Written by Ginny Finn, President and CEO, YWCA Southeast Wisconsin
In this nation, almost every month of the year we are marking some celebration or historical theme. Among May celebrations, in particular, we celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. It is one avenue – only one – for us to learn about the multiple cultures that comprise Asian Pacific Americans.
There are those who dismiss such monthly or weekly celebrations, but I embrace them because regardless of their limitations, they open my eyes in unexpected ways. I love to learn new things, including how in many respects my awareness of the fullness of our country’s history is quite limited. (These history lessons remind me of my father who often observed that to know history is to understand humanity is a collective, interwoven experience.) Plus, history is easily manipulated if one does not reflect honestly. https://www.history.com/news/korematsu-japanese-internment-supreme-court
I believe lifting each other up prepares us to support each other when we live in times like now – a time of overt, unapologetic tearing down. And, lifting each other up is more effective when we know about each other, even better when we know each other personally. And, especially now we must never tire of lifting each other up.
Part of lifting each other up includes steadfastly speaking up and standing up when tearing others down uses the razors of racism. This is exactly the time to respond to such tearing down without hesitation, without apology. We must speak the unvarnished truth, while also avoiding the magnetic pull of tearing others down ourselves. (Yes, I’m channeling a parent again – this time my mother.)
For more than 125 years, YWCA Southeast Wisconsin (SEW) has lifted up our community through the lens of women – to benefit us all. I found it touching, but not surprising, to learn that Asian Pacific American Heritage Month was rooted in efforts begun by one woman. You can read about Jeanie Jew here: https://time.com/5592591/asian-pacific-heritage-month-history/.
YWCA SEW is also about walking the talk, so here’s a shout out to our region’s very own ElevAsian, which was founded in 2017 to highlight little known facts about Asian American heritage and culture, as well as celebrate their contributions to our regional community. Just this month through their efforts, I have learned about a number of organizations new to me: United Lao-American Educational Development, United Hmong of Wisconsin Outreach, the Milwaukee chapter of the National Association of Asian American Professionals, the Burmese Rohingya Community of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Chapter of the Organization of Chinese Americans. To learn more, reach out to Erik Kennedy, one of ElevAsian’s founding members firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope you will check out the links in this issue of 2038 Newsletter. Doing so is a small part of lifting each other up.