Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. (Credit: nrcs.usad.gov)

May marks the start of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month in the United States. The month-long observance celebrates the accomplishments and contributions AAPI communities in America. The broad term includes 50 ethnic groups that speak more than 100 languages ​​and have roots in more than 40 countries. They include those with connections to China, India, Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam and Korea.

This year theme — Advancing Leaders Through Collaboration — strong points the work of AAPI legislators. Here are two pioneers who has dedicated their life in the service of the nation.

Patsy Takemoto Mink

Patsy Takemoto Mink, a third-generation Japanese American, overcame gender and race discrimination at emerge as one of the most powerful American legislators of his generation. Mink’s political career began in 1956 when she became the first Japanese-American woman to be elected to the Hawaii House of Representatives. In 1964, then 37, she made history as the first woman of color elected to the United States House of Representatives and the first Asian-American woman to serve in Congress.

US lawmaker Patsy Mink has dedicated her life to achieving gender and racial equality. (Gwendolyn Mink/ CC-By-SA- 4.0)

During his 24 years mandate in Congress – served in two phases: from 1965 to 1977 and from 1991 to 2002 – Mink fought hard for the rights of immigrants, women and children. Its more notable achievement was the passage of Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972. Now called the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act, it banned genre discrimination in higher education.

The law too stipulated that women and men have equal opportunities in varsity athletics. Prior to the passage of Title IX, collegiate sports were largely restricted to men. Mink also introduced the first complete Early Childhood Education Act. The law provides federal funding for services for children from birth to preschool.

Mink died at the age of 74 on September 28, 2002. She was inducted in the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2003 and honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2014.

Kamala Harris

At Patsy Mink’s tirelessly efforts to achieve gender and racial equality paved the way for Kamala Harris, the nation’s first black, South Asian and female vice president. The oldest of two children, Harris was born in Oakland, California on October 20, 1964.

Her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, was an Indian cancer researcher, and her father, Donald Harris, was a economist from Jamaica. The couple separated when Harris was seven years old. But her mother, with whom she and her sister lived, kissed South Asians and African Americans cultures.

US Vice President Kamala Harris is sworn in on January 20, 2021. (Flickr/Public Domain)

Harris began her law career in 1990 as a district deputy lawyer in Alameda County, California. From 2004 to 2010, Harris served as San Francisco’s first African American, first South Asian woman, and first female district attorney. In 2017, Harris began her first term as California’s first African-American and South Asian female senator. She was also the first Native American to serve in the United States Senate.

Both unbelievable women have helped pave the way for women’s empowerment and progress and are great inspiration for young girls everywhere.

Happy Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month!

Resources: USonrace.com, facehistory.org, the conversation.com, History.com, theyappie.com&