Asian American and Pacific Islander Leaders Driving Change Share Who and What Inspires Them
This #AAPIHeritageMonth we are celebrating AAPI Creativity. We asked some of the many Asian American and Pacific Islander leaders across the Network driving change through policy and advocacy what they’re reading, watching, and listening to. Their reflections feature family members, podcasts, actors, leaders, and more. Please check back as we add more reflections in the coming days.
Interested in nominating a colleague on your team to be featured in this or future campaigns? Please nominate them here.
Javaid Siddiqi, President & CEO, The Hunt Institute
I have been a lifelong learner and listener of my father; he immigrated to the U.S. from Pakistan in 1965 to pursue his Ph.D. at the University of South Carolina and to ensure his children had the opportunities he himself was not afforded growing up. It was instilled in me through the work my father did that the most important thing we can do is focus on education and the education of the next generations. I have approached my entire professional career with that lens.
Meili Powell, Tennessee LEE Public Policy Fellow, The Education Trust in Tennessee
This AAPI Heritage Month, I am listening to NPR’s Code Switch Podcast because it continues to thoughtfully uplift diverse stories of Asian American organizers, advocacy, and issues. For example, it recently highlighted “The LA Uprising, a generation later” about Korean-American author Steph Cha’s book “Your House Will Pay” and “Screams and Silence” about the history of anti-Asian violence marking the anniversary of the Atlanta shootings. Another recent episode was “Race queerness, and superpowers in ‘Everything, Everywhere, All at Once” which included an interview with actress Michelle Yeoh powerfully speaking about the importance of AAPI representation and storytellers across generations.
Mimi Rodman, Executive Director, Stand For Children Illinois
Asian Americans Holding Elected Office in Illinois, The Illinois Asian American Caucus, and those who supported the Illinois Teaching Equitable Asian American History Act
This month, I am celebrating the increasing number of Asian Americans holding elected office in Illinois and the efforts of the Illinois Asian American Caucus to advance fairness, justice, and equity for all. The month of May is not only AAPI Heritage Month; it includes Teacher Appreciation Week. This month, I am also honoring educators everywhere, including those from Asian American communities, and I am celebrating all who supported the Illinois Teaching Equitable Asian American History Act. The TEAACH Act requires every public elementary and high school in the state to devote a unit of curriculum to the history of Asian Americans in the United States.
Mohan Sivaloganathan, Chief Executive Officer, Our Turn
We are approaching one year since my father’s untimely death. He immigrated to the U.S. from Sri Lanka and crafted a story that was unimaginable. My Dad went from poor to becoming a United States diplomat, defying the odds every step along the way. Although he embodied self-determination as he climbed the ladder, he ensured that he always sent the elevator back down. Today, I celebrate my Dad by writing the next chapter of his story, one that is marked by love, determination, and legacy.
Peter Tang, Senior Director of Research, Tennessee State Collaborative On Reforming Education
Over the last several years, one of my favorite feelings – beyond the guilt of never quite finishing enough books – has been to come across so many options to read, listen to, and watch things that center on diverse AAPI experiences. I was fortunate to grow up in a community with many AAPI people in Brooklyn and within a family that prioritized our cultural heritage. However, I didn’t realize until much later in my adult life how much joy I missed out on by not being exposed to more AAPI stories and history. Things on my list – learn more about Wong Kim Ark, finally finish reading Pachinko, and start Beautiful Country (which was generously loaned to me by a SCORE team member).
Sinthu Ramalingam, Early Childhood Education Policy Manager, Teach Plus Illinois
Growing up, I loved reading books but unfortunately didn’t have many diverse authors to read. I’ve made it my goal to read books with Asian characters this year. My go-to genre as a child was fantasy, so I’ve been reading the Pandava series by Roshani Chokshi, a fantasy series based on Hindu Mythology, with my younger cousin. It’s been surreal seeing Tamil words pop up and Hindu Mythology shared through pop culture just like many other religions are. Most of all, the knowledge that young brown children will be able to grow up reading books with their culture represented means the world to me.
Yohan Chang, National Policy Manager, Teach Plus Indiana
I have been enjoying listening to the Code Switch by NPR. A couple of specific episodes I’ll note are A Letter From Young Asian Americans, To Their Parents, About Black Lives Matter and One Korean American’s Reckoning. Both of these episodes reflect how the AAPI community fits into the larger national conversation about racism and confronting our own anti-Blackness. On a lighter note, I would also recommend checking out acclaimed movies by Korean directors like Parasite and Minari.