Celebrating Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Celebrating Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

[5MIN READ]

In this article:

  • May is Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month – a time to celebrate and honor history, traditions and culture.
  • AANHPI month recognizes and uplifts the many different cultures that make up Asian culture – including South Asian histories and countries, such as India and Pakistan.
  • Three Providence employees – Grace, Liza and Abigail – share their rich beliefs and traditions to celebrate AANHPI Heritage Month.

Since 1977, May has been a time to celebrate the heritage, history and people of Asia and the Pacific Islands – and their contributions to the rich tapestry that makes up the United States. What first started as a week to honor Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI) has turned into a month of celebrations and learnings. In fact, May was a deliberate choice to honor AANHPI heritage as May 7, 1843 marked the immigration of the first Japanese individuals and families to the United States.

Today, AANHPI month celebrates and recognizes the distinct contribution of  communities, people and cultures of Asia, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands. This also includes the recognition of South Asian cultures, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

We sat down with three Providence employees – Liza Fallar (she/her/hers), Grace Park (she/her/hers) and Abigail Parcon (she/her/hers) – to learn about their Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander heritage and how it influences their work.  Each of these women holds different roles: Liza is Onsite Access Supervisor at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center; Grace is Chief of Staff for the Providence Los Angeles Physician Enterprise; and Abigail is an experienced registered nurse who currently cares for patients at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center.

What cultural background do you identify most strongly with?

Grace: I'm not Korean. I'm not American. I'm Korean American. My parents are immigrants from Korea and I was born and raised in Southern California. 

In the last few years, there has been a lot in the media about stopping Asian hate. It’s encouraged me to delve more into my culture. As a mom, I was asking myself questions like, “What does it mean to celebrate the duality of my culture – being both American and Asian?”

I want my daughter to grow up being comfortable in both, knowing it is beautiful to have both sides. I am now more intentional about having her spend time with her grandparents who can teach her things about their background.

 

Liza: I was born in the Philippines, but also have a Spanish and Japanese background. I moved to the United States after college, and Los Angeles has been my home since then. I am a proud Filipino!  My background has shaped me into a person I am today. There is part of me that identifies with my Spanish roots. I have visited Japan and feel connected to their culture as well.  I have two Filipino- Armenian sons, and their dad also grew up in Iran.  I strongly feel the bond of that culture as well. It is quite easy to feel multicultural in Los Angeles, thanks to the diverse ethnicities and backgrounds of people living here.  My household is truly living that life too!                                                              

 

Abigail: I was raised by a village, as they say. The Pacific Islands are an intricate tapestry of cultures, woven together from pieces cut from the same cloth. I was brought up as a strong young Filipino by blood, surrounded by the most colorful and radiant family that I am blessed to have been born into. And for over two decades, my second family raised me to be educated and immersed in the Polynesian cultures. I’m proud to be a part of it all. 

What are some elements of your culture that you bring with you to your role as a caregiver at Providence?

Grace: If you’ve ever had Korean food, you know that it often comes with side dishes called banchan. Banchan are delightful dishes that aren’t for one person – you share with those around the table. My role requires a lot of collaboration and it’s hardly work that can be done in isolation. It isn’t unique to Korean culture, but there is something powerful about togetherness and gathering at a table to share food. It brings people together. In the same way, I hope to continue bringing people together in my role to share learnings and joyfully collaborate.

Our organization does a lot of reflections in meetings and during work groups. I recently led one using a quote from an Asian American activist, Yuri Kochiyama, because she inspired me. This new season of becoming a parent has allowed me to be more intentional about exploring parts of our identity because we’re about passing these things on to the next generation – along with our colleagues, friends and community.

Liza: I bring a strong belief in the mission statement and the Providence core values. As a Filipino, we believe in compassionate care, which is the reason why many Filipinos are in nursing and health care careers. We are taught to be generous and humble. I also really identify with the core values of excellence and integrity. In my culture, it is taught that these characteristics are what a person must have in his/her life. Dignity and justice are also very important. It is critical to know your place in this world and to know who you are, where you came from and how you can evolve. Family values are significantly important, and Providence is like family!

Abigail: “Respecting your elders” is one of many values instilled in me as a young girl. The Pacific Island cultures emphasize respecting our elders, listening to their stories, their struggles, their wins, heeding their warnings and their advice, and loving them unconditionally because they paved our way in this world.

As a professional in the medical field, I find myself respecting those around me, not just the elders, but also my colleagues, my patients and their families and anyone else I encounter. Respect manifests in different ways and I believe it has taught me to listen and to be empathetic, compassionate and caring. Being a caregiver in recent years was demanding and tiresome, but remembering how to compassionately care for the vulnerable in our community was never difficult to do. 

The values of Providence are Compassion, Dignity, Justice, Excellence, and Integrity. Is there a particular value that you identify with the most and that ties to your culture?

Grace: I would say the value I most identify with is compassion. Compassion is important because people will always remember how you made them feel.

Having and showing that compassion is so important, particularly right now. We often reflect on who is it we are serving here at Providence. Patients and clinic staff are dealing with inflation, burnout and the mental weight of COVID-19. These experiences made me foster that sense of compassion and curiosity. I bring this to my staff behind the scenes, which ultimately carries forward to our patients and community.

Liza: I identify closely with Excellence and Integrity. Filipinos are taught to be the best version of themselves, whatever we do, we strive to live and experience the full potential of who we are and who we can become.  Whether we compete in pageantry, cooking, dancing, acting and many other things, Filipinos are very competitive and driven to succeed and win. We push ourselves to always excel. The country’s main resource is really the beautiful and hard-working Filipinos! 

Integrity is also another value, Filipinos are proud to have. We are a very prideful people and as a nation, with such strong moral principles and uprightness. We are honest people and very patriotic to our motherland.

Abigail: Dancing the Hawaiian hula requires pure intention starting from the top of the head, down to the toes, and to the very tips of the fingers. As beautiful and effortless as the hula may appear on the outside, the story being told by the dancer encompasses more than just body movements. Every single one of these values are important in my culture; collectively all these values contribute to the final story. 

I think most people raised in an AANHPI family can identify with the high expectations that are set as early as kindergarten. Excellence is a value that I know my family tries to achieve in everything they do, regardless of how small or insignificant the task. Being your best and achieving excellence equates to working hard. In this, I've learned to have pride in everything I do and that means Dignity, Justice, Compassion, and Integrity all play a significant role. I have learned to equate excellence with these values because “putting yourself into everything you do” has been a pillar in my upbringing.

Honoring AANHPI heritage in your community

Wherever you live, there are many ways to celebrate and honor AANHPI heritage. Try one of these local (to you) events or restaurants or visit your local library to learn more about AANHPI culture.

Southern California

Otomisan: The Last Japanese Restaurant in Boyle Heights | Departures | KCET

Experience the Museum | Japanese American National Museum (janm.org)

GFB Monument – Go For Broke

Exhibit – Go For Broke

Discover Isamu Noguchi’s California Scenario – South Coast Plaza

Our History – Tanaka Farms

Northern California

Far East Cafe owners decide to keep 100-year-old S.F. Chinatown restaurant alive (sfchronicle.com)

A Brief History of San Francisco’s Japanese Tea Garden (theculturetrip.com)

Plan Your Visit – Asian Art Museum

Montana

At This Chinese Restaurant in Montana, Chop Suey Is Just Part of the History – The New York Times (nytimes.com) – The oldest family-owned, continuously operating Chinese restaurant in the United States

Texas

Texas Asian Culture Museum

Honoring AANHPI heritage anywhere

Books to Read:

I am Golden by Eva Chen

Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Recipes to Try:

Bibimbap

Kimchi Stew

Beef Radish Stew 

Additional Resources:

Asian American/Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month

NPR’s Throughline: Our Own People

Asian American PBS Documentary

A commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion

Providence SoCal Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Council (SoCal DE&I) is leading some of our efforts to raise cultural awareness and promote diversity to help build appreciation for cultural traditions. We are also starting conversations to help educate people about different cultures as a way to create a more welcoming, equitable and inclusive environment. We support diversity education and awareness initiatives, thus deepening our ability to provide compassionate care and honor human dignity.

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Related resources

One women’s story: Staying grounded, resilient in adversity

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Providence programs bring health disparities to light during Minority Health Month

Implicit bias training for physicians

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.