To honor Asian American and Pacific Islander Month, Heritage hosted its annual speaker event May 24 to celebrate the impact Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have made on history and to discuss the challenges and discrimination they continue to face today.
The speakers invited were businesswoman and humanitarian, Ramola Motwani; world languages teacher, Giomei Wu and Ed Tech Administrator, Andy Shah. Each speaker was allotted a total of fifteen minutes to discuss their personal experiences and to answer questions from attendees.
Ms. Motwani was born in India. During the partition of India and Pakistan, her grandparents and parents were forced to migrate back to India. She eventually immigrated from India to the United States in the early 1980s to pursue her passion for business. Ms. Motwani lost her husband in 1994 and soon after, almost lost her house. Although she faced these difficult hardships, she managed to persist and raise both of her sons successfully. “My success did not just fall into place by accident. It came with a lot of challenges,” she said. “When I think of the challenges I faced and that my parents faced moving from Pakistan to India, I remember that I can do anything.”
Ms. Wu migrated to Florida from Southeast China. Currently, she teaches Chinese and she expressed her gratitude at the opportunity to share her culture. “Each day I come back home with a smile on my face. I feel lucky and blessed when I look at my students because by learning parts of my heritage, they are keeping the culture alive.”
Mr. Shah originally immigrated from India when he was three years old. When he first moved, his parents worked full time jobs to keep their family afloat; he cites them as his main source of inspiration. Witnessing their determination to give him a better life encouraged him to apply that same strength towards his studies and his job.
When asked what Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month meant to them, the three speakers expressed similar sentiments. “I am very proud to be here in a country that not only allows us to be here, but even recognizes and celebrates us,” Ms. Motwani said.
Ms. Wu added that “this month symbolizes where we’re from — something we should never forget. Our parents and grandparents sacrificed so much for us to be here, for us to have a better life here. This is something we need to remember.”
Mr. Shah referenced the uniqueness of Asian culture and how this actually contributes to a sense of community. “This month brings to life the differences that come with our existence. When you travel to India, you see the differences in cultures and languages and food and it is something that is almost embraced there. That is what I love about America. We have the same perfect blend of all these different cultures that inspires a sense of togetherness,” he said.
Junior and president of Heritage’s chapter of Asian American Association Angelina Wu organized and led the webinar. “Sometimes I feel like people just use this month as a way to call themselves activists without doing anything,” she explained. “We need to actually work to unlearn racism and dismantle systemic oppression and this event is a step in the right direction.”
By honoring the unique contributions each of these speakers made, we are working to eliminate prejudice and acknowledging how important the Asian American community is to our country.