AAPI Heritage month highlights ELAC professors

By James Archer

Coming from different backgrounds, many Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) women face very similar experiences.

East Los Angeles College Professors Elieen Ie, Gina Lam & My Hanh Anderson shared their stories of identity and resilience during a discussion panel at the F7 building on May 9.

They answered a few questions and each shared their stories about what it’s like growing up in America as an AAPI woman.

Ie used the first few minutes of the panel to mention that May is AAPI Heritage month and that this is the first of two events that celebrates the diversity of the AAPI community.

“It wasn’t actually until I started working at ELAC that I realized how I constructed my sense of being an Asian girl and woman growing up in the valley,” Ie said.

The term Asian American was created by activists Emma Gee and Yuji Ichitoka during the civil rights movement. They sought a term that would unite various communities of Asian descent in the United States to foster a collective identity and to mobilize against racial discrimination.

AAPI people are an important part of American history, despite facing challenges like discrimination and underrepresentation in various fields.

“There’s a perception that Asians are a monolith. Like, we are all the same when we’re quite diverse,” Ie said.

Ie’s parents immigrated to the United States from Indonesia in the late 1970s. She spent most of her childhood in the San Fernando Valley.

Lam mentioned that during the panel they were hoping to share and demonstrate individuality and emphasize that Asians are a huge category.

“How different would our awareness of our culture or identity be even if there isn’t such a difference? Maybe, our racial identity wouldn’t be so different,” Lam said.

She was born and raised in New York and identifies as Fujianese as her parents immigrated from China.

Lam and her parents lived in the Bronx. At the time, her parents had this perception about America was very dangerous, as the war on drugs was an epidemic plaguing New York in the ’90s.

“It wasn’t until my parents moved us from the Bronx to Brooklyn that I was able to attend public school where I actually started to see a lot more racial diversity,” Lam said.

Anderson shared her experience immigrating to the United States with her family, along with millions of other Vietnamese who fled Vietnam after the war in the late 70s.

At the time Vietnam was facing severe political repression, economic sanctions and widespread poverty.  

Most that left ended up in another struggle, seeking refuge and better opportunities. Therefore, many ended up in camps in different countries.

“I was about four years old at the time. We left on a boat at night and I was being told we were going to see grandma,” Anderson said.

The process took about two years to finally get her family to Oxnard, CA, after a period of refugee camp transfers.

She recalls life in Oxnard being diverse and she felt accepted growing up there until they moved to Santa Barbara.

“Moving from Oxnard to Santa Barbara, it was an eye-opener. There was a lot more teasing and a lot more name calling,” Anderson said. 

ELAC is hosting a second AAPI event on Tuesday, a film screening of “Not Your Model Minority.” There will be a Q&A afterward at 12:10 p.m. on Zoom at laccd.zoom.us/j/88995886134.

More AAPI resources at https://researchguides.elac.edu/aapi.

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