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.
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.
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.