federal agency colleagues have made on behalf of the AAPI community, by our dynamic and tenacious staff and community partners, and by the principled and visionary leadership of our President.
In one short month, we have engaged in a flurry of activity, bringing Federal agencies together with the AAPI community. Administration leaders on the economy, immigration, healthcare, education and civil rights kicked off the month by briefing over 400 AAPI community members on these critical issues in Washington, DC. We then joined with the Council on Women and Girls and the Department of Labor to hold two nationwide conference calls on AAPI women and immigration.
In response to the AAPI community’s rapid population growth between 2000 and 2010, we partnered with Census Bureau officials to hold an in-person briefing and webinar with a complete analysis of the rapid growth of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders throughout the country over the last decade.
We worked with the National Healthy Nail Salon Alliance to hold the first Federal interagency roundtable at the Environmental Protection Agency focused on nail salon workers and the cosmetics industry, one of the fastest growing industries in the country and predominantly comprised of Asian immigrant women. Women workers and salon owners spoke directly about their daily experiences handling toxic chemicals to a room full of Federal officials and provided concrete recommendations on how to improve working conditions.
We convened a gathering at the White House with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) AAPI youth and Federal agency representatives. The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance and the Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy, Queer Justice Fund brought 19 youth from diverse communities across the country to speak about their journeys, challenges and triumphs growing up in this country. Federal officials from across the Administration listened and committed to incorporating the needs of this community into bullying prevention, comprehensive sex education, and HIV preventions programs.
We also connected with AAPI communities in Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York and Seattle. For example, we met with students, teachers and administrators of the Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution (AANAPISI) program at South Seattle Community College. The AANAPISI team shared lessons on how we can more effectively reach AAPI students in community colleges especially since almost have of all AAPI students attend community colleges and struggle to balance financial burdens, family obligations and school responsibilities. In fact, AANAPISIs are now included on the Department of Education’s website listing of postsecondary institutions enrolling populations with significant percentages of minority students.
And we published blogs by Administration colleagues, highlighting the motivation behind their work and impact on the AAPI community. From a personal story about a father inspiring his son to become a primary care doctor for poor communities and go on to become a Chief Medical Officer in the Health Resources and Services Administration; to a celebration of AAPI veterans and service members. These blogs provide a glimpse of the individuals diligently working in the Federal government to improve the lives of all Americans.
For the Initiative, AAPI Heritage Month is every month. Though May gives us a special reason to celebrate and acknowledge both the AAPI communities’ contributions and challenges, these are issues and concerns we seek to address every day. We know that our ability to do our job well rests on the great partnerships we have with community, philanthropic and business leaders and Federal agencies, but also on the dedicated staff who work tirelessly to live up to the guiding principle the President set when he signed the Executive Order establishing the White House Initiative on AAPIs that, no community should be invisible to its government.
Kiran Ahuja is the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.