Delivered May 10, 2022
View Video of Remarks at LADWP Board Meeting
I’d like to open the meeting by recognizing that May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. And in tribute to not only our many, many employees of APPI descent but also in tribute to our recently departed Board Vice President. I am very pleased to take the lead in the acknowledgment of this month on this day.
Documented migration of Asians and Pacific Islanders to the United States date back to 1587. Since then and for more than 500 years, AAPIs have been part of the fabric of American society and we here at LADWP celebrate their contributions year-round but especially during the month of May, Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
AAPI month was first introduced as AAPI week in a proclamation signed by President Jimmy Carter in October 1978. It was to be observed during the first ten days of May. That was 391 years after the documented arrival of the first Filipinos on U.S. soil in 1587. In 1990 congress passed a law expanding the observance to the entire month of May, chosen to commemorate the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the U.S. on May 7, 1843, and also the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869, which was built predominantly by Chinese immigrants.
Today, AAPI month recognizes the contributions and important role in American history of more than 24 million residents and citizens of the United States who trace their roots to more than 20 countries in the East, Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and Pacific Islands of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia.
AAPIs are a force that has shaped American culture and society for centuries. They are public officials, doctors, lawyers, healthcare workers, skilled workers, merchants, social workers, community activists, and drivers of change. The myriad state and federal actions and local event celebrations recognize AAPIs for what they are doing are affirming and laudable.
That said, many people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent continue to be stereotyped, ostracized, otherized, and discriminated against. In recent years, especially following false inflammatory and damaging rhetoric that blamed COVID-19 on Asians, many AAPIs became victims of hate crimes. A recent LA County poll revealed that two-thirds of Asian Americans in LA County worried for their safety and fear of becoming the subject of racial attack; 80% say that Asian American racism is a serious problem. And nearly 25% say they experienced verbal or physical abuse or damage to their property because of their racial or ethnic background. To be clear–this is the experience of our friends, our neighbors, family members, and colleagues right here in LA County. These events are all too reminiscent of the painful history of which far too few of us are aware.
The Chinese massacre in 1871 right here by Olvera Street. The incarceration of Japanese American sent to concentration camps in the 1940s. And the Chinese Exclusion Act which barred all Asian immigrants, including Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, and Indians from becoming naturalized U.S. citizens and prevented them from marrying Caucasians or owning land. The good news is we need not be defined by our past and the contribution of generations of AAPI citizens is a testament to their resilience, their brilliance, and their stalwart conviction and contribution to the civil fabric of our society.
We at LADWP stand with our AAPI colleagues and communities. We are committed to continuing our push to ensure fairness and equality for all through meaningful action, impactful policymaking, hiring practices, and outreach programs that challenge systemic racism and create equity and opportunity. During AAPI Heritage Month, may we all reflect, find joy, and stay hopeful. And to all of our AAPI employees and communities, we celebrate you and thank you for your resilient spirit and your work in the service of a stronger LA and a better nation. Thank you.