Did you know that it’s Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month? Get ready for a culturally rich ride in our two-part blog series! First up, we will explore the history behind the celebration of Asian/Pacific American Heritage month, how Clubs can incorporate recognition of the month into their Club day, and we will hear from one of our very own staff members within the Movement. Đọc tiếp! (Vietnamese for “Read on!”)
Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month began originally as a week-long celebration. In 1992, May was designated as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month by Congress. The month of May was chosen in honor of the first Japanese immigrants who came to the United States and the completion of the transcontinental railroad, which both occurred during May.
The Asian/Pacific region encompasses all of the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. It’s hard to fit it all in one map, so we are using two!
This month is the perfect time to ensure your Club acknowledges the Asian/Pacific American community. Below are some simple ways to show appreciation and to introduce your members to the amazing diversity of this region.
- Highlight notable Asian/Pacific Americans throughout history. Here’s a link from Scholastic.
- Celebrate the rich heritage by introducing your members to some of the diverse cultures within the Asian/Pacific Americans communities. Here are some activities for grades K-12 from the National Education Association, and here are some more from Scholastic.
- Recognize Asian/Pacific Americans who have made an impact in your community by inviting them to share their experiences with members.
- Read books featuring Asian/Pacific cultures! Here’s a list you can use at your local library or to stock your shelves:
Throughout the Movement, 1% of our 1.98 million registered Members are Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander and 3% are Asian. We also have a number of staff who represent these groups. Let’s hear from one of them! LaCresha McManus is Citywide Director of Teen Services for the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco, and she is also a proud member of the American Samoan community. Here’s her story about growing up in the Movement as a Samoan woman.
I grew up at the Port Hueneme Clubhouse, part of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Oxnard and Port Hueneme in California. I took advantage of lots of opportunities at the Club because it was near my home in one of the most violent neighborhoods in my hometown. When I returned home after college, I volunteered at my home Club in the teaching choir to elementary school youth. In the summer, I worked with K-8 graders, but soon after I found where my passion meets my purpose when I got involved with the teen population. In 2010 I transitioned into the Teen Center where I began to run programs like College Bound and Keystone Club. I quickly realized that teens gravitated to me because we connect as people of color but also because I came from the same neighborhoods my kids grew up in. I was a person who looked like many of the kids we served and that gave me the opportunity to build deeper relationships that would open their minds to new experiences.
In 2015, I joined Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco as the Citywide Director of Teen Services. I’m considered the internal expert around teens and I love it! I still get a chance to be in direct service from time to time working with teens and their families, but I also get a seat at the decision-making tables that influence how my organization interacts and impacts teen lives.
This year I’m approaching 10 years in the Boys & Girls Clubs Movement. It wasn’t until recently that I found out how influential I am to young girls of color, especially those of Pacific Islander heritage. I am the only Samoan employee in my organization and I am very grateful for the opportunities to remind my team of the P.I. community. We are small, but we are here, and people are very receptive of that. I’m proud to be a leader in the Youth Development arena and to be a representation of Pacific Islanders in the Movement. I’m also grateful that a Boys & Girls Club was built on the island of American Samoa so that kids, who are just like me, get to experience all of the amazing opportunities the Club affords young people.
Stay tuned for part two of our Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month blog series where we will dive deeper into the culture and traditions of our American Samoa Clubhouse!