5/4/21 - A Message from Secretary Hou: Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Dear Colleagues,

Each May, we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month by sharing and recognizing the achievements of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. This year, our celebration is sobered by the increase in violence against the AAPI community across our country.

Recent high-profile attacks against AAPI residents -from COVID-19-related, racially-motivated attacks to the mass shootings in Georgia and Indianapolis to continued xenophobic rhetoric-have brought attention to long-term racism and discrimination experienced by the AAPI community. The #StopAsianHate campaign was started in response to the alarming escalation in violence and xenophobia, and to promote unity and solidarity within the AAPI community and across all people of color groups. You can learn more about it at www.stopaapihate.org.

As you know, I am a proud member of the AAPI community, a daughter of immigrants and a staunch advocate for immigrant rights. I have spent my career advancing social and racial justice working in the nonprofit and public sectors and aspire and endeavor to follow in the footsteps of many great Asian Americans before me, including my namesake, Grace Lee Boggs. Grace Lee Boggs was an activist, writer, and speaker who spent her life advocating for civil rights and labor rights. She was also a first-generation Asian American woman.

She cultivated a philosophy that was guided by human experience, focused on an individual's own ability to transform their world. While most of her activist work was in Detroit, her impact was-and still is-felt in justice movements all across the country. Boggs died at 100 years old in 2015, leaving a legacy and indelible mark on the AAPI community and on grassroots community organizing. You can read more about Grace Lee Boggs by visiting our AAPI Heritage Month OneNet page.

Throughout this month, much more will be shared about AAPI history and culture. The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the transcontinental railroad's completion on May 10, 1869, primarily completed by Chinese immigrant workers.

You can learn more about Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month by visiting asianpacificheritage.gov and you may visit the AAPI Heritage Month OneNet page during the month to learn of events, resources, and activities celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage.

Sadly, the AAPI community lost a giant last week in Bernie Wong. Bernie was a fierce advocate for the Asian American community in Chicago and for AAPI communities across the country. She was doggedly persistent in her work to transform the lives of immigrants and Chinese Americans in Chicago. I had the incredible opportunity to work for her at the Chinese American Service League, where she was the founder and President. It was my first job in the world of public service, and it dramatically changed the trajectory of my life and career. She taught me that serving others could be a vocation, and her influence led me down a fantastic path to where I am now. Bernie's decades of service have changed the lives of so many, including my own. She will be dearly missed.



Grace B. Hou

Secretary, IDHS