San Francisco begins month of Asian-heritage recognition

Updated: 2013-05-02 11:29

By Yu Wei in San Francisco (China Daily)

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 San Francisco begins month of Asian-heritage recognition

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee makes a speech at city hall on Thursday to mark the start of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. US President Barack Obama proclaimed the commemoration. Yu Wei / China Daily

San Francisco begins month of Asian-heritage recognition

San Franciscans kicked off the new month in style on Wednesday, with US President Barack Obama officially announcing May as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and Mayor Ed Lee praising the city's Asian leaders during an opening ceremony to celebrate the ethnic community's contributions to the city.

"As we recognize Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who are fulfilling that promise in every corner of our country, let us recommit to giving our children and grandchildren the same opportunity in the years ahead," Obama said in a statement.

Obama also said this year marks the 25th anniversary of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 and the 70th anniversary of the Chinese Exclusion Act's repeal, both "milestones that helped mend deep wounds of systemic discrimination".

In San Francisco, Lee praised the accomplishments of Asian organizations as achievements that have helped make San Francisco stronger and more successful.

The annual celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month began in 2005. The celebration started in the US in 1978 after then President Jimmy Carter approved a joint congressional resolution passed by Congress to commemorate the contributions of people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent in the US.

During this month's celebrations, San Franciscans can catch various Asian art performances and visit exhibitions offering dishes of Asian cuisine throughout the city.

"Now the celebration is in its 9th year in San Francisco. Every year we do this celebration, we have attracted a lot more people. There is more awareness of the month of May is APA heritage month," said Claudine Cheng, the founder and president of the Asian Pacific American Heritage Foundation. "This year we are honoring the achievements in the performing arts. It's a very unique area because Asians are normally not known for in the performing arts area, which is a very big area."

She said the foundation wants to raise awareness of the many talented Asian Americans in the performing arts.

"We focused not just on the performing arts, but how the performing arts can benefit the community," she said.

This year, there are three award categories for outstanding Asian American artists and organizations: inspirational leadership, lifetime achievement and community impact. The finalists will later perform at the newly open San Francisco Jazz Center on May 6.

Jon Jang, a pianist and composer and one of the finalists for this year's APA heritage awards for lifetime achievement, will perform at the jazz center on May 6. He said he was invited by the Obama administration to perform for the White House Forum on Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage in Washington on May 9.

"The piece that I'm going to perform on both events will honor the Chinese immigrant experience in the US especially from my grandparents' generation," Jang said, adding that his performance is also dedicated to the Boston bombing victims, including Chinese student Lu Lingzi. Jang said Lu was nearly the same age as his own daughter.

Born in the US, Jang considers himself a San Francisco native, but he and China are still inextricably linked.

"There is a whole history of struggle within my family from the Chinese immigrant experience and myself being an American-born Chinese. The Chinese immigrant experience in the US can help contribute to advance an American transformation," he said.

Jang said the honors he has garnered thus far in his career are not just individual honors.

"I'm representing my family, not only the American-born Chinese, but also the Chinese immigrants," he said.

Haipei Xue, president of the National Council of Chinese Americans, said President Obama's mentioning of the Chinese Exclusion Act is important because it is a direct response to a recent online petition from Chinese Americans requesting an apology from the US federal government.

He said as US legislators, both federal and state, discuss immigration reforms, Obama's commitment to make the US "a magnet for the best and brightest from all around the world, including Asia and the Pacific" is very important. He believes when immigration reforms pay more and more attention to attract highly educated immigrants, Asians will benefit greatly.