Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month is observed annually in May to celebrate the contributions that generations of AAPIs have made to American history, society, and culture. This year’s AAPI Heritage Month theme is Advancing Leaders Through Purpose-Driven Service. In addition to organizing internal events and LinkedIn Learning Paths for F5ers to explore throughout the month, we’ve asked members of F5’s Multi-Cultural Employee Inclusion Group to share personal responses to four questions to raise visibility and awareness.
Join us in celebrating AAPI Heritage Month with a series of custom Zoom backgrounds, available for download here.
My leadership philosophy is to inspire and empower action in others. My leadership values are rooted in servant leadership principles and creating an environment or team dynamic that welcomes and values all people and ideas. I strive to ensure that any interaction I have leaves others feeling comfortable and that they feel empowered to meaningfully contribute to F5 or the project work that we do. I am first generation American. English was my second language, and I grew up in an immigrant household, so the handful of times throughout my life I felt seen, heard, and valued made a world of difference in my performance – of whatever I was doing. It was challenging to figure out where I belonged in American society, and to be honest, I think I’m still figuring it out. But what I do know is that times of purposeful intention to celebrate, acknowledge, and honor AAPI heritage and working with leaders who enforce cultures of inclusivity makes it easier. And I’m thankful F5 values that and vocally supports the AAPI community in both words and action.
- Renae Culala, Multi-Cultural EIG Co-Chair
Asian Americans are often underrepresented in mass media, so I spent most of my life accepting this feeling of being unseen as the norm. I’m a fourth-generation American who grew up watching Full House and Family Matters, idolizing superstars like Britney Spears and Rihanna, and struggling to identify with the idea of “being American” without access to American icons that looked like me.
But every year, AAPI Heritage Month reminds me that it’s important to know my Chinese American roots. It challenges me to seek out new books about Asian American history, so I can learn and relearn all the powerful moments that weren’t taught in school. It inspires me to support AAPI businesses, museums, artists, filmmakers, and the rare opportunities to see majority Asian casts like in the Crazy Rich Asians movie or Warrior, the recent martial arts crime drama television series.
It also feels like the only time of year when the AAPI community is genuinely celebrated by the big brands we spend on year-round, the websites we frequent daily, and if we’re lucky—the companies we work for. Even though we see some recognition around Lunar New Year, it’s often tied to product ads or sales. AAPI Heritage Month reminds me that even though we may feel unappreciated, unimportant, and vulnerable most of the time, generations of AAPIs have helped build this country and we belong here too.
- Anjuli Lam, Multi-Cultural EIG Member
If you do an image search for Japanese Internment Camps, you will see a photo of a small boy waving an American Flag while his train is leaving the station. The train is taking him and his family away to someplace they have never been, only for the reason of their heritage.
That little boy is my best friend’s dad and his name is appropriately, Hiro. When the war was over, he was 11. He could have been bitter and harbored anger. However, Hiro, worked to educate and improve. He raised a terrific family which adds to our community through service and setting an example of what can be. While a soft-spoken man, Hiro does not hesitate to stand up for what he knows is right.
Even though I grew up on the West Coast of the US, we were not taught about the 1942 Presidential Executive Order 9066. This was an order from President Roosevelt to expand certain areas as ‘War Zones’ and equated to many fellow citizens with Japanese ancestry on the West Coast of the USA to being moved to Internment Camps, ultimately losing everything they were forced to leave behind. Painting people with such a broad and racist stroke is painfully familiar. The fact that there are people acting with violence towards our Asian American fellow humans is unacceptable and it is critical for all of us to understand this painful piece of American History.
Thank you, Mr. Hayashida, for the example you set for myself and so many others.
- Brent Curran, Multi-Cultural EIG Co-Sponsor
Asian Americans make up around 6% of the US population. In the Seattle area, it’s higher, around 14%. But when you break it down further by ethnicity, the numbers get pretty small, pretty fast: For example, for every 100 people that you might meet in the Seattle area, only 4 would be Chinese, 3 would be Korean, 4 would be Japanese, 2 would be Vietnamese, and 1 would be Filipino and the numbers get even smaller from there for other ethnicities.
So growing up Chinese, there weren’t going to be a lot of kids with the exact same cultural norms, language and background. It could feel a bit isolating.
But being Asian American helped change that dynamic; Being Asian meant a larger group of people with a shared identity. Being Asian opened up a larger community to connect with. In high school, my closest friends were a mix of Hmong, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Chinese and Korean—that Asian label gave us common ground, a newfound shared identity that we could all be a part of, and a community that we wouldn’t have otherwise had. While you could argue that AAPI is a bit of an artificial label, it helped me and many others like me to make connections during those crucial adolescent years when you’re trying to find an identity, form relationships, and make sense of the world around you.
My own personal experience has shown me how powerful labels are—and when used positively, can help bring people together. That’s what I celebrate when I think of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
- Dan Ng, Multi-Cultural EIG Member