TO commemorate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Los Angeles on Thursday, May 6, recognized high-profile personalities, elected officials, community leaders and businesses who have contributed to the city and various industries.
The virtual celebration and awards ceremony was organized and hosted by the 2021 Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Committee chaired by Councilmember John Lee, Councilmember Nithya Raman, and Board of Public Works Commissioner Jessica Caloza, the first Filipina American to serve in the role.
Among the special guests of the kick-off celebration were LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Attorney Mike Feuer, City Controller Ron Galperin, Council President Nury Martinez, Supervisor Hilda Solis, LA Civil Rights General Manager Capri Maddox, Rep. Judy Chu, Rep. Young Kim, Rep. Michelle Steel, State Senator Dave Min, and actress Geena Davis.
With this year’s theme of “Unite. Empower. Rise. – Celebrating Solidarity, Belonging, and Community,” the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Committee recognized the significant contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in various industries with the 2021 R.I.S.E. Awards, which stands for “Recognizing inspiring individuals who elevate and empower.”
Among the R.I.S.E. Awardees was Attorney General Rob Bonta, who recently became the first Filipino American as California’s chief law officer.
In his acceptance speech, Bonta noted that being an attorney general means being the people’s attorney.
“I see it as being the people’s attorney, fighting for everyday folks who have been hurt and harmed, who have been abused…and be their champion, to balance the scales of justice. I help the little guy, and stop the little guy from being abused by the big guy, who overreaches their authority or abuses their power,” he said.
“Right now, we’re in such a painful moment full of fear and anxiety for the AAPI community, the attacks, the violence, the hate has occurred too many times in too many places and too many ways. It’s horrific and unacceptable and we’re fighting back and pushing back,” he added.
Bonta also assured that he will be the public’s champion, fighting injustice as he serves as California’s attorney general.
“As your Attorney General, I’m going to take care of you. Your fight will be my fight. I’ll have your back, I’ll be your champion, and I’ll make sure that we…fight injustice and help as many people as possible,” he said.
Other R.I.S.E. Awardees who were recognized for their vital contributions were journalist Lisa Ling, actor Alan Kim (“Minari”), Johnny Lee of Koreatown Pizza Company, and Manju Kulkarni of Stop AAPI Hate and Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council (A3PCON).
Before the awards ceremony, a keynote address was delivered by City Mayor Eric Garcetti, who noted the contributions of Asian Americans in building the city of L.A.
“We know the original inhabitants of this land came from Asia… Some of the immigrants that built this city and made Los Angeles so strong had their ancestry traced back to Asia, the Pacific Islands, and Hawaii,” he said.
“This is a time when we must mark our history if we are to make our history. We must know both the bright and the dark chapters of the past to confront the challenges of today,” he added.
Garcetti also stressed that anti-Asian hate and violence have no place in L.A., following the continuous surge of attacks against the members of the Asian American community across the United States.
“We have seen hate crimes against AAPI Angelinos more than double in the last year, which is why we speak with one voice that there is absolutely no place for this, that we will empower you to react and to respond, and that we will be there to protect and to co-author the city’s chapter which makes sure everybody here belongs, just as everybody that has been here has built this city and its strength,” he said.
“This is a city that has no tolerance for violence, bigotry, hate crimes, or discrimination, and it’s up to each one of us to own this. Not just Asian Americans and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, but all of us to make sure this is a month of action, of protection, of belonging, and of celebration and culture,” added Garcetti.
For his part, Galperin noted that 9% of the LA’s population consists of the AAPI community.
In the city government’s workforce, 16% of the employees are AAPI, while 61% of the workforce in the Controller’s office come from the AAPI community.
“We also employ the highest percentage of Filipino employees in the entire city — 21%,” said Galperin.
Throughout the month of May, the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Committee will hold eight virtual and in-person events including:
• A “fireside chat’’ with Amazon Studios Chief Operating Officer Albert Cheng on representation, culture and storytelling at noon on May 21. People can RSVP for the event here.
• A community day of service on Saturday, May 22 at six various sites across the city (Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Koreatown, Historic Filipinotown, Thai Town, and Little Bangladesh).
• A virtual screening of 2021 Academy Award nominee for Best Picture “Minari’’ which tells the story of a Korean American family on a small Arkansas farm. The event is scheduled for 6 p.m. May 27 and people can RSVP on a first come, first served basis.
The City’s schedule of APAHM events and cultural guide can be found here.