Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have played a very important role in shaping America as we know it. This month, FRCC celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month and the many contributions of AAPI people to the culture and history of our country.
On a more intimate level, every day here at FRCC you can see how our AAPI students and colleagues add great value to our learning and our campus conversations. As an institution, we strongly believe that our diversity enriches all of our lives throughout the entire college community.
In this blog, we’ll hear from two employees about what AAPI Heritage Month means to them. Keep reading to learn about some of the challenges they’ve faced—and how they’re helping to make FRCC a more welcoming place for everyone.
A Large Umbrella of Cultures
There are more than 20 million people of Asian or Pacific Islander descent in the United States who make up about 7 percent of the population. The AAPI umbrella includes cultures from the entire continent of Asia, the Hawaiian Islands, and the Pacific Islands of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia.
AAPI immigrants and citizens helped build and unite the US, showing strength and perseverance through hardships, discrimination, violence and injustices. In spite of many barriers, they have accomplished much—becoming leaders with strong voices and influencing American history and culture in remarkable ways.
Making Everyone Feel Welcome
One AAPI individual whose influence is felt throughout Front Range Community College is Krishna Pattisapu, PhD, who has served as executive director of equity and inclusion since 2022. They serve as an advocate for intersectional equity and inclusion.
The power of finding a sense of belonging rings true for Krishna personally, as someone who grew up in a biracial family in rural Illinois. “Because my mother was white and my father was Indian, I didn’t see myself as having the right to claim my AAPI identity growing up,” Krishna says.
“Throughout my life, I’ve realized that many people feel this way. It took time for me to come into my identity as a biracial person and also as a queer and nonbinary person. These things empower me even more to make all spaces at FRCC more inclusive.”
Weaving Inclusion Into Everything We Do
“People at FRCC have been doing equity and inclusion work for a long time,” Krishna adds. “I’m really excited to continue the effort to ensure that equity and inclusion are embedded in all that we do at the college.”
“I remind people that creating inclusive spaces where people can learn and engage benefits everyone. We each have more than one identity, and everyone deserves to feel included and welcome.”
Embracing Diversity Within AAPI Culture
Krishna says that Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is important to remind people that no two people’s AAPI experiences are the same. “So many groups in the US have a very complicated history, and awareness months like this invite people to learn about that history.”
“AAPI is just one part of who a person is and it means different things for different people. Some are immigrants, and some grew up in the United States. Some speak their ancestral language and some don’t.”
“There is no right or wrong way to embrace AAPI identity.”
Learning and Growing
Hannah Brown, director of onboarding and orientation at FRCC, has a similar background of coming into her own as she grew into adulthood. “Growing up in Denver, I didn’t know many people who looked like me,” says Hannah, who was born in South Korea and adopted as a baby.
“It wasn’t until late high school that I started to seek out understanding of my Asian identity and what it means to me. And today, I’m married to a first-generation Chinese man with a large family, and we have two children with whom we are able to incorporate some Chinese traditions.”
Sharing and Understanding
A great way to honor AAPI Heritage Month, Hannah says, is through education. “Learning is a big piece of understanding, because there are so many different cultures and traditions within the broad AAPI community,” she says.
“Recognizing the diversity of people’s experiences and backgrounds is important. And opportunities like this awareness month are a good way for people to share some of themselves with others too.”
A Little History of the Month
This important celebration was established in 1970 by Congress, and the month of May was chosen for two important reasons:
- May 7, 1843, marks the arrival of the first Japanese immigrant to the United States: a 14-year-old fisherman named Manjiro. He arrived in the US after his whaling boat was caught in a storm and shipwrecked on a desert island. He was later rescued by an American whaling ship and is considered the first Japanese national to set foot on American soil.
- May 10, 1869, marks the completion of the transcontinental railroad that made train travel from the East coast to the West coast of the United States possible for the first time. The majority of this grueling work was completed by 15,000 to 20,000 Chinese immigrants—they made up 90% of the laborers on the railroad.
Ways to Learn More
This month, take a some time to learn about the history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and their influence on our country. If you’re around May 6-7, pay a visit to the Denver Zoo for their second annual Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI+) Festival, a day of multicultural dance, music, art and informative workshops.
Here are just a few of the other Colorado events scheduled to celebrate AAPI heritage and culture that are definitely worth checking out this month:
- Saturday, May 13 | Night Market at Stanley Marketplace—Free event featuring local food, live dance performances, makers, musicians and DJs from the local AANHPI community.
- Saturday, May 20 | In-Person Pilgrimage to Amache— Pilgrimages to former WWII concentration camps for those of Japanese descent were started in the late 1960s. The annual pilgrimage to the Amache camp in Colorado usually takes place on the Saturday before Memorial Day weekend.
- Saturday, May 20 | AAPI Night at the Colorado Rapids Soccer Game
- Wednesday, May 24 | Bold Women. Change History.— Speaker Series at History Colorado Center
And if you’re looking to do some reading, below are a few other resources to get you started on your journey of education:
Welcoming. Respectful. Inclusive.
Together, we are FRCC.