Tag Archives: Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Be Counted, Be Heard

Editor’s Note: In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, California’s  State Treasurer Fiona Ma wrote this call-to-action to Chinese Americans, especially those living in her home town San Francisco: Fill out the census, or risk losing hard won gains!

Chinese immigrants, like my parents, began coming to America in the mid-1800s in search of a better life and greater opportunity for their children and grandchildren. Today, more than a fifth of San Francisco residents are of Chinese descent, and the City is home to the second-largest Chinese population in the United States.

Despite our numbers, however, political power and representation for Chinese Americans was a long time coming. The first Chinese American on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors wasn’t appointed until 1977, and we had to wait until the 1990s for the 11-member Board to include more than one Asian American supervisor. Since then, San Francisco has elected its first Chinese mayor, I am one of two statewide elected Chinese constitutional officers, and Asian American elected officials at all levels of California’s government now number in the hundreds.

During Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we celebrate the contributions of Asian American and Pacific Islander leaders past and present – but we also look to the future and how we can ensure our voices are heard. One of the most critical ways we can take a stand for our communities and our families is to be counted in the 2020 Census.

Census data informs billions of dollars in federal funding for key programs such as Head Start, childcare and development programs, community mental health programs, nutrition programs, educational and health care resources, and much more. Many of these programs are especially important now – in the midst of the worldwide COVID-19 crisis – because they impact the state’s ability to appropriately plan for emergencies and critical patient care needs. Estimates show that for every person uncounted, California could lose $1,000 a year for 10 years, or as much as $10,000 per person over the next decade.

Census data also determines the state’s political representation through the number of representatives in the U.S. Congress and the redrawing of political lines at the local and state levels. That means that participating in the Census will help ensure your community’s voice is heard in city halls across the state, at the State Capitol in Sacramento and under the Capitol dome in Washington, D.C.

That’s why it’s so incredibly important that your entire family and everyone living in your household is counted. The Census is a simple, confidential nine-question survey that you can complete online now at my2020census.gov or by phone. Paper Census forms will soon be arriving in the mail for those families who have not yet completed the Census. Most importantly, you must count every person in your household – whether that’s extended family, small children, tenants, and anyone else who stays with you most of the time.

When you dive into the response rate data in places like San Francisco’s Chinatown, you see the need for greater participation in the Census. Whereas the Bay Area is outperforming other regions with a median response rate of 68.4 percent regionally, as compared to 60.8 percent statewide, San Francisco County has seen less participation, with a response rate of 57.7 percent.

Of particularly concern is the fact that hundreds of thousands of the hardest-to-count households in California still have not yet participated in the Census. In San Francisco, these include people who live around Chinatown, the Sunset and the Bayview neighborhoods, among others.

As a child, my parents instilled in me that education was the great equalizer and encouraged me to pursue one of the so-called “LEAD” (lawyer, engineer, accountant, doctor) professions. They were initially hesitant to embrace my career as an elected government official. But today they are proud I am using my education and public- and private-sector experience serving as the State Treasurer of the fifth largest economy in the world and working to ensure that other Asian Americans are seen and heard at all levels of government by urging everyone to stand up and be counted in the 2020 Census.


Growing Up Asian in America Contest Winners

AACI and NBC Bay Area to Host 2019 Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Celebration

SAN JOSE, CA – On Saturday, May 18, 2019 at 2 pm, NBC Bay Area will be hosting the annual Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Celebration where we will celebrate student winners from the 24th annual Growing Up Asian in America contest and honorees of AACI.

The Growing Up Asian in America program celebrates Asian Pacific American Heritage Month by giving voice to the varied experiences of Asian and Pacific Islander (API) youth throughout the Bay Area and encouraging this next generation of leaders to take pride in their heritage through creative self-expression.

This year’s theme, “My Contribution to America,” brought in hundreds of entries from K-12th grade Bay Area students. Students submitted art, essays, and videos sharing their personal contribution to our country and the contributions of APIs that came before them. This year’s best in class and honorable mention winners include remarkable students of Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Taiwanese and other ethnic backgrounds. Each best in class winner will have an opportunity to share their thoughts and inspirations about their winning entry.

Bay Area students receiving Best in Class awards for art, writing and video from the 2019 Growing Up Asian in America contest include Olivia Mai (Union City), Creaye Lim (Alameda), Sahana Hariharan (Fremont), Catherine Wu (San Jose), Audrey Shen (Milpitas), Aubrey Ilasco (Benicia), Kayla Lam (San Leandro), Brandon Tran (San Jose), and Becky Tran (San Jose).

Sahana Hariharan, an 8th grader of Indian descent from Fremont, won best in class in the 6-8 category for her winning artwork entry titled, “A Balanced and Healthy Democracy”.

“This year we celebrate the stories and achievements of our young artists and the new beginning with contest host AACI,” said NBC Bay Area’s Lance Lew, co-founder of the contest. “Now more than ever, it is important we look toward our community’s youth to encourage sharing their personal thoughts on what they view as their contribution as an Asian American.”

AACI will honor four Asian Pacific American Community Heroes. These honorees represent the impact and dedication that a diverse Asian Pacific Islander community brings to the Bay Area local community.

Among these honorees is Leena V. Khanzode MD, a board certified psychiatrist dedicated to providing quality, evidence based treatment to help individuals and families overcome difficulties and lead happier, more productive lives into the work force.

She began volunteering at AACI in 2016 as an adult psychiatrist and provides help to the low income and diverse immigrant population that AACI serves which includes many refugees and survivors of torture.

Dr. Khanzode commented, “I was moved by the ‘Survivors of Torture’ and these survivors are unique in their resolve and resilience. As a physician I have learned to not only honor and respect their experience but they have taught me to be empathetic and kind. It continues to be a very fulfilling experience for me and I am very grateful for this opportunity.”

Other honorees are Dr. Stephanie Chao, Channary Bill, and June Tran for their exemplary work in the community in the areas of health, gun control, and community building.

“AACI is honored to celebrate an incredible group of young artists and community leaders. The Growing Up Asian in America contest has provided a platform for numerous students to express themselves and AACI is excited to uphold the legacy pioneered by Asian Pacific Fund and NBC Bay Area” said AACI President and CEO, Sarita Kohli.

NBC Bay Area News anchor Anoushah Rasta will be in attendance as master of ceremonies. A graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles,

The Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Celebration will take place at NBC Bay Area studios, 2450 North First Street, San Jose, CA 94107.

About AACI

AACI was founded in 1973, and is one of Santa Clara County’s largest community-based organizations advocating for and serving the marginalized and vulnerable ethnic communities. AACI’s mission is to strengthen the hope and resilience of our community members by improving their health, mental health and well-being.