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The Wanderer

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Every year, many Americans celebrate the federal holidays designated by Congress, including Columbus Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Some progressive businesses further celebrate Juneteenth as a paid holiday to honor the emancipation of African-Americans from slavery in the United States. Did you know that the City of Phoenix is the largest city in the nation to formalize Indigenous Peoples Day (on the same day as Columbus Day) to commemorate the history and contributions of Native Americans?  

Although there are still many miles to cover, as a country, we took a leap forward in 2020 – thanks, in part, to the Black Lives Matter Movement. However, unfortunately Asian hate crimes have increased with the arrival of COVID-19 in the United States. In response to the recent anti-Asian sentiment, the President signed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act into law last week. To foster mutual respect and understanding of the Asian population, celebrate the richness their cultures bring, and unite as a diverse country, each May you can honor Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month.  

A few fun facts: The Asian population currently makes up ~3% of the population of Arizona. And did you know that you can visit an Asian District in the Phoenix metro area? This two-mile stretch in west Mesa on Dobson Road encompasses more than 70 Asian-themed restaurants, grocery stores, and other service and retail businesses. Asians are a growing demographic in the Phoenix metro area and continue to create an enhanced, vibrant city.   

As a reminder of how Asian Americans contribute to the beautiful diversity of American culture, nationally, our current Vice President Kamala Harris leads activist causes, Padma Lakshmi enhances the food scene, and Mindy Kaling, Lily Singh, and Ali Wong provide comedy relief … just to name a few. Have you checked out Hasan Minhaj’s episode on the ugly truth of fast fashion?  

Like Devi in Never Have I Ever (played by Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), I grew up in a White community as an Indian American and had similar experiences to Devi. I was one of a handful of brown kids in a Catholic school and I was rarely included in social gatherings with my more popular White classmates (… granted it did not help that I was also a nerd, feeding the model minority myth). A classmate once told me that I was the “color of poop.” Hurtful comments like that stuck with me and contributed to my having low self-worth and distorted views about beauty. I also was called “the Patel girl” by the Principal of my school over the school’s loudspeaker when she called me to her office to inquire about why I decided to not go to high school there (hmm, I wonder why).  I was also frequently confused with the one other Indian girl in my class, and to this day, I get comments about my name (“oh, like canary” happened just last week).  

On the brighter side, although we’re at the end of AAPI Heritage Month, you can continue to support your fellow Asian Americans by learning more about Asian cultures, supporting AAPI owned businesses and those that employ AAPI staff.  At Local Nomad we intentionally curate products from BIPOC owned businesses and have tagged them for you so you easily find them.  

p.s.  Although Holi, the Festival of Colors, passed in March, you can celebrate Diwali, the Indian Festival of Lights – and also to some, the Indian new year – with your Indian neighbors and friends in November this year.  The day Diwali falls on varies year-to-year because it is tied to a lunar calendar rather than a solar calendar.  As an Indian American straddling two worlds, I celebrate two New Year’s Days: on January 1 and Diwali.  

Kinari would like to dedicate this post to her Indian parents who bravely immigrated to this country in the 1970s and both became successful doctors despite the ignorant discrimination they at times faced.

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Kinari Patel, one of our team members here at Local Nomad, enjoys learning how to live more sustainably -- from the clothes she wears to the products she buys to the places she eats. She loves researching and sharing what she discovers along the way. You can find her experimenting at home at @sustainablykinari or uncovering sustainable hidden treasures around Phoenix @sustainablyphoenix.