Empowering Each Other: Celebrating API Heritage Month

Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month at DocuSign

This post was written by the DocuSign Pan Asian Voices for Equity employee resource group.

Every May we celebrate Asian and Pacific Islander (API) Heritage Month. It’s a time set aside to embrace the diversity of cultures, histories, and achievements that have shaped our communities, our homelands, and the places all around the world where we live. At DocuSign, the Pan Asian Voices for Equity (PAVE) employee resource group is committed to fostering inclusion among employees with Asian backgrounds through the pillars of empowerment, cultural celebration, and community building.

Earlier this month, PAVE hosted a company-wide event that featured a discussion with the group’s leaders and special guests Michelle K. Hanabusa, Co-Founder of Hate is a Virus, Maggie Chui, Co-Founder of the Asian Hustle Network, and Bryan Pham, Co-Founder of Hate is a Virus and the Asian Hustle Network.

Groups like Asian Hustle Network and Hate is a Virus exist as a response to not just societal problems, but as a solution to the need for a greater sense of community. Says Pham, “We really wanted to create Asian Hustle Network because we wanted a place where we could call home. We wanted a place where we could belong. Prior to Asian Hustle Network, most of the groups that I could find were mainly comedy- or memes-based. So I wanted to create a community where we had a place for us to call home; we had a place to mobilize. We had a place to come together and (make change).”

Bringing together the Asian community is a complex motion, as it comprises many different and unique communities and ethnicities. However, Pham and Chui recognized an opportunity to make a difference. On the importance of coming together, Chui states: “(There’s a) fragmentation that goes on in the Asian community. In my opinion, it definitely is very important to recognize the unique differences among all of our Asian ethnicities, and there are so many. But at the same time, we do have to come together as a collective, because our stories are very similar.”

There are so many positive things taking shape at these organizations, and we encourage everyone to explore how they can be part of the solution toward empowering and embracing the AAPI community, both inside and outside of the workplace. For one approach, Hanabusa says this: “It’s continuously centering voices of the AAPI community, BIPOC community, and your colleagues. It’s also owning your own impact and not necessarily just your intentions. There’s a lot of great intentions, but sometimes (people) don’t really realize certain things that are being said (microaggressions) that you find in the workplace can actually be quite harmful.”

So, what can be done to actually make a difference in a positive way? Chui has a great checklist of actions you can adopt immediately:

  • Support small businesses, particularly restaurants, which are being affected financially by the pandemic and physically due to continued racism and violence
  • Donate to GoFundMe pages of the victims of hate and the victims’ families
  • Report incidents of violence or harassment to local law enforcement and to Stop AAPI Hate. Speak up when you see something, because it could save someone’s life.
  • Keep in mind the micro actions that you can take to become an even better ally, including educating yourself through a new book or podcast
  • Donate to grassroots organizations that are on the ground doing the work to keep neighborhoods safe, including:

And don’t forget to speak up: “Silence to me is violence. By not speaking, we’re not going to push for any change. By not speaking up, we’re not going to form any allyship,"  Bryan Pham reminded us.

Since May is also Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s critical to recognize the importance of proper mental health and utilizing available services. Says Chui, “Another resource is the Asian Mental Health Collective, which is a directory of AAPI therapists. My advice would be to understand that you’re not alone. We have to work on destigmatizing mental health in the AAPI community by talking about it more often, educating ourselves and others about what mental health is, as well as making services more accessible to our community.”

We hope you have a safe, joyous, and reflective API Month this year and in all the years to come. We hope you take the time to learn something new, find ways to empathize and show your support, or even try a new cuisine or watch a new TV show or movie. Understanding is a continuous and never-ending journey; it simply requires us all to begin.

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