In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, we wanted to uplift the AAPI community and celebrate the cultural diversity of our Aerie fam. We’re grateful to the #AerieREAL Changemakers who shared their personal stories about the significance and importance of AAPIHM. See what they had to say below!
Half of my family is Taiwanese, and to me, that looked like fermented soy sauce eggs in my lunch box, Sunday Chinese school, 2 a.m. home Karaoke nights, and staying awake as long into the night as I possibly could on Lunar New Year. My favorite memory of Taiwan was going to a foot spa with my grandparents (A-ma and A-gon) where swarms of tiny fish ate the dead skin on our feet; I think I laughed until I cried.
AAPI Month should be a month to uplift the wide range of Asian cultures and to engage in intentional discourse about how anti-Asian sentiments manifest in everyday life. Visibility of the Asian-American experience is something many of us grew up without, and actively building towards this (particularly during this month) can help current and future generations break away from the model minority myth.
Some of my fondest childhood memories are those of visiting my extended family in China. However, “going to grandma’s house,” was a very different experience for me compared to my peers. Growing up, my family of four would make the 14-hour journey across the world every other summer to reunite with relatives. As the only branch of our family in the United States, it was always a big deal when we could visit the rest of our family. Upon arrival, I would spot my grandparents waiting for us at the airport terminal, and I would run into their open embrace. My grandparents would croon about how much my brother and I had grown, and my parents would compliment my grandparents on how healthy they looked, and how they had not aged a single bit. Over the course of the trip, we would feast with relatives close and distant—cousins, aunts and uncles, great-aunts and great-uncles, some of whom I did not recognize but who could tell endless stories of my mom and dad when they were young. My brother would run off with the other little cousins and get into mischief like lifelong partners in crime. Many tables would be covered with countless dishes of vibrant meats and vegetables, while we savored both the rich flavors and our precious time togetheras a family. Although during the year we are separated by distance, we have always been connected to our roots, through family, food, and our love for each other.
Happy AAPI Month! During our heritage month, I like to reflect on my family’s history and the dangerous journey my parents made as Vietnam War refugees escaping their war-torn country to America for a new life. Arriving at America after losing all their money and possessions, my grandparents and parents worked extremely hard to rebuild their lives. My Ong Ngoai (maternal grandpa) went from being a Lieutenant Colonel in Vietnam commanding thousands of men under him to working as a janitor and watch repairman in America. My Ba Ngoai (maternal grandma) worked 2 jobs while supporting their family of 12 kids. My dad was only 15 yo when he had to leave his mom and siblings behind to escape to Kuala Lumpur before being sponsored and adopted by an American couple. Their stories are so powerful and I could never capture them fully here, but I am forever grateful for the immense courage, sacrifices, and suffering my family went through so that I could have a good life here in America – they are the truest heroes. This month, try asking your AAPI friends about their families’ history. You’ll be in for some rich and mesmerizing stories that showcase the strength and resilience of our peoples!
How are you celebrating AAPI Heritage Month, Aerie fam? Whether you’re connecting with your AAPI heritage, raising awareness about AAPI issues or educating yourself on AAPI cultures, let us know in the comments.
We encourage you to join and learn along with us as we seek to lift up the AAPI community this May. We’ve gathered some resources that highlight the voices and work of activists, leaders, authors and more. Please use this – just as we will — to help educate, inspire and empower.