AAPI Heritage Month celebrates the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans to the achievements of the US. We hear from AAPI Unqorkers about what Asian Heritage means to them.
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the contributions and cultures of all AAPI communities. Our communities are just as unique as they are shared, and this month is a time for all of us to enjoy the diverse array of foods, music, and traditions—while taking time to respect and appreciate the sacrifices and hard work that our families had to make.
We also want to take this month to address the recent spike in hate crimes against the AAPI community. We are heartbroken and we mourn in solidarity with our fellow AAPI community affected by these attacks. At Unqork, we have taken the first step to provide an open and safe space to talk about these unfortunate events and provide education about how to be an ally by forming our recent ERSG, Subtle Asian Qorks.
Subtle Asian Qorks’ vision is to amplify the unique voices in the Asian community, support Asian professional growth, eliminate implicit biases, appreciate intersectionality & diversity, and educate the world on the Asian identity.
We spoke with some Unqorkers about what their Asian heritage means to them.
Nationality: Chinese (specifically, family is from Changsha in the Hunan Province)
My brother is eleven years older than me and this past year, I finally asked my parents why that is. I used to joke that I was an accident, but the truth I discovered is that due to China’s then-active but now-outdated one child policy, my parents couldn’t have had me while they lived in Changsha. They immigrated to the United States with my brother for an abundance of opportunities—and an additional life was one of them. This humbling fact, a decision that wasn’t mine but is something that I’m always reinforcing with myself, defines Asian heritage for me: honoring my Chinese traditions in a Western world. Because of my parents’ immigration from China and the revitalization of their life thereafter, I believe it’s important that I cherish the cultural staples and practices that my ancestors grew up with in order to preserve our cultural integrity for later generations. In a Western society, this can be sometimes difficult to do. But blending Asian heritage, a shade so beautiful on its own, with Western culture can create an elegant complementary color to be used by all AAPI people and allies.
Read more about how Kai Li (Kelly) has been working from home here.
Nationality: Korean American
Asian heritage to me is about connecting with my community and my identity. Learning about my family history, traditions, and celebrating our past so that I can be proud of where I come from and shape my future to carry on my Asian heritage.
Nationality: I am Chinese and I grew up in Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
To me, Asian Heritage is just a part of my cultural roots and who I am. Growing up in an Eastern/Western dichotomy like Hong Kong has deeply ingrained in me Chinese values contrasted with Western ideas. My Asian heritage has never fully defined my cultural identity until I came to the United States, and it definitely took me years to come to terms with my own cultural experience and learn to celebrate that.
Being a child of Vietnamese refugees, Asian Heritage means connecting to my parents’ culture while embracing the differences in the culture I grew up in. For me, it’s being able to speak two languages fluently so I can communicate with my family members who don’t speak English, and appreciating the hard work of my family being immigrants to a country they didn’t know and being able to adapt while still embedding our culture in our everyday lives.
Nationality: Chinese American—Family is from Northern China (then Taiwan) and Southern China (then Hong Kong)
I grew up in the countryside of the Southern Hudson Valley New York, travelling to NYC often for family gatherings and holidays. Asian Heritage is a complicated topic for me because of that. Seeing other Asians outside of family for me was an unusual occurrence. My gaze is definitely this odd combination of suburban Caucasian and Asian. As I’ve gotten older I’ve definitely reached out to learn more about the Asian diaspora as a whole, which has in turn enriched my understanding of my familial roots. That being said, growing up in the countryside as a child of Chinese immigrants was definitely interesting. My childhood is definitely informed by hearing “ching chong” while in the grocery with my mother, constant questions of “do you know karate?” from the other second graders, and requests of “can I touch your hair?”. I didn’t perceive these things as hurtful at the time and most of it was fueled by ignorance not malice, but they definitely had an effect on my story of Asian Heritage.
Nationality: Japanese Brazilian
My Jiichan (Grandpa in Japanese) and Baachan (Grandma in Japanese) moved from Japan to Brazil in the 30s. To a country where they didn’t know anybody, didn’t know the culture, didn’t know the language, and didn’t have ways to communicate with the families they left behind in Japan. They worked for many years in very poor conditions as farmers in the south of Brazil and through a lot of hard work and perseverance they, years later, managed to buy their own farms and raise 8 kids. Asian Heritage means exactly that to me: being brave and having the courage to do things in life that are not comfortable, being resilient and persevere, working hard, and fighting for what I believe in (fun fact: my grandmother’s family were from a Samurai heritage in Japan!).
Asian Heritage to me means celebrating all of the things that define my Asian identity. The food we eat, our cultural traditions, and the community we surround ourselves with. This month I’m grateful to be celebrating Asian Heritage with the Subtle Asian Qorks ERSG at Unqork!
Nationality: Hong Kong/British Oversea/Chinese-American
Asian Heritage to me is part of the story where I was from. Where values and past history dictate the person that I am today. It is something that I embrace on my back but not allow it to block the roads ahead. We never had a Jermey Lin until Jermey Lin arrived, but when he did, he made sure everyone knew he was here.
When speaking of heritage, the first person that comes into my mind is my grandfather. He is Chinese, and moved to Thailand. Thus, Asian Heritage means celebrating my ancestors' culture: the food, the festivals/holidays (Lunar New year, Qingming Festival, Moon Festival, etc.), the games, and the music.
I was born and raised in NYC, but I moved around a lot. Some areas had a ton of Asians and others, not so much. I grew up as a chameleon in a sense, adapting to the environment around me. I know that my Mom came from South Korea to give her children a better life—the “American Dream” with $100 in her pocket. (This is a story that every immigrant child can resonate with; whether or not it was actually $100, we will never know). I remember being upset that she never had time to spend with me because she was always working. I remember my grandmother packing me lunches and being made fun of for the way the smell of kimchi permeated throughout the cafeteria. I remember crying to her, asking for lunchables or a regular brown bag lunch. They were resilient and worked non-stop and built us an amazing life with their business savviness and the determination to succeed. Now that I'm older, I see the sacrifices my family made for us. My heritage means empowering ourselves and enduring what life throws at me for our family and our future generations.
Nationality: Taiwainese-Chinese Jewish American
For me, Asian Heritage means being proud of everything my family has gone through and sacrificed to create a new life in this country. My mom was only twenty-three years old when she migrated from Taiwan to America all by herself to get her Master’s Degree in Computer Science. I can’t imagine how overwhelming and lonely it must’ve been to travel across the world by yourself and not be able to speak the language or have any community awaiting you. Understanding the struggles and alienation my family faced as they worked to build a foundation of opportunities for my generation is bittersweet but fills me with immense gratitude. Above all, my Asian heritage is home embodied; the sounds of laughter and reminiscing, the mouth-watering smell of fresh sauteed garlic, and the comfort of family as we sit down to eat together, celebrating our culture and history, even if oceans away.
Asian Heritage to me means embracing and celebrating the culture of my family. I was born in Australia, and then moved and ultimately raised in Seattle, WA. My parents were both born and raised in Hong Kong, and throughout my lifetime I have been fortunate enough to visit Hong Kong numerous times to the point where I can call it a second home. Having that constant connection back to my family’s heritage has cultivated me into the person I am today.
To me, Asian Heritage is a joyful process of discovering what it means to be a unique person living in cultures and communities that many of us share. I am a child of immigrants—which might be a similar bond between myself, others, and even what “being American” means. When my family sits down for dinner, the smells coming from home cooked meals might have a certain emotion for me—but the aroma is the same for anyone else. Asian Heritage is the idea that I can simultaneously be very different and yet also be very similar to you. That is something to celebrate.
Asian Heritage is as rich as it is diverse—there is so much that is unique and shared at the same time. For me, it means appreciating cultural traditions that have come before and how I contribute to that heritage through my own experiences. Just as the world continues to change, Asian Heritage continues to evolve as well. To show up and represent our communities in our personal and professional lives is a joy, a privilege, and a powerful responsibility.