What Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Means to Me

Megan Ruangchamneil | NAU Social Intern / May 2022 graduate, studying Strategic Communication with emphases in Advertising and Public Relations

What culture(s) and/or ethnic group(s) do you identify with?

I identify as biracial; I’m half white, half Southeast Asian. My mom is from Indiana and she has some Irish blood, my dad immigrated from Thailand during his childhood and is full Thai.

Megan and her dad drinking Taro Milk Tea Boba

What does being an Asian-American Pacific Islander mean to you?

It means that I have the privilege of having unique experiences that I can call mine. It means that the hard work and struggles that my family went through in order to get to where they are today does not go unrecognized and can be seen in me.

Family portrait taken in Thailand with traditional Thai clothing

How do you celebrate AAPI month?

I don’t do anything specifically to celebrate the month itself, but I would say I celebrate my culture by living the life they worked so hard for me to have. I am constantly grateful of the hardships my family had to go through so I could be breathing the beautiful air, learning new things, and taking advantage of all the amazing things life has to offer.

Can you share a favorite tradition from your culture(s)?

For the Buddhist new year, a water festival is held in Bangkok called “Songkran” in which the streets are filled with people celebrating and having “water fights.” While I haven’t personally partaken in this tradition in Bangkok, we have celebrated the Buddhist new year at a Thai Temple with some incredible food, pageants, and other celebrations.

Beauty pageant at the Thai Temple in 2016

What’s your favorite cultural dish?

It would actually be impossible to pick just one, so some of my favorites are Pad Thai, Lad Nar, Red Curry, Laub, Shrimp Rangoons, and Pad See Ew.

Pad thai and mango sticky rice

How can people be better allies to the AAPI communities?

What’s one misconception about being AAPI you’d like to clear up?

That Asia is a large continent and being Asian does not mean Eastern Asian. The beauty of being in the AAPI community is that there are so many different cultures within and not one is like the other.

Suzanna Low | NAU Social Intern / Freshman, class of 2025

What culture(s) and/or ethnic group(s) do you identify with?

I identify as Asian, Asian-American, and Chinese.

What does being an Asian-American or Pacific Islander mean to you?

I don’t know exactly. I still struggle with my identity at times. I feel unsure about being fully Asian. But I don’t feel like I completely belong as an American. Asian-American seems to fit better though. I don’t think that my experience growing up is normal but it became apart of my normal life. I’ve just become numb to it all. And through it all, it’s made me be me.

How do you celebrate AAPI month?

I generally don’t celebrate it actually.

Can you share a favorite tradition from your culture(s)?

Chinese New Years. It’s always a huge celebration. Growing up, I would always get excited to make all the treats for the holiday and get to see the process from store to plate. It was always amazing to know that me and my family made the treats as I took my first bite of them all. It’s such a core memory for me that I plan to teach my kids how to make the goodies.

Photo by Matthieu Joannon on Unsplash

What’s your favorite cultural dish?

It has to either be between roasted duck, chicken feet, or crispy pork.

How can people be better allies to the AAPI communities?

  • Learn about the history. There so much propaganda and hate that is overlooked and normalized in society.
  • Recognize that Asian representation at any level is important.
  • Support AAPI organizations and businesses.

What’s one misconception about being AAPI you’d like to clear up?

Allyson Calamayan | Administrative Assistant & Intern at Health Promotion / Senior at NAU

What culture(s) and/or ethnic group(s) do you identify with?

Filipino-American, born and raised in Hawaii

What does being an Asian-American Pacific Islander mean to you?

Being an AAPI to me means sharing and educating others about my culture, while learning and exploring different cultures around me, and expressing my appreciation for their culture and passion.

Can you share a favorite tradition from your culture(s)?

My favorite tradition from the Filipino culture is the Philippine Debut. Similar to a Quinceanera, this tradition celebrates a young woman’s 18th birthday, the age of maturity in the Philippines. It’s a great way for families and friends to get together and bond for such a joyous occasion.

What’s your favorite cultural dish?

Lechon, which is a roast suckling pig usually served at parties!

How can people be better allies to the AAPI communities?

Be willing to learn, respect, and appreciate other cultures. Keep an open mind and be considerate of the questions you ask or words you say.

Jyothsna Venkatesh | Junior graduating in 2022 / Social Media Manager and content producer for CIE

What culture(s) and/or ethnic group(s) do you identify with?

I identify as an Asian, Indian.

What does being an Asian-American Pacific Islander mean to you?

Being Asian to me means being part of something that is bigger than me. I am constantly surprised by the depth of my culture and the power it holds.

Growing up, I never realized the value of my land’s history, the wisdom of my ancestors, and the kindness of our people. But after studying in a foreign land, I realized the cultural differences which made me appreciate my own culture even more.

How do you celebrate AAPI month?

I celebrated AAPI month the same way I celebrate culture every month. I educate myself about my culture and other cultures, and cultural differences, I empower people of different cultures, and I do my best to spread the knowledge I have to others, so one day we can possibly live in a community that celebrates everyone every day.

Can you share a favorite tradition from your culture(s)?

My favorite tradition from our culture is Mehendi, which is basically henna designs on your hands and it is done during grand occasions such as weddings or festivals.

What’s your favorite cultural dish?

Hands down, Biryani is my favorite dish from back home. I love chicken biryani and the best part is there are so many types of biryanis from different parts of India and each style is so unique and tasty, that it’s hard to pick your favorite. But I do have a favorite and my favorite style of biryani is South Indian Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani.

How can people be better allies to the AAPI communities?

People can be better allies by just listening and acknowledging the many AAPI communities. By educating yourselves on these communities, allies can prove their non-ignorance and learn more about the different cultures to make better decisions. Respecting and appreciating the culture’s history, people, languages, clothing, music, and dance, and giving credit where it’s due are very important.

What’s one misconception about being AAPI you’d like to clear up?

This is not a misconception really but I hate it when people put all Asian ethnicities into one category, even when they categorize all Indians as one, and they do it because they don’t realize exactly how huge and different each Asian ethnicity is. Although most ethnicities of Asian descendants share some similarities and that’s beautiful, it brings us all together in unique ways, I think it’s still rude to be ignorant and stereotype Asian ethnicities.

Azah Dolores Quach | 1st year Master’s Student / Services Coordinator in the Office of the Dean of Students

What culture(s) and/or ethnic group(s) do you identify with?

Vietnamese, Chinese, Puerto Rican and Hawaiian

What does being an Asian-American Pacific Islander mean to you?

How do you celebrate AAPI month?

I celebrate AAPI month by eating my favorite foods.

What’s your favorite cultural dish?

Meat Jun, Mochiko Chicken and making Kalua Pig and Cabbage

How can people be better allies to the AAPI communities?

Ask questions, be open to learning, and embrace the culture.

Jeanine Horio | Junior studying Business Management

What culture(s) and/or ethnic group(s) do you identify with?

Japanese. I was born and raised in Hawai’i and have been surrounded by Hawaiian culture my entire life.

What does being an Asian-American/Pacific Islander mean to you?

Being AAPI means being able to share the culture with other people through food, song, dance, art, language, traditions, etc.

Can you share a favorite tradition from your culture(s)?

Growing up in Hawai’i, in Hilo specifically, and being surrounded by Hawaiian culture, my favorite tradition/celebration is the annual Merrie Monarch Festival. The festival is dedicated to King David Kalakaua, who was known as the “Merrie Monarch.” It’s a week-long festival of music, crafts, art, hula, and celebrating Hawaiian culture. I spent a decade of my life dancing hula and the Merrie Monarch Festival became such a huge part of my life since then. I haven’t competed in the Merrie Monarch Hula Competition myself but I do watch it every year.

What’s your favorite cultural dish?

My favorite would have to be Sushi. I also enjoy a good bowl of curry and some katsu.

How can people be better allies to the AAPI communities?

Listen and have an open mind when it comes to learning about the different cultures. Don’t just assume something and avoid believing that the stereotypes of the AAPI community are true. Do your research, educate yourself, ask questions if you don’t know something or are curious.

What’s one misconception about being AAPI you’d like to clear up?

People have this idea that the AAPI community is all the same. We have such a plethora of ethnic groups within the community that gets completely dismissed by so many people. I have been asked several times by people if I am Chinese, I would respond that I am Japanese, and received a response of “Isn’t that the same thing?” No, it’s not the same thing. Each ethnic group, Chinese, Japanese, Native Hawaiian, Samoan, etc., are all different and unique in their own ways. Sure there may be some similarities, but that should not define the entirety of the AAPI community.

Hi’ilani Helenihi | Sophmore and an RA

What culture(s) and/or ethnic group(s) do you identify with?

I identify as Japanese, Hawaiian, Puerto Rican, and Portuguese.

What does being an Asian-American/Pacific Islander mean to you?

I celebrate AAPI month by embracing who I am and where I come from. By sharing my culture with different people I meet and even eating my favorite cultural foods such as kalua pig and sushi!

Can you share a favorite tradition from your culture(s)?

My favorite tradition from my cultures would be is dancing hula as well as making mochi with my family!

How can people be better allies to the AAPI communities?

What’s one misconception about being AAPI you’d like to clear up?

One misconception about being AAPI that I would love to clear up is that many people that live in the continental United States think Hawai’i is a different country. In fact, the Hawaiian kingdom was overthrown, and claimed as a the 50th state of the United States.

Chopin Bingyin Cao | International Education Leadership, Master of Education

What culture(s) and/or ethnic group(s) do you identify with?

Chinese

What does being an Asian-American Pacific Islander mean to you?

There is nothing more important to an individual, a family or a society than youth education. In the field of international education, I want to serve as a messenger of information, knowledge and culture, to bridge the gap and foster a deeper understanding between Chinese and American cultures.

Creating ways to strengthen the bonds through education between the U.S. and China will also benefit the rest of humanity.

Can you share a favorite tradition from your culture(s)?

GONG XI FA CAI! (“Hope you get rich!”)

What’s your favorite cultural dish?

My favorite Chinese food is Rou Jia Mo (bread with braised meat), also known as the “Chinese Hamburger,”) which originated from Shaanxi province. It is an ideal street food with its savory filling and crispy bread (mo). Rou means pork; Jia means the action of sandwiching the meat between the two slices of bread; and mo simply means bread. This picture shows a very basic and popular form of Rou Jia Mo.

What’s one misconception about being AAPI you’d like to clear up?

It might come as a surprise that fortune cookies do not exist in China. Restaurants in China do not, and have never, served them to the customers. However, China definitely has a special food culture. The Chinese consume a variety of foods, many of which have symbolic meanings. Food are often the highlight of festivities, and a common greeting many Chinese uses “Have you eaten?”

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