By Carlotta Mohamed
State Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Fresh Meadows) hosted the sixth annual “Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Month” celebration last week at her alma mater, Townsend Harris High School in Flushing, honoring Asian-American community leaders in Queens.
In 1992, the federal government designated the month of May as Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Month in commemoration of the long history and continued contributions of the AAPI community.
Rozic’s four honorees have been dedicated to public service, advocacy, civic and youth engagement. They included: Julie Ae Kim, of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs; Dr. Raj Bhayani, of the Hindu Center Temple; Gabriel Hisugan, of Asian Americans for Equality; and Bright Limm, of Korean Americans for Political Advancement.
“By recognizing these individuals, we also celebrate the organizer, advocates, and leaders throughout New York that empower others to advocate for social and economic equity,” Rozic said May 24. “This event is not only a celebration of the diverse Asian-American experience, but also a reminder that we move forward as a Queens community in dialogue.”
Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) served as an honorary co-host, with appearances by state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing), Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside) and Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing), as well as a special guest, Alice Lee Gianetta, Miss World 2018.
During a discussion with Rozic, Gianetta — an attorney, activist and alumni of Townsend Harris High School, who used to live in Flushing — encouraged youths to get involved in local civics and politics in their community.
“Our next generation of Asian-Americans should be active in government, and they can start by interning in the local government office,” said Gianetta. “When you get experience working for your office, you learn how to access government resources.”
Gianetta recalled her time spent working during the summer registering voters on Northern Boulevard who did not know about the voting process. It taught Gianetta about bringing awareness to the Asian-American and Chinese community in Flushing.
Koo said it is important for Asian-Americans to work harder and become involved with local politics.
“I am proud to recognize these great individuals with Assemblywoman Rozic and my colleagues for their selfless dedication and outstanding leadership that creates change locally,” he said.
Julie Ae Kim — a 2009 Townsend graduate, community organizer and activist passionate about immigrant inclusion, Asian-American feminism and politics — became involved with public service during high school volunteering at local elections.
“Immigrant New Yorkers are woven into the rich fabric of our city. At the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, I have the honor of serving my fellow New Yorkers by connecting people with free and safe immigration legal services through ActionNYC,” said Kim.
Fellow honoree Bhayani, who serves on the Hindu Center Temple’s board of trustees, is also a businessman, philanthropist, and an ear, nose and throat surgeon. He has contributed to extensive research in medicine and marvels at what his community has accomplished.
“Despite facing discrimination, hatred, violence, bigotry, Asian-Americans serve this country with honor and patriotism,” Bhayani said. “As President Roosevelt once said, ‘Americanism is not, or never was, a matter of race or ancestry, but it’s about success, the American dream, and belief in this nation.’”
Reach reporter Carlotta Mohamed by e-mail at cmoha