Celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

May 17, 2023
By iQ Staff
Headshots of Joshua Morey, AJ Halagao, Stella Ngai, and Joe Ibarra.

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. To celebrate, we spoke with leaders in our networks who share their Asian American and Pacific Islander cultures both at work and in their communities. Read their insights and inspirations for promoting AAPI heritage.


AJ Halagao

Vice President, Corporate and Community Advancement at Hawaiian Electric Industries (HEI)

President of HEI Charitable Foundation

The HEI Foundation proudly supports many AAPI organizations, including the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai'i, Hawaii Chinese Cultural Center and the Filipino Community (FilCom) Center. Many of our employees volunteer their personal time to promote their culture and heritage. For example, I chair the Board of Governors at the FilCom Center. Also, I wrote and produced "Dream," a musical play about a group of students who took the initiative to develop a Filipino history and culture curriculum that will be offered at Hawai'i public schools next Fall. Earlier this year, we sponsored "Defining Courage," a visual and musical production about the 442nd infantry regiment consisting of Japanese Americans. By supporting these organizations and promoting their cultural initiatives, HEI is helping to celebrate Hawai'i's unique culture and create a thriving community.


Joe Ibarra

General Manager, The Kahala Hotel & Resort and Vice President, Resorttrust Hawaii

After middle school, I was accepted to Kamehameha Schools and was blessed to learn about Hawaiian culture, language, and how to be a good and industrious man. That education helped me strive to share the authentic Hawaiian culture with visitors from around the world, and it sparked a passion for this industry.
I turned to the Hawaiian land management system (ahupua'a) as a guide for The Kahala to partner in reciprocal relationships in our area from mauka (the mountain) to makai (the ocean). We all share these beautiful islands, and we need to build relationships with one another that support, grow, and enhance quality of life for all. My goal is that the Kahala be an active participant in our community, and that it helps educate both the malihini (visitor) and kama'āina (locals) about how we can all ensure that Hawai'i remains pristine with a thriving culture for generations to come.


Joshua Morey

President, The J. Morey Company, Inc.

The vision of my company is “remember where you come from…create a new future.” The first thing I do every day is extend gratitude to someone in our organization. Stemming from the deep-rooted gratitude (kansha) I have for how my family and community endured the WWII incarceration, I want to constantly remind myself that “today's” impact stands on the shoulders of those who’ve gone before me. This practice of kansha is contagious and has built a culture of appreciation where people feel welcomed, valued, and empowered to amplify the voices of our community into the future.


Stella Ngai

Chief Campus Counsel, University of California at Merced

Chinese Americans must stand up for equity and inclusion alongside other marginalized communities because multiracial coalitions are key to creating a just society for all. Part of my everyday activism is to mentor pre-law students at UC Merced, many of whom are Latinx first-generation college students. Like many of them, I didn’t know any lawyers growing up. I hope that by serving as a trusted source of guidance for young people who may not have access to information, I can help lay the groundwork for their professional success. This is meaningful to me because I believe every person has a role to play in shaping a more inclusive future.


Interested in more insights from AAPI leaders? Click here to visit our blog post from May 2022.