Asian, Pacific Islander students come together to appreciate heritage in personal lives

Monica Godnick
editor-in-chief

Were you aware that New Zealanders also take part in Asian Pacific heritage month? May is the designated month to celebrate the role of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the upbringing of this country. It is important to step back and take time to appreciate these two broad cultures, especially in a school where 44 percent of students are Asian, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander.

Who participates and why

In order to appreciate, one must understand what this month encompasses. According to asianpacifichertiage.gov, The Asian/ Pacific term refers to the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands), Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia) and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Easter Island).

History of the celebration

Another elemental piece to its appreciation is the history behind how the occasion was created. In 1977 House Representative Frank Horton introduced House Joint Resolution 540, which would make the first 10 days of May ‘Asian / Pacific Heritage Week’. Another similar resolution was introduced by Senator Daniel Inouye later that year. Since none of these resolutions were passed by Congress, Horton came back with Joint Resolution 1007, which suggested the president choose the week as long as May 7 and 10 was included. This law was passed by Congress and later in 1992, Public Law 102-450 was passed where the celebrated week was extended to a month.

Why did they want to include May 7 and 10 so badly? As stated by census.gov, they wanted to commemorate the date of immigration of the first Japanese to America (May 7, 1843) and the contributions of Chinese workers to the creation of the transcontinental railroad (May 10, 1869).

From the students’ perspective

Students of Asian heritage said they are proud of where they come from and their family makes sure that the principles of the culture are maintained and passed on from generation to generation. “I am very proud of being from South Korea. I am grateful for having a family that keeps the culture in second and third generations because I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the tradition and values that the culture brings. I am glad that this month encourages others to embrace their heritage and embrace being an American as well,” freshman Ethan Mon said.

Freshman Amber Sadiq’s parents are from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia agrees that parenting is a big part of why she still has these two cultures present in her life. “My parents do make an effort to make sure that I am informed and that I learn about the culture. Because of this, I have been able to maintain a unique identity not only at Wootton but in society. The culture also has helped me develop my views and values,” Sadiq said.

Junior Jonathan Lee said that he is thankful for having the chance to learn two languages at the same time. He also said that language is one of the most representative parts of any culture. “I love being able to speak Korean. I love talking to my grandma in her first language. It is also fun to bump into other Korean Americans who speak the language. It is also kind of fun to speak in Korean in public when no one else understands. It is not only fun and important for my culture but I know that having a second language will be useful for my life later on whether it is in a career or in other future situations,” Lee said.

Junior Ujjaini Gurram is Indian by heritage since both of her parents are from India. However, she was also born in New Zealand and moved to the United States when she was four years old. “I take pride in being Indian, a lot. India has this rich culture and tradition that has been a part of my life forever. Being born in New Zealand makes me proud too. The amazing strength and powerful pride New Zealand holds in their tribes are a huge part of their culture today and I admire that,” Gurram said.

Junior Sufiya Van Gieson is half Indian and half Hawaiian. Van Gieson participates in and embraces both cultures. In fact, you might have seen her perform a typical Hawaiian dance at Thursday Night Live, dressed up in traditional clothes. “Being Hawaiian has mostly shaped my outlook on life. A large part of the Hawaiian culture is being humble and in tune with your community, so growing up with those lessons around me has taught me to be self aware and selfless. One of my favorite parts of the culture is the feeling of home it brings, everyone is always so welcoming and anywhere I go around Hawaiian people I feel like I am with family,” Van Gieson said.

What’s happening here

The morning announcements has been putting out facts and important figures in honor of Asian/Pacific Heritage Month. “Even though I am usually pretty sleepy in the morning, the facts I learned about Asian / Pacific Heritage Month through the announcements helped me feel more educated and aware of the event,” junior Camila Pacheco said.

The importance of this holiday

It is important to be open minded and aware especially this month of all the different countries and the diversity these two broad cultures entail. Freshman Daniel Yi who is of South Korean heritage believes that we should all remind ourselves that appreciation and acknowledgment should not be limited to one month. “I think the month to commemorate Asian and Pacific Islander culture is nice but it shouldn’t stop after the month is over. In order to grow our worldviews we should always be appreciating every culture year round. It is necessary to have the open and flexible mind in order to learn and take away our own truths from the cultures of those around us,” Yi said.

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