Friday, May 1, 2015

Presbyterians Celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Welcome to my blog series celebrating the 2015 Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, inspired by the “Our New Day Begun” series celebrating Black History Month by the Rev. Tawnya Denise Anderson. I loved reading the profiles of young black leaders in the Presbyterian Church (USA), and asked Denise if I might be inspired by her work to do an Asian Pacific American series.

We talked about what the series might be titled, as the Black History Month features was called by a line in “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as the black national anthem. I said, bluntly, that all we have in common as Asian Pacific Americans is racism. And the month of May, of course.

Here are the profiles featured so far:
The Rev. Charlene Han Powell
The Rev. Phil Tom
The Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow
The Rev. Yena Hwang
The Rev. Joann Haejong Lee
The Rev. Shawn Kang
The Rev. Neal Presa
A quick primer on Asian Pacific Americans…

The U.S. census puts us into two categories: Asian American (descended from people who came from the continent of Asia, from Japan to Sri Lanka to wherever the government happens to determine Asia ends and Europe begins), and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander (descended from people who came from these islands, such as Hawaii and Fiji). Asian Pacific Americans came as forced labor, refugees, immigrants, and on student and skilled worker visas. Asian Pacific Americans can be solidly rooted in the U.S. and/or transnational. Asian Americans are multiracial, adopted, first generation through seventh and eighth generations. Asian Pacific Americans came because their homeland is/was a U.S. territory, or came because the U.S. invaded, or came because they worked for the U.S. military. Asian Pacific Americans arrived by boat through Angel Island, jumped off boats into the waters by New Orleans, and by planes landing at New York’s JFK airport or Atlanta.

The PC(USA) puts us into one category that lumps Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders together, and sometimes creates two categories: Korean, other Asian.

Contrary to popular stereotypes, Asian Pacific Americans as a whole do not share the following:
1) a language
2) an accent
3) cultural values
4) foods
5) facial features or physical characteristics
6) chopsticks
7) a religion
8) superior achievements
9) high incomes
10) above-average math and science skills

(Yes, all of those are stereotypes. Holler at me in the comments if you want the data.)

You will hear from many Asian Pacific Americans this month who are affiliated with the PC(USA), many of whom are ministers. They are from many generations, different ethnic groups, and represent the diversity of what it means to be Asian Pacific American and Presbyterian.

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