Celebrating Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May 15, 2024
By iQ Staff

May is Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month — a time dedicated to recognizing the rich history and significant contributions of AANHPI communities across the United States. We spoke with leaders in our network and asked why they celebrate AANHPI Heritage Month.

 

Emi Lea Kamemoto

Senior Manager of DEI, People & Culture at The Walt Disney Company

 

 

Beginning my career in entertainment has changed the way I think about Heritage Months. Seeing our communities come together to tell our stories with a focus on how identity shapes them has been life changing. I’ve always been passionate about advocating for and promoting stories that honor my heritage and demonstrate the multifaceted nature of AANHPI experiences. Why? Because when we see our experiences authentically represented in media, it not only influences how others perceive us but also how we see ourselves. We’re introduced to new ideas, new dreams and just about anything becomes possible because someone like us was able to achieve it. These representations serve as a source of inspiration for future generations, illustrating the breadth of what AANHPI people can and do achieve and the unique ways we contribute to a society that likes to limit us to the status of a “model minority.”

 

Jacob Aki

Public Affairs Manager - Hawaiʻi, Alaska Airlines

 

 

AANHPI Month is not just a time for celebration but a crucial moment for our community to assert our presence and contributions. As Native Hawaiians, it's important for us to use this month as an opportunity to ensure our language and culture are prominently featured in the broader AAPI narrative. Too often, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders aren't represented in these discussions, and it's time to underscore that our communities are integral threads in the diverse fabric of our nation.

On a personal level, having immersed myself in learning ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language) and engaging in various cultural practices, I recognize the kuleana (responsibility) that I have to safeguard these traditions for my children and future generations. AANHPI Month isn't just about recognition; it's a platform for us to amplify our voices and elevate our stories.

 

Dana Fujiko Heatherton

Head of New Market Expansion, Waymo 

 

 

I grew up hearing about the struggles of my grandparents' forced incarceration in Manzanar and Gila River during WWII and my grandfather Kazuo Inouye's sacrifice as he fought for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. This story is taught throughout our schools and is more widely known than when my parents were kids so I've wondered what the importance of AANHPI Heritage month is now if our story is finally well-known. But when I asked my son why celebrating this month is important, he said, “We only know about the camps, not about any of our achievements." This month is important because Asian Americans are not a monolith and we are more than just our struggles. Our story is an American story and it's important we celebrate our achievements and contributions this month and always.

 

Interested in more insights from AANHPI leaders? Click here to visit our blog post from May 2023.