WASHINGTON, D.C. (Feb. 20, 2014) — Building on themes outlined in President Obama’s State of the Union address to Congress last month, White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Executive Director Kiran Ahuja announced thursday new plans to expand opportunities at the national level and increase community engagement at the local level.
Joined by federal officials and community members across the country on a Google+ Hangout held today, Ahuja outlined key elements of a regional strategy designed to build upon the Initiative’s success over the past four years improving access to services and protections for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders across the country.
Officials on the Hangout also highlighted activities the Initiative is taking, including a comprehensive report on what federal agencies have accomplished to increase access for AAPIs, the launch of a campaign to raise awareness of Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs), a call for proposals to leverage the skills and talents of people across the country with the Initiative, and the official theme of this year’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month this May.
Ahuja said the Initiative is providing the building blocks toward accessible education, affordable health care, and secure retirements for all. And that they are building on what they’ve learned and done nationally and offering new ideas to meet the demands of the nation’s fastest growing demographic.
“A better America is possible, one with policies that strengthen us and a government that serves all of us, including the AAPI community” said Ahuja. “We’re reinforcing relationships, forging coalitions, bolstering institutions and the capacity of community based organizations in order to ensure the federal government better serves us all.”
Regional Working Groups
On the Hangout, Ahuja said regional interagency working groups of officials representing more than 20 federal agencies and sub-agencies have been formed and trained to work with Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.
Regional working groups in New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles have already hit the ground running. In the last few months, they heard directly from community members about their challenges and have started to demystify the work of the federal government and its programs and services and create new partnerships with community leaders.
Federal Agency Feedback
On the Hangout, officials released a comprehensive plan and report of what each federal agency will do and has done to improve and expand access of AAPIs to resources this year. The policies represent the federal government’s commitment to increasing access to services for the AAPI community, with an emphasis on four priority areas: data disaggregation, language access, workforce diversity and capacity building.
To solicit feedback on the plans, the Initiative launched an interactive module where the public can “like” specific aspects of each plan and make comments about particular activities.. The feedback module will be open until March 31, 2014 and can be found on aapi.ideascale.com.
Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions
To meet President Obama’s goal of having America produce the highest proportion of college graduates in the world once again by the year 2020, actor Maulik Pancholy said on the Hangout that there should be a focus on underserved students in the nation’s fastest growing demographic, many of whom also have the lowest rates of college attainment.
Pancholy announced the Initiative’s #AANAPISIstory campaign on the Hangout, which seeks to raise awareness about Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs), the educational institutions that provide culturally relevant services and have high AAPI populations, to help meet President’s Obama’s 2020 goal.
Using #AANAPISIstory on social media platforms, the Initiative will collect stories in the form of photos, videos and writing about what AANAPISIs mean to members of the AAPI community. To share a story and learn more about AANAPISIs, please visit bit.ly/AANAPISI.
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
During the Hangout, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center director Konrad Ng announced its theme for this year’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May: “I Am Beyond.”
“This year’s theme captures how AAPIs have met challenges and excelled beyond them in shaping the nation,” said Ng. “ ‘I am Beyond’ recognizes the depth, breadth and richness of America’s Asian Pacific heritage.”
Ng said the Center is inviting organizations, individuals and communities across the country to join the commemoration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and share their interpretation of the theme over social media using #IAMBEYOND. Visit www.apa.si.edu soon for more information. Expressions can include, but are not limited to, visual art, literary work, or multimedia. The theme aims to enrich the appreciation of the Asian American and Pacific Islander contributions to the American story.
On October 14, 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Executive Order reestablishing the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (Initiative). The Initiative, chaired by U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan and led by Executive Director Kiran Ahuja, is housed within the U.S. Department of Education. The Initiative works to improve the quality of life and opportunities for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders by facilitating increased access to and participation in federal programs where they remain underserved.
The Initiative seeks to highlight both the tremendous unmet needs in the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities as well as the dynamic community assets that can be leveraged to meet many of those needs. The Initiative focuses on crosscutting priority areas that may reach across all issue areas and agencies, including, for example, advancing research, data collection, analysis and dissemination for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, and ensuring access, especially linguistic access and cultural competence, for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and encouraging Asian American and Pacific Islander involvement in public service and civic engagement opportunities.