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Celebrating National AAPI Heritage Month: A Conversation
In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, After-School All-Stars organized an engaging roundtable discussion that featured our chapter. Representing a range of ethnicities, the conversation covered topics of culture, upbringing, individual and shared experiences, and appreciation for heritage. The discussion was facilitated by Maria Glidden (Director of Development and Communications, Filipino), and she was joined by the following five All-Stars:
Joe Pacheco — Program Specialist, Native Hawaiian
Cody Miyataki — Administrative Manager, Japanese and Chamorro
Kristine — 6th grade, Filipino and Chinese
Noa — 8th grade, Filipino and Native Hawaiian
Blake — 8th grade, Chuukese, Japanese and German
Maria: What does AAPI Heritage Month mean to you?
Kristine: For me, AAPI Heritage Month is important but also, I find it a bit less important because – we’re finally being noticed like everyone else, instead of being noticed every day.
Blake: When I was growing up, I saw people talking down to my friends, even though they were doing nothing. Just because we’re Pacific Islanders. So, I’m happy there’s a month out there.
Maria: Thanks for sharing that. It’s not always positive and happy and exciting all the time. That is a part of the reality for us sometimes.
Cody: Although we should always be celebrating ourselves and our culture, it’s nice to be able to share what our culture is and let everybody understand where we come from, and our values.
Maria: What do you want people to know about your culture, your heritage, or your identity?
Noa: My culture is known for its dedication to the island and to family. Native Hawaiians have been doing their best to try and protect our ‘āina, as we call it – our land.
Joe: Yes, we are protective of our native lands. We want to preserve not only life, but the land for the future. But we must show aloha to others and welcome them. The way that we do things, it’s all with love. And that’s the one thing I know will always be Hawaiian.
Maria: What is something people assume about your culture that you would like to shed some light on?
Joe: Some think that Native Hawaiians are lazy. There is a fire that burns in all of us Asian Americans and Native Hawaiians—the Warrior Spirit. We work hard and make things happen—not only for ourselves but for our families. And for you guys—the next generation.
Blake: People assume how Chuukese people act—they assume that we act bad. I want to tell them to actually get to know me—to get to know all of us better, rather than just assuming.
Kristine: One of the stereotypes I hear is that Asians are really smart. Some Asians may be smart in some things, like everyone else, but some may be smart in other ways.
Cody: Let the stereotypes drive you to do better, to change the stereotypes, and to teach others.
Maria: What advice would you give to others who wish to embrace their identity?
Cody: Talk to your elders and learn from them. Talk to your grandparents, your great grandparents. I was fortunate to have great grandparents in my life and they taught me a lot.
Blake: My advice would be for people to follow their hearts and do what they love. Learn to love, not to hate.
Maria: My advice for those who wish to embrace their own identity is to embrace everyone else’s identity as well. There’s always a way to find something in common with other cultures if you take the time to get to know them and listen.
Kristine: The advice I would give to people who want to embrace their identity is that they shouldn’t be ashamed of it. You can’t fully embrace yourself if you have something you’re embarrassed about. Be happy with what you are.
Maria: What is your definition of family?
Joe: For me, family is who you choose to surround yourself with. It doesn’t have to be those that share the same blood as you. At After-School All-Stars, we are one big ‘Ohana.
Noa: My definition of family is people who are in your heart. People that you care for, that you trust. This program is my ‘Ohana. I’m so glad I get to be here, at After-School All-Stars Hawaii.
Maria: That was a perfect way to end this conversation. I think we, living in Hawai’i and celebrating Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is a big deal because there’s so many of us living here. We’re surrounded by water—we have to be family. We have to take care of each other.