Queens Borough President Donovan Richards held a celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month Monday, May 22, at the Helen Marshall Cultural Center in Queens Borough Hall. The celebration included multiple musical and dance performances from local cultural organizations, food and remarks from Richards and other Queens leaders.
Richards noted that Queens is home to a large number of people from the AAPI community. He also discussed how many within the AAPI community had to endure hateful language and even hate crimes throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Generations of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders helped to build and make Queens what it is today: a ‘World’s Borough’ that welcomes the contributions of all people regardless of their backgrounds or beliefs,” Richards said. “Not only were you hit disproportionately when it came to the pandemic, but then on top of it you were hit with another pandemic and that is a pandemic of hate and prejudice. Tonight we are here to reaffirm our unconditional support and solidarity with the AAPI community to say that hate will never have a home here in Queens.”
In addition to Richards, other notable speakers at the event included Councilwoman Linda Lee, Civil Court Judge Karen Lin and Asian American Federation Executive Director Jo-Ann Yoo. The latter was also honored at the event.
Lin emphasized that AAPI Heritage Month is also about remembering America’s history. She pointed out that many within the AAPI community have left their marks on the country’s history.
“We’ve come from over 40 different nations and countless pacific islands and it’s so important to study the history of this country because whenever our history fails to include all of our stories, it is an incomplete history,” Lin said. “This month, I hope that we will all continue to commit to learning about all the different Americans that make our borough strong and have built our nation.”
“Asian Americans are the fastest growing population in New York City,” Lee said. “We have to make sure that we are fighting for the community to make sure that you guys have the resources you need and that we have seats at the table. To have policies that reflect our communities.”
Several AAPI community members and organizations in Queens were honored with citations by Richards at the celebration. Among those to receive the honor were Felicia Singh of the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families; Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation Executive Director Freeman Su; the United Sherpa Association; Chhaya Executive Director Annetta Seecharran; National Federation of Filipino American Associations Chairperson Rachelle Ocampo; and Asian American Federation Executive Director Jo-Ann Yoo.
“There are a lot of Asian-American Heritage Month events in May,” Yoo said. “One of the things that I want to remind you is that you are Asian 365 days of the year. You need to celebrate yourself 365 days a year. You need to be proud of yourself, your children, your culture [for] 365 days a year.”
Additional reporting by Paul Frangipane.