Asian Heritage Month kick-off event explores anti-Asian racism
By Riggs Zyrille Vergara, Publishing Editor
With the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes due to the current pandemic, the non-profit Pan-Asian organization Asian Heritage Foundation (AHF) celebrates Asian Heritage Month by delving into conversations around institutionalized anti-Asian racism while also featuring the diverse cultural performances and art exhibits from various Asian organizations in Calgary.
Performances like the Bollywood Beats Calgary’s Chogara tara Gujrati, Midnight Taiko Kai’s Harukaze and the Angklung Musical Group’s Bengawan Solo are only a few of the showcased artistic feats from more than 30 participating communities in the event.
The online kick-off event presented through the conferencing platform Zoom also included roundtable conversations highlighting the different aspects of anti-Asian racism. The three roundtables focused on the significance of this year’s Asian heritage celebration, the “Bamboo Ceiling” concept and the future of Asian heritage through the perspective of youths..
Dr. Sonia Aujla-Bhullar, the co-chair of the Anti-racism Action Committee in Calgary said, “Communities have recognized that the gap in leadership, the gap in policy, the gap in laws, the gap in understanding on a systemic level what racism does to a person and a community is important for us to address. It’s fortunate and unfortunate that it’s up to communities to disrupt this [anti-Asian] narrative.” Dr. Bhullar also added that she has a lot of hope for the future because of the efforts of the many communities to be heard by leaders in legislation.
The kick-off event was hosted by media consultant and former journalist Serena Mah and CBC radio host Paul Haavardsrud. It also featured messages from Kim’s Convenience’s star, Andrew Phung, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and the Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, Mary Ng.
“Our recognition of Asian Heritage Month during a pandemic and escalating anti-Asian racism speaks to the resilience of Asian Canadians to overcome legislative discrimination, systemic barriers and hate,” AHF founder Teresa Woo-Paw said, adding that the month of May is the perfect time to explore and celebrate the diverse Asian cultures of this country and aim to ensure that Canada can be the inclusive country it aspires to be.
Co-founder of AHF and Filipino community builder Cesar Cala also said, “We have come in quietly to be part of building this country and we continue to do so, but never recognized. We’ve always been seen as exotic and not part of the mainstream and Asian Heritage Month is about that; to be recognized that we are part of the landscape and we continue to be,”.
Asian Heritage Month is celebrated throughout the month of May and AHF offers different events almost each day. The events range from webinars on family relationships and the importance of Ramadan to dance tutorials for older adults and artistic plays on having mixed cultural identities.
AHF features all their events in their website asianheritageyyc.ca.