By John Michael Guerrero
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month holds a special place in many Riverside City College students’ and faculty lives.
It is a time for many to reflect on their cultures, ancestral achievements and personal identities. For Asian Pacific Student Union members, May is a month to celebrate their cultures and spread awareness of both Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders within the college.
“In recent years (AAPI Heritage Month) has been celebrated more, but before that I never knew (the AAPI community) had a heritage month because no one talked about it,” Johnny Mercado, an APSU board member, said.
Many APSU members believe this month allows them and AAPI community members to celebrate one another’s cultures and allows them to explore their identities further.
“When I was younger, not being surrounded by a lot of people from the AAPI community (led me to feeling lost and without a community),” Annabelle Tamano, APSU’s club president, said. “(AAPI Heritage Month) has given me a further appreciation for (my culture and history).”
Celebrating AAPI Heritage month is not only important for each individual, but is also important in raising awareness about a community. The various trials, hardships and tribulations many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders face plays an important part in this month. Will Kim, APSU club advisor and instructor at RCC, elaborates how many families uproot their original lives in one country and immigrate to America for a chance to achieve a better life for their children.
Despite America being a country of diverse backgrounds, it continues to neglect various communities, including AAPI communities.
“I am glad (RCC) has an Asian American and Pacific Islander (student) Union, but I hate we had to wait until (the peak) of Asian American hate crimes for us to feel passionate (about our cultures) because we should have always felt proud,” Ishika Beri, an APSU board member, said.
Tamano echoes this sentiment and said that APSU is much more than a community of AAPI peoples, but rather a diverse community that continues to celebrate both AAPI heritage and various other heritages year-round.
“I want people to understand that this community is not a monolith, everyone within the community comes from different cultural backgrounds, and it is important to enter into the community with an open mind to accept, learn and listen from people of other backgrounds. That is the only way you can appreciate what is in front of you,” Tamano said.
AAPI Heritage month is not only a month of celebration, but also representation of the community within RCC by students and faculty.