Vice President Kamala Harris delivered a powerful speech during the White House celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, where she engaged in a conversation about racism, representation, and personal experiences. Harris encouraged AAPIs to embrace their identity and represent their community with confidence, recognizing that they speak for the voices of many proud people. She emphasized the importance of inclusion, particularly for immigrant children who aspire to be leaders, in front of an audience of 1,300 AAPI community members. The discussion, moderated by actor Poorna Jagannathan and Just Like Media CEO Jerry Won, also covered topics like motherhood and cultural appreciation.
Harris shared her mother’s story, who arrived in the U.S. in 1959 at the age of 19 as a pioneering breast cancer researcher and instilled in her the drive to fight for immigrant women in particular. She talked about her lifelong commitment to fighting for women’s reproductive care, and how this issue is personal to her given her understanding of the disparities and unfairness that women can face in the healthcare system, especially when compounded by race and language barriers. Harris urged AAPIs to be politically active and to fight against injustice, especially as there are attempts happening in our society to roll back hard-won freedoms.
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is not only a celebration of the contributions and accomplishments of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans but also an opportunity to recognize the struggles, sacrifices, and perseverance of those who came before them. Many AAPI members use this month to share their stories, history, and culture with others while also raising awareness about the discrimination and racism they experience in America.
Despite the obstacles they’ve had to overcome, many AAPI members have made significant contributions to various fields, such as politics, social justice, arts, and entertainment. Examples include Kamala Harris, the first woman, first Black person, and first Asian American to hold the office of Vice President of the United States, and Yuri Kochiyama, an activist who fought for civil rights, racial justice, and Asian American empowerment. Other inspiring figures include Grace Lee Boggs, a philosopher and social activist who advocated for labor rights, civil rights, and environmental justice, and Daniel K. Inouye, a World War II veteran and longtime U.S. Senator from Hawaii who fought for civil rights, Native Hawaiian issues, and veterans’ affairs. Yo-Yo Ma, a world-renowned cellist who has used his music to promote cross-cultural understanding, and Chloe Zhao, a filmmaker who became the first woman of Asian descent to win an Oscar for Best Director for her film “Nomadland,” are also notable examples.
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month celebrates the diversity within the AAPI community while honoring the struggles and accomplishments of those who have come before. It’s a time to continue fighting for equality and justice and to recognize the ongoing challenges that the AAPI community faces in America.
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