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New Haven Collective Commemorates Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

The month of May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. During the month of May, NBC Connecticut is highlighting the contributions of AAPI communities to the country.

AAPI Heritage Month serves as a launching pad towards understanding the unique cultures, languages and communities. Those inside the state are working to ensure more awareness is brought to the forefront.

Reflection and informing are the two focal points for AAPI Heritage Month and since its inception, those two focuses have remained top of mind for many.

"It’s an important month long celebration, honoring and commemorating people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent," said Alvin Tran, an associate provost for diversity, equity and inclusion at the University of New Haven.

Tran identifies as an Asian American and believes the awareness around AAPI communities will help provide a better understanding of different experiences and contributions.

"Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have contributed so much to science and health to literature and we should be rejoicing whether it's seeing more representation in Congress and in the U.S. Senate," Tran said.

The dedication first started off as a week before eventually becoming a month-long dedication in 1992. Since then, different groups and organizations have worked to spread the word about AAPI contributions. The make-up includes the entire continent of Asia and parts of the Pacific Islands.

"I think a true source of our power as individuals and as a community really knowing our history," said Carolina Tanbee Smith of the New Haven AAPI Collective.

The New Haven AAPI Collective is one of the groups educating and uplifting voices around the shoreline. Their hope is for people to have a better understanding of different perspectives and backgrounds.

"It’s just gathering the people that are here together and hearing each others stories and see what comes out of that," said Christine Kim, co-founder of New Haven AAPI.

The collective was born out of a surge of violence and attacks against Asian Americans last year. The collective continues to grow day by day.

"We thought it was time to start a group to meet each other to build a coalition, a collective to tell our stories to each other and to our community," Kim said. "I remember a lot of incidents of bullying that I had but unfortunately it's still going on."

The collective is working every day to ensure they are meeting and supporting one another. The collective believes Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month is a perfect reminder for those along the shoreline, state and country to understand their perspectives and experiences.

"It's important to acknowledge and learn about AAPI communities and work to gain the knowledge about different communities every year and not just one month," said Jenny Heikkila Diaz, one of the co-founders of New Haven's AAPI Collective.

The group's daily mission is to build power within the community through business, education, organizing and the arts. It's a legacy the group hopes extend far beyond the borders of the Elm City.

“We are in a unique space because we have the ability and the gift of learning about building a collective from the ground up, you know from the beginning and how do we want to make decisions as a group together," Tanbee Smith said.

To learn more about New Haven's AAPI Collective, click here.



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