Celebrating Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month at Via• 3 min read
Last month, our Asian and Pacific Islander employee resource group, API @ Via, led a series of events to facilitate understanding of API culture, impact, and experience as it relates to our community and the world.
At Via, we aim to create an inclusive and supportive environment for all of our employees. This past May, during Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we celebrated API cultural heritage with food, stories, and community engagement opportunities.
This past year has been particularly difficult for API individuals around the world, yet throughout all of the strife we’ve seen the resilience of these communities shine through. API @ Via brought these themes of resilience and celebration to the forefront of our commemoration this year — read on to learn how.
Throughout the month, employees who felt comfortable doing so were invited to share their own immigration stories. Fostering an open community includes providing forums for our colleagues to share what matters most to them — honoring each other’s unique backgrounds and the valuable perspectives they bring.
Amanda Lew, TaaS Ops Associate Principal at Via, shared the following:
“My parents came to America from China with just $80 in their pocket. Despite not knowing any English, they were motivated by the chance to make a better life for their family. They studied at the local college by day and washed dishes in a restaurant by night. Eventually, their hard work opened doors for them.
Throughout my childhood, as the only Asian in my entire school, I grappled with my identity and cultural background. When I was 10, we moved to a more diverse city and I was delighted to meet others with similar immigrant stories and to learn more about my own heritage. I’m so grateful for my parents taking the chance to come to America, for working tirelessly despite the many obstacles, and for providing me with the opportunity to form my own Asian American identity.”
And Qiqi Xu, Product Designer for Remix Transit, shared her story:
“I was born and raised in Guangzhou (Canton), China to a tea-loving Teochew family. Five blocks away from my childhood home, was one of the first BRT (bus rapid transit) stations in Guangzhou, and I still remember how loud the construction was and now it’s a sight I feel really proud of. I cherish my Cantonese and Teochew roots, which is why I’ve kept the Teochew pronunciation of my name, kee-kee (instead of the Mandarin pronunciation of Qiqi).
College students in the class of 2019 participate in orientation in San Francisco.
“I was born and raised in Guangzhou (Canton), China to a tea-loving Teochew family. Five blocks away from my childhood home, was one of the first BRT stations in Guangzhou”
What I learned was, while I thought I was just a foreigner, the experience of “being Chinese” is very different from country to country, but it always warms my heart to be able to connect with diasporas in their mother tongue. I remember a cashier in Chinatown in San Francisco shoved a few extra oranges into my bag because I told her in Cantonese that I’m a student that just moved here. I remember speaking to workers of these Supermercados Chinos in Buenos Aires in Teochew and they would tell me the most authentic Chinese restaurants in town. The tenacity and resilience, the culture diasporas built, gave me strength and new understanding of my roots.”
Workshops, virtual lunches, and trivia!
In addition to sharing our own stories, API @ Via invited OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates to conduct a workshop on the Asian American experience. We discussed the history of Asian American activism and anti-Asian violence and learned new resources and techniques to become effective allies to the Asian American community, and support the mental health of ourselves and our colleagues. For the month of May, Via matched all donations to organizations supporting Asian American Pacific Islander communities and our new AAPI Cause Portfolio.
Next up was a good old takeout Tuesday, where we supported our local API restaurants. PBS reports: “Asian American small businesses have been among the hardest hit by the economic downturn during the pandemic” and our support of those API-owned businesses within our own communities is critical to their post-COVID recovery.
We closed out the month with some friendly competition in the form of API culture-themed trivia. With our custom Zoom backgrounds at the ready, we learned more about the history of Asian and Pacific Islander communities — and some of us even won a few prizes!
Looking ahead, we know that building the transportation of the future means creating a company as diverse as the communities we serve. A large part of that involves creating open spaces for dialogue, education, and growth, with a special focus on marginalized voices within our team.
Thanks for taking the time to hear our stories and learn a bit about how we celebrated API Heritage Month here at Via. We can’t wait to have our celebrations in person next year!