Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Blog

  • Tune in Tomorrow: AAPI Heritage Month Opening Ceremony

    AAPI Opening Ceremony Flyer

    Tomorrow, May 6, 2014 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. EDT, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) and the U.S. Department of the Interior will host an Opening Ceremony to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month.

    The event will highlight the many contributions AAPIs have made to the arts, science, government, military, commerce, and education in the United States, and will feature performances, special guests and speakers, the ceremonial swearing-in of the President’s Advisory Commission on AAPIs, and remarks by Vice President Joe Biden. Click here for a schedule.

    To watch the event, tune in to the live stream from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. EDT at www.doi.gov/live.

    Gautam Raghavan is an Advisor in the White House Office of Public Engagement.

  • Olympic Medalist and Miss America Share Their "I Am Beyond" Stories

    Nina Davuluri, Miss America 2014, and Julie Chu, four-time Olympic Medalist of the U.S. Women’s Ice Hockey Team, participated in a women’s armchair conversation

    Nina Davuluri, Miss America 2014, and Julie Chu, four-time Olympic Medalist of the U.S. Women’s Ice Hockey Team, participated in a women’s armchair conversation at the White House, April 21, 2014. (by Darren Shim)

    On April 21, 2014, the White House Office of Public Engagement, White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs), and White House Council on Women and Girls hosted an armchair conversation with Julie Chu, four-time Olympic Medalist of the U.S. Women’s Ice Hockey Team, Nina Davuluri, Miss America 2014, and Tina Tchen, Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama & Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls.

    We were able to sit down with Nina and Julie before the event and listen to their "I Am Beyond" stories, the theme for this year’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. The phrase captures the aspirations of the American spirit and how Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander descent have always sought to excel beyond the stereotypes and everyday challenges facing immigrants, refugees, or even indigenous populations in America.

    As an Indian American, Nina Davuluri has used the Miss America organization platform to show young girls and women that you should always be proud of who you are and where you come from. “When I started competing, I really wanted to change the idea or perception of who the girl next door was,” she said. “For me, the girl next door was evolving as the diversity of America evolved.” It was her goal to finally reach out to a new demographic of young women.

    Julie Chu, who was the flag bearer for Team USA during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony, explained to us that it was not always easy playing a sport that typically only boys played.  “Being one of the only girls playing boys hockey growing up, I faced challenges and adversities from some of the boys I played against,” she said. “But what hockey taught me was resiliency. Not really allowing those things to stop me from chasing my dreams.”

    As the first Asian American woman to play for the U.S. Women’s Ice Hockey team, Julie wanted to build a lasting legacy for young women and “create opportunities for the next generation to be able to pursue whatever they are passionate about.”

    Julie Chu and Nina Davuluri at the women's armchair conversation

    Chu displays one of her Olympic medals and Davuluri holds her Miss America 2014 crown prior to a women’s armchair conversation at the White House, April 21, 2014. (by Darren Shim)

    These incredible women are nothing short of amazing and have paved the way for the younger generation to find, explore, and pursue their own passions and interests. Their “I Am Beyond” stories are testaments to the power of hard work and dedication and how a dream can one day grow into something that can inspire and change those around you.

    Kiran Ahuja is Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

  • Celebrating the Diverse AAPI Experience: 2014 AAPI Heritage Month

    Students Perform the Hula for Secretary Duncan

    Students at the Ka Waihona o ka Na’auao Public Charter School perform the hula for U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan during his visit in Nanakuli, Hawaii, March 31, 2014. (by Eugene Tanner)

    Last month, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan and I had the pleasure of visiting Ka Waihona o ka Naauao Public Charter School, a Hawaiian-focused public charter school on the coast of Waianae. Clad in colorful lei, we discussed the importance of preserving the Hawaiian language and the role it plays in improving student outcomes with charter school educators and learned how to make poi (a staple food) with the students.

    To us, the trip reaffirmed the deep diversity of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) population. The model minority myth, which conveys the sense that all AAPIs are highly successful, masks the diversity within the community and the real differences that exist in socioeconomic status, educational attainment, health, and other areas. Not only are we committed to promoting and releasing relevant data that informs our policy decisions such as the Civil Rights Data Collection and promoting data disaggregation at the local, state and federal level to fully understand the AAPI community, but we also need to continue our efforts to build capacity among AAPI institutions, ensure linguistic access to federal resources, and encourage involvement in public service and civic engagement opportunities.

    Today marks the first day of this year’s AAPI Heritage Month. This month, hundreds of community and government leaders will join to celebrate and re-dedicate themselves to the ongoing work of improving the well-being of the AAPI community. Together, we will reflect on the theme of “I Am Beyond”— a theme that captures the depth, breadth, and dignity of the AAPI experience.

    AAPI Opening Ceremony Flyer

    We invite you to the AAPI Heritage Month Opening Ceremony on Tuesday, May 6, from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM ET, at the U.S. Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C. The Opening Ceremony, which will kick off a month of events to celebrate the AAPI community, will include the Swearing-In Ceremony of the new President’s Advisory Commission on AAPIs, performances from #IAMBEYOND artists, and a panel of leaders who have excelled in their respective fields.

    You can RSVP to the Opening Ceremony here.

    Please continue to share your AAPI experiences and inspire us through the #IAMBEYOND hashtag. We hope that you join us in reflecting on the rich and complex past and present of AAPI communities, and in striving towards a better future. Learn more about AAPI Heritage Month.

    Kiran Ahuja is Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

  • Join the 2014 AAPI Heritage Month Opening Ceremony on May 6

    AAPI Opening Ceremony Flyer

    May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, a time for us to celebrate and honor the accomplishments that generations of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have made throughout American history. We highlight their many contributions to the arts, sciences, government, military, commerce, and education in the United States.

    This year, the AAPI Heritage Month theme is “I Am Beyond." The phrase captures the aspirations of the American spirit and how Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander descent have always sought to excel beyond the challenges that have limited equal opportunity in America.

    On behalf of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), we invite you to join us for our Opening Ceremony on Tuesday, May 6 from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm ET, in DOI’s Yates Auditorium in Washington D.C., where we will kick off the month of May with live performances, special guests and speakers, and remarks from Administration officials. The Opening Ceremony is a free event and open to all.

    • WHAT: AAPI Heritage Month Opening Ceremony
    • DATE: Tuesday, May 6, 2014
    • TIME: 9:00 am – 12:00 pm ET

    Registration for this event is closed. If you are interested in watching the event, tune in to the livestream at http://www.doi.gov/live

    If you have questions, please contact WhiteHouseAAPI@ed.gov.

    Kiran Ahuja is Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Rhea Suh is Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget at the U.S. Department of the Interior.

  • Anti-Bullying Efforts in the AAPI Community

    Did you know that in many cases it is against the law to bully or harass a person in the workplace or at school? And individuals have several avenues to address these issues? According to published reports, nearly 13 million students are bullied each school year and many do not seek a way to resolve these serious issues. A significant portion of these students who experience bullying are Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students. 

    On Tuesday, April 8, 2014, the New York Regional Interagency Working Group of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (Initiative) in collaboration with the New York Public LibraryScience, Industry and Business Library hosted a Google+ Hangout discussion on effective means of dealing with bullying as a young adult in the AAPI community.

    The information presented in the Hangout provided tools that will empower the thousands of kids, teens, and young adults around the country who are bullied. Representatives from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), U.S. Department of EducationOffice for Civil Rights, and U.S. Department of JusticeSouthern District presented information on individual rights and cases that highlighted these rights and the tools individuals have to deal with bullying. Speakers emphasized the importance of constructively confronting the person who is bullying you and speaking with those in charge at school or the workplace, such as a principal or EEOC (workplace), until a resolution to the bullying is obtained. An individual should not be fearful of continuing to seek assistance until this serious issue is resolved. It is very important that a person who is being bullied speak to the authorities.

    Presenters also answered questions from the live audience and those on the Hangout. If you missed the live stream, you can watch the YouTube download

    The Regional Interagency Working Group and the Initiative will continue to work together to combat this serious issue facing AAPI youth. 

    Bertha Fertil is VISN Strategic Planner for the New York/New Jersey Health Care Network (VISN 3) at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

  • RIWG Roundtable in Los Angeles Yields Positive Discussions and Collaboration with AAPI Advocates

    AAPI Regional Interagency Working Group

    The White House Initiative on AAPIs Regional Interagency Working Group, representing multiple federal agencies, convenes a community roundtable in Los Angeles, April 8, 2014. (by Paul Chang)

    Nearly 100 advocates for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities in Los Angeles met face-to-face on April 8 in the first community roundtable in the city hosted by the White House Initiative on AAPIs (WHIAAPI) Regional Interagency Working Group (RIWG).

    Asian Americans Advancing JusticeLos Angeles and the Asian Pacific Planning & Policy Council (A3PCON) served as official partners in holding the event and engaging representatives from diverse organizations across southern California.

    WHIAAPI Commissioner Sefa Aina welcomed the group and captured the hearts of participants with stories of his roots in local community organizing. Sefa challenged advocates to champion the needs of their communities and encouraged federal representatives to listen to and address those needs.  

    Sefa Aina Introduces the WHIAAPI-RIWG to Attendees

    Sefa Aina, Vice Chair of the President’s Advisory Commission on AAPIs, introduces the WHIAAPI-RIWG program to attendees, April 8, 2014. (by Paul Chang)

    A lively discussion ensued following the introduction of eleven Los Angeles-based RIWG members from federal agencies such as the U.S. Departments of Labor, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, and my agency, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

    Community advocates needed to know: Who were we, and what could we do for the AAPIs who face discrimination or a lack of access to government services? How do we navigate the process to apply for federal grants? 

    Dedicated RIWG members rolled out the collective vision of working alongside AAPI community groups to tear down real and perceived barriers in accessing services. Advocates offered ideas on how to work together, whether that is in jointly promoting the visibility of local AAPI issues or explaining (in plain-language) government processes to AAPIs. Members shed light on their legal mandate to remedy disparities in access to employment, education, health, and services for veterans.

    The roundtable also included a session on best practices in applying for federal grants. Officials from Grants.gov; the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, Housing and Urban Development; and the Small Business Administration relayed specific grant opportunities along with tips on how to best apply for them, while grantees from the Thai Community Development Center and Advancing Justice shared insight from their experiences. Federal representatives pledged their support to assist advocates through the process.

    The WHIAPPI-RIWG Panel Discussion

    The WHIAAPI-RIWG program included a panel discussion on access to federal services, April 8, 2014. (by Paul Chang)

    AAPIs have not traditionally knocked on federal doors. Everyone in the room understood the cultural and linguistic barriers involved. Yet, a collaborative synergy began to circulate in the room as advocates and RIWG members engaged in dialogue and became better acquainted. The RIWG is local, accessible, and here to help. We have already heard from many community members since the eventa beautiful start to a critical partnership in the interest of AAPIs throughout Greater Southern California.

    Christine Park-Gonzalez is a Program Analyst for Outreach, Training, and Public Relations for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.