sian Americans unite, celebrate diversity for Heritage Month
By Walbert Castillo
WASHINGTON – Over 800 people attended the 23rd annual Gala Awards hosted by the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS) for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month on May 16th.
The annual dinner recognizes individuals and organizations that continue to politically empower the AAPI community, according to the APAICS website.
Advocates and champions of the AAPI community attended the gala creating strong representation across different industries among politics and entertainment.
This year’s keynote speaker featured Sen. Cory Booker. D-N.J, who reminded audience members of what America’s foundation was built on and made a call to action to fight for what they believe in.
Immigration became the forefront of Booker’s speech as President Donald Trump enforced deportation laws that affected undocumented citizens across the country. Booker noted the “blood, sweat and tears” immigrants shed to pave the country’s development.
“Ladies and gentlemen, here are people that want to undermine our values and our truth that we are a nation of liberty and justice for all,” Booker said. “There are people that want to take away the words of our ancestors malice towards none and charity towards all and twist them and limit them and reduce them, we cannot let this happen.”
CBSN anchor Elaine Quijano, who moderated the vice presidential debate, emceed the event and was the evening’s mistress of ceremonies. Quijano said she felt moved by the stories of the awardees, which included Community Leadership awardee Chanchanit Martorell and Vision awardee Randall Park.
In addition, two former APAICS congressional fellows Jason Tengco and Nisha Ramachandran were honored for their community work.
Rebecca Lee, Rebecca Lee, former Communications Director at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, said it was exciting to see AAPIs and allies unite together “showing our collective power.”
“It’s a chance for AAPI shakers and movers from all over to come together and celebrate APAHM together,” said Stephanie Wong, Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA) Chapter and Membership Associate.
Without the gala, Wong said she wouldn’t have met former U.S. commerce secretary Norman Mineta. She added: “As one of the trailblazers in our community, it’s great to see his continual support.”
Lavanya Jawaharlal, co-founder and president at STEM Center USA, said the APAICS gala provided her with the opportunity to meet with local and state-elected officials from her home state New Jersey.
“The APAICS gala provided the opportunity to network and connect with other like-minded Asian American individuals,” Jawaharlal said.
Booker closed his speech by saying: “If we rise in that way, if we live our oath more than we preach it, I see the future. It is a beautiful future. It is a rainbow future. It’s a future for black Americans, white Americans, Latino Americans and Asian Americans. It is all about our nation. We will make that country real and make our ancestors proud and generations yet unborn benefit.”
Asian American Heritage Month honors two significant events in AAPI history: Japanese immigrants arriving in the U.S. in 1843 and the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869.