May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Census data shows Asians are now the fastest growing racial group in the U.S. Locally, both Fairfax and Montgomery Counties saw near 15% increases in the Asian American population in the last decade. Based on state planning info, the largest demographics within the region are Chinese, Indian and Korean (in that order). We asked representatives in our newsroom to talk about taking pride in their identities.
Monika Samtani (Traffic):
The best of both worlds..that's how I look at my life. I am a first generation Indian-American. When I look at my family's history, I am amazed at how far we have come. My dad was young when he fled from his home in Burma during World War II in 1942. My mom grew up in a poor family in Delhi. When they married, my parents settled in Michigan, where there was no Indian community, and the weather opposite to the warm climate they were used to back home. They had me less than a year later...must've been those cold nights...
Through extremely hard work, my parents now lead successful lives here in D.C. Through it all, they've integrated our family to the American way, yet our Indian roots and culture are still an integral part of our lives.
I am lucky to represent my community as a Broadcast Journalist. In the early '90's, I became one of the first South Asian women to breakthrough in a major U.S. television and radio market here in DC (everyone else was a doctor or engineer!). I now have the honor and privilege of mentoring young South Asian American journalists, emceeing many community events, and supporting professional minority women through my organization 'Launch Network.'
I'm proud of being an American, and equally proud of my heritage and history. I now teach my own family to merge their wonderful diverse worlds into one.
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Surae Chinn (Reporter):
It's a privilege to represent the Asian American community as a broadcast journalist, and what an exciting time to celebrate our heritage in the Washington, DC region.
I remember when my family first moved to Northern Virginia in the late 80's, I was one of only two Asian Americans in my entire grade and look at how far we've come. We are one of the fastest growing minorities in the region.
Asian Americans have also made huge strides in public office in the last two decades, such as electing the first Asian governor in the Continental U.S. with Gary Locke, along with elected officials in Congress, and appointments to the Legislative Branch.
I'm very proud of my Chinese heritage. My grandfather was a World War II pilot who flew the famous Hump route, which was critical in supplying the allies in the Asian theater.
My family history is something my one-year-old son will learn. We are also teaching him Chinese. In our family, we feel it's important to carry on our traditions and culture for the next generation.
It's been a pleasure being invited to emcee numerous Asian events in the community, such as the Asian Chamber of Commerce Gala... two years in a row. You can check out my blog that highlights Asian events in the community.
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Ko Im (Reporter):
I am Asian Pacific American -- more specifically, Korean Guamanian American.
I grew up in a place resembling a melting pot. As a 1.5 generation immigrant, I emigrated to the U.S. territory of Guam. And so ensued learning English as a second language, going to Korean school every Saturday and embracing the native culture of the island. Sometimes there would be clashes with my parents i.e. no sleepovers, going to mass. Other times there would be interesting combinations/results i.e. pizza paired with kimchee, spam musubi (inspired by sushi).
My father, who looks Filipino and also speaks Japanese, still embodies the spirit of the immigrant work ethic. He encouraged me to study hard and it paid off. I was the first to turn the tassel at an American university and as they boasted, Ivy League at that. And what an experience at Penn, where I truly learned to appreciate my heritage through a college leadership diversity program. By understanding the history of the APA past, I am able to help build an APA future.
When I fill out paperwork, I am proud to check the box that says Asian, or Korean. But deep down, I carry more than just one description.
Over the years several "truths" have been cemented in my beliefs -- that multiple identities can co-exist, the American Dream is achievable, and diversity is as beautiful as the stars and stripes that fly around our country everyday.
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Elizabeth Jia (Multimedia):
I am so honored to be living in a time when there is someone of my same heritage serving in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) is the first Chinese American woman in Congress. Rep. Chu has been instrumental in addressing Asian American civil rights issues. In the current 112th Congress, Rep. Chu and Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass.) co-sponsored legislation that successfully resulted in a formal apology from Congress for the Chinese Exclusion Laws. From 1882 there were a set of laws restricting the immigration of Chinese workers to the U.S. Rep. Chu continues her positive work. She will co-chair the new American Sikh Congressional Caucus to address hate crimes related to Sikhs.
Ms. Chu and other distinguished Asian-American men and women have been woven into the fabric of American democracy. They serve not only their constituents, but they also serve as a symbol of inspiration.
You can watch short videos of Asian American lawmakers past and present. These clips are in honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
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Aisha Chowdhry (Online):
I was born and raised in Lahore, Pakistan. I consider the U.S. my home since I moved here permanently but my South Asian culture will always be a part of me.
Pakistan is a country that has been under the spotlight for terrorism, violence and corruption for many years now. Though that is a part of the country which we cannot ignore, there are other things that I always like to remember it for -- like the delicious food, the beautiful jewelry and clothing, and the breathtaking historical structures that still stand in the country. I have been working as a reporter since 2009. My assignments have taken me back to Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan where I was embedded with the U.S. military and had the chance to travel through Eastern Afghanistan. Both countries have helped me grow as a journalist, whether it was reporting on major blasphemy cases or interviewing the third most wanted terrorist, to being able to speak to the first female Provincial Governor of Afghanistan. The countries have provided me a platform to report on the issues that are important not just to South Asia but ones which also have a global significance.
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Share your story with us. We'd love to hear from you.