Coming Together to Celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

By Clear Channel Outdoor InSites Archives
Cover image for  article: Coming Together to Celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Every May, the U.S. honors Asian Pacific American Heritage Month -- 31 days dedicated to celebrating Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) and their undeniable impact on our country's history, culture and society. The month-long observance began in 1992 when Congress permanently designated May of each year as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

This year's commemoration lands against a difficult and emotional backdrop. Hate crimes against people of Asian descent have recently dominated national news, but these attacks have only surged since the start of the pandemic. A recent report found a 169% increase in such attacks during the first quarter of 2021 as compared to the same time period in 2020.

Standing together in solidarity with our AAPI friends, colleagues, clients and neighbors, Clear Channel Outdoor (CCO) launched a campaign in partnership with its employee-driven Executive Diversity Advisory Council (EDAC) for this Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. The digital out-of-home campaign features messages of unity, strength and progress in hopes of uplifting and empowering AAPI communities across the nation.

Amidst this challenging time, it's also become apparent just how imperative it is to hear and amplify AAPI voices. I recently had the chance to speak with a few members of CCO's EDAC, who are also part of the AAPI community, including John Duong (Vice President, Real Estate Development, below left), Preeya Panketh (Internal Audit Director, center) and Eelain Steketee (Vice President, National Client Partnerships, right). They spoke on what this month means to them, CCO's campaign and how we can all advance diversity and inclusion in and out of the workplace.

Here are some powerful takeaways from our conversation: (This interview has been slightly edited for clarity and brevity.)

Vicky Chen: What does this Asian Pacific American Heritage Month mean to you?

John Duong: It means being proud of our heritage, roots and contributions to this country at large. In terms of a "root" perspective, there's a connection to a larger global community of Asians and Pacific Islanders, which consists of over 50 major ethnic groups, with over 100 languages and dialects spoken. There are over 23 million people of AAPI descent in the U.S., representing 5.6% of the U.S. population. The AAPI community itself is so diverse, and that's something to be proud of as an American. It's also important to acknowledge the diversity on the socio-economic spectrum and recognize there's still a large, underserved population within the APPI community that needs our help. 

Preeya Panketh: For me, there are two pieces to it. It's about celebrating the achievements of AAPIs and honoring the contributions they've made to our society. And it's about building awareness. This month is a bit nuanced given the heightened awareness around some of the challenges the AAPI community has had and is still facing today.

Eelain Steketee: Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is meant to give a lift to a segment that makes up the tapestry of America. It's to show we're not an invisible segment of this nation's population. This month also takes on a bit of a new meaning for me. There is a collision right now, where it's about both celebrating AAPIs and bringing awareness to what is happening to our communities.

Chen: The EDAC had a key role in the launch of CCO's campaign for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. What about the campaign or process resonated with you most?

Duong: There is a devastating event happening to the Asian American community right now and people are speaking out about it. Because we're in the out-of-home media business, I believe we have a greater opportunity to do good with our platform. Our campaign honoring Asian Pacific American Heritage Month just represents one of the many steps we're taking in doing that – not only for this month, but all year long.

Panketh: At the end of the day, we are members of the same society. And together, we can activate powerful change. It was intentional to address that with our campaign through uplifting messages. It also reinforces our place as Americans – and that AAPIs are part of the fabric of this nation.

Steketee: We wanted to showcase what "united" truly means to us as AAPIs. For most Asian Americans growing up, our parents have probably told us that "we belong," "we achieve" and "we are Americans." These statements are not empty statements. They are powerful words for us and part of our belief system. These words are weaved into how AAPIs have been brought up in this country, and into this campaign.

Chen: How can we further amplify and support AAPIs in the workplace and in our society? How is the EDAC addressing this at CCO?

Duong: All of this has served as a huge call for us to speak up and bring attention to the issues affecting AAPIs. Getting involved and engaging in the mainstream conversation is still new for some in the AAPI community. But when given a platform, people feel more encouraged to speak up, including myself. Additionally, it has been recognized at CCO that the workplace is an intersection of diversity, whether it's from an ethnic or background perspective, or who we are in terms of our own personal experiences. And we need to highlight that diversity across the organization and in our communities, which is what the EDAC is dedicated to promoting.

Panketh: I think it's what we're trying to do right now – creating safe spaces where everyone's differences are celebrated. I'm actually on a subcommittee of the EDAC that's building out our soon-to-launch Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). They're designed to foster an inclusive, welcoming and safe workplace, while providing employees support in personal or career development. Employees who join are welcomed to share their own perspectives or experiences in these groups, and even come up with solutions to challenges that a particular community faces. We'll also have a tactical approach in how we can engage externally through partnerships in the community. The key here is communication – to let people know what we're doing and how they can help.

Steketee: Representation matters. Being where I am in my career, I hope I can be an example for those just starting out in their own careers. When there is proper representation, it empowers others to raise their hand, use their voice and bring their different ideas to the table. But they also need a platform or forum that propels them to do so. That's what the EDAC is actively working on, while bringing to light the diverse talent that makes up CCO and makes us stronger as a company.

Join us in celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month as we continue our journey to advance D&I and drive change in the neighborhoods where we live, work and serve, all year round.

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