May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May is Asian American Pacific Islander Month 

President Obama signed a proclamation regarding the 2013 Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. In his proclamation, the President recognizes the disparities within American communities regarding health care, education, and employment that Asian American and Pacific Islanders continue to struggle against. He praises the resilience of the AAPI community that has allowed for great progress - resulting in AAPI's rising to "the top of their fields - from medicine to business to the bench."

President Obama also recognizes the 25th anniversary of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, as one of the "milestones that helped mend deep wounds of systemic discrimination." He reaffirms his commitment to addressing the needs of the community through the White House Initiative on AAPI's and pushes forward to create a nation where all things are possible for all people. JACL applauds the President for his dedication to the AAPI community and looks forward to continuing its work with the Initiative.

Washington, D.C.-  On May 6, 2013, as part of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, the White House hosted its AAPI Women "Champions of Change" event, honoring fifteen Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women. Guests and honorees were welcomed by Tina Tchen, Chief of Staff to the First Lady and heard from Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President. The fifteen honorees shared their experiences on three panels: "Breaking Barriers and Bamboo Ceilings", "Building Coalitions for Social Justice", and "Advocating for Women's Health and Safety." Senator Hirono (HI) and Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA) gave closing remarks recognizing the extraordinary work these women are doing in their community and the role models they are to our country, especially to AAPI young women and girls. 

Among the women honored were three Japanese Americans, Atsuko Toko Fish, Natalie Nakase, and Karen Suyemoto. 

  • Atsuko Toko Fish (Boston, MA), a first generation Japanese American, is committed to innovation and social change in the U.S. and Japan, especially in the areas ofempowering women and promoting understanding between the two cultures.  In 2005, Atsuko founded the Japanese Women's Leadership Initiative, an executive program that prepares Japanese women to become non-profit leaders and agents for social change.  In the wake of the March 2011 disaster in Japan, she created the Japanese Disaster Relief Fund-Boston, which raised nearly $1 million and provided 24 grants to 19 organizations.
  • Natalie Nakase (Los Angeles, CA) became the first Asian American player in the National Women's Basketball League when she joined the San Jose Spiders in 2003.  She then went on to play for the San Diego Siege and Germany's Herne TC and coach a German women's basketball team.  In 2011, became the first female coach in the Japanese professional men's basketball league when she joined the Saitama Broncos as Head Coach. Today, she is a video coordinator intern with the Los Angeles Clippers, where she hopes to gain more insight in the NBA in order to eventually become an NBA coach.
  • Karen L. Suyemoto (Boston, MA), PhD is an Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology and Asian American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.  Karen and her research team explore how racialized identities, ethnic affiliations, and experiences of discrimination are associated with development and mental health for Asian Americans.  Karen  provides consultation and training on anti-racist therapy and education both locally and nationally and is the Past President of the Asian American Psychological Association.

Lisa Hasegawa, National CAPACD Executive Director; Aiko Igasaki; Priscilla Ouchida, JACL Executive Director; Rosemary Abriam, Center for Asian Pacific American Women, President and CEO; Amy Watanabe, JACL Daniel K. Inouye Fellow were among the AAPI community members who attended the celebration.