Asian American/Pacific Islanders (AAPI) come from dozens of distinct countries, speak more than 100 dialects, and each comes to the United States with widely diverse heritages and philosophies.
Each heritage has woven itself into the fabric of American culture, and powerfully changed all of us for the better.
Throughout AAPI Heritage Month, we look back on remarkable AAPI achievements and look forward to a future where AAPI hate disappears.
AAPI contributions were first formally recognized in 1978 when Congress dedicated the first 10 days of May as a time of remembrance and reflection. May was a particularly meaningful month to the AAPI community as it coincided with two important milestones: the arrival in the United States of the first Japanese immigrants (May 7, 1843) and contributions of Chinese workers to the building of the transcontinental railroad completed May 10, 1869.
In 1992, Congress expanded the observance to a month-long celebration that is now known as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
This annual recognition of AAPI achievements and resilience shouldn’t be overlooked. The heartbreaking and unheralded sacrifices of AAPI immigrants laid the groundwork for modern America.
“Because of what Asian American and Pacific Islanders have contributed to this nation, it helps boost the morale and confidence of many minority individuals like me,” said Melinda Collins (NextHome Axis Realty, San Jose, CA), who was born in the Philippines. “They made these contributions while also facing persistent discrimination and violence throughout U.S. history.”
Without thousands of Asian Americans, the Transcontinental Railroad (and modern interstate commerce) would not exist as we know it today. Without Taiwanese inventor Peter Tsai PhD, we wouldn’t have the N95 Respirator. Computer USB ports are the result of Indian Ajay Bhatt’s hard work. Filipino-American physician and pediatric immunologist Katherine Luzuriaga, M.D. created a functional cure for HIV-positive infants. Cesar Chavez’s fight for farm workers was inspired by Filipino Larry Itliong’s Filipino Farm Labor Union strikes. The list goes on.
These powerful examples of excellence continue today among AAPI people throughout the United States, and especially in our own NextHome membership. Like their ancestors who came before, these AAPI leaders are powerfully paving the way for a better future for every American.
“When I first arrived in the United States back in 1990, our AAPI community in Orange County California was still quite small,” said Khoa Ha (NextHome Wealth Builders, Garden Grove, CA). “Growing up, I looked at the successes of the few AAPI leaders around me for inspiration. Over the years, I was able to learn many skills from them. Today, I hope that the younger generation can look at me and know that their hopes and dreams are achievable if they work hard. The United States of America has given me many amazing opportunities to thrive. I hope the younger generation can take advantage of it the same way that I did. As the third generation of a Vietnamese American family, I believe that preserving heritage and history is important. It means remembering our own history and being proud of who our family will always be.”
As the descendants of immigrants, AAPI real estate professionals understand the close connection between home ownership and future prosperity.
“I love selling homes in Hawaii because I understand this connection between real estate ownership and changing a family’s financial future, perhaps for generations,” said Keahi Pelayo (NextHome KU Realty, Honolulu, HI). “Hawaii is known as a melting pot, where there is real power in owning your own land and home. Hawaii’s natural historic diversity represents almost all AAPI people. I am from at least five different ethnicities. Yet the things that bind us are the cultural values that come from being a part of the United States, including the American Dream of homeownership.”
Achieving that American Dream is often hard-won for many APPI immigrants.
“As a first-generation Asian American, I remember as a little girl struggling to find my place amongst my American peers while being raised by my traditional, conservative Indian parents,” said Samantha Dougherty (NextHome CNY Realty, Fayetteville, NY). “At that time, being and looking ‘different’ wasn’t embraced as it is now. I was blessed to have parents who consistently worked to instill our Indian culture in me while teaching me to be a strong, independent woman even in the midst of adversity. AAPI month is a chance to raise awareness about the challenges these communities face and a chance to promote understanding, inclusion, and equity. It is also a time to celebrate their resilience, cultural identity, and collective accomplishments.”
AAPI resilience has been tested throughout American history, and challenges continue today through increasing AAPI hate.
Hate crimes reported to the FBI by law enforcement agencies rose from more than 8,000 in 2020 to nearly 11,000 the following year, according to updated statistics released by the FBI in March 2023.
From 2020 to 2021, hate crimes against Asian Americans skyrocketed 167%, from 279 incidents in 2020 to 746 reported incidents in 2021. For added context, in 2019 reported AAPI hate crimes numbered 161.
“Minimizing or pretending that discrimination against Asian Americans doesn’t exist is not the way forward. Sending thoughts and prayers when targeted violence occurs is also not a solution,” said Charis Moreno, Vice President of Sales at NextHome. “We’ll continue to have open conversations about how we conduct business and how we can best serve our members and their clients. It’s our responsibility to speak out and take action.”
Despite the challenges, AAPI immigrants and their descendants continue to celebrate, innovate, and serve our communities.
“As a husband-and-wife REALTOR® team who immigrated to the U.S. from India and have been living in Connecticut for 35-plus years, AAPI Heritage Month holds a special significance for us,” said Sangeeta Jain (NextHome Real Estate Services, Westport, CT). “It is a time to celebrate our culture and heritage, and to recognize the contributions of AAPI individuals in leadership roles, particularly in the real estate industry.”
We thank each of our AAPI brokers, owners, and associates for their leadership and applaud their remarkable achievements.