16 Canadian celebrities reflect on Asian Heritage Month

May 2 2022, 1:00 pm

This month we are reflecting on and celebrating the many remarkable contributions that Canadians of Asian descent have made and continue to make in Canada. This year marks 20 years since the Government of Canada signed an official declaration to designate May as Asian Heritage Month. 

Today, 16 notable Asian Canadians with exceptional talents share with Daily Hive what this month means to them.

Jean Yoon

 

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“After years of Trump braying racist slurs and blaming COVID on China, anti-Asian racism that has always been covert, muffled, violently burst into random attacks on citizens. We have all felt it, we have all had to counsel our elderly parents to maybe stay home today, for a week or two, just to be safe. It’s a terrible feeling. In the country you call home.

“Asian Heritage Month is an opportunity then to boldly represent ourselves, our culture, our pride in the arts, accomplishments and important civic contributions Asians make here in North America. Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Japanese, Vietnamese, Malay, Tibetan — wherever we hail from — we are here. And during Asian Heritage Month no one dare claim we are ‘vividly over-represented.’” 

Angela Lee

Angela Lee by Treehouse Productions

“Asian Heritage Month is a reminder of who we are and where we come from. It’s a celebration of our culture, our people, and the remarkable things that we have accomplished. 

“I am incredibly proud of who I am, as a Canadian-American woman of Korean and Chinese-Singaporean descent. I feel like my nationalities and ethnicities allow me to transcend stereotypes and break down barriers. I hope that my story and background can help inspire my daughter along with the next generation of ambitious and strong little girls and boys!”

Hayden Szeto

Hayden Szeto by Storm Santos

“This is a time when I reflect on the foundation which my identity was built upon. My father, a renowned artist and art teacher in Hong Kong, used to wake me up at 6 am when he would start his day painting, until one day, he stopped. I asked him why, and he replied, ‘If you had purpose, you wouldn’t need me to wake you up.’ During these troubling times, I too believe that we should not forget our purpose: our purpose is to thrive upon the road that our parents and forbears built not only for ourselves but for the next generation.”

Mani Jassal

Mani Jassal by Amrita Singh

“I think it’s amazing that we have a month dedicated to recognizing the Asian community. However, I don’t think we should be relying on a month to recognize the talent within our community, it should be continued throughout the year.”

Owen Kwong

“Asian Heritage month celebrates our accomplishments as Asian Canadians and our complex history to be seen as equals in Canada.

“As an actor, I strongly believe in representation and highlighting Asians in a positive way, instead of perpetuating negative stereotypes and being featured as the butt of jokes. I am proud of my heritage and I think we have a lot of beautiful stories to tell to showcase our diverse Canadian culture.”

Olivia Cheng

Olivia Cheng by Noah Asanias

“I’ve always been a nerd for Asian North American history because as an actress, it feeds my craft, and helps me understand social realities that resonate for me in the present day. So for me, Asian Heritage Month means a time of reflection and inspiration, because I always learn about an ancestor’s unsung contribution, how they broke a mould or led a movement and that reminds me that I stand on the shoulders of giants today. Knowing your past can help you shape your future, and I think that’s pretty cool.”

Vivek Shraya

 

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“First and foremost, I think about my parents. They came to this country as immigrants. The longer I live here and understand what racism feels like, the more insight I feel I have into my parents’ lives. When I think more deeply into Asian Heritage Month, I’m curious about what organizations are doing to support Asians. How are they treating them not just this month, but all year?

“One of my favourite experiments is looking at my bookshelf, making a spreadsheet of the authors, and seeing how many of the writers are white. Sometimes I feel that Asian artists are invisible in Canada. This month makes me ask others: what media are you consuming? Who are you hiring? And what are you doing to support Asians?”

Hiro Kanagawa

Hiro Kanagawa by Noah Asanias

“Although Asian cultures now occupy positions of respect and prominence around the world, many of us in the Asian diaspora still lead lives of assimilated invisibility, chafing under various degrees of ‘honorary whiteness.’ Asian Heritage Month is an opportunity for us to examine who we really are and celebrate both our heritage and our path forward as proud members of a global, multicultural community.”

Yvonne Chapman

Yvonne Chapman by Laura Baldwinson

“Asian Heritage Month highlights the importance of cross-cultural connections and continuing our traditions. Whether it be food, events, customs, or ceremonies — creating opportunities to introduce and expose these to our friends and communities is particularly special for me. Because when we embrace each other’s heritage with an open heart and open mind, we broaden and enrich our world perspective.

“This has the ability to clear up misconceptions about our differences, in hopes to diminish generalizations, harmful stereotypes, and misunderstandings. For me, it’s about creating unity in our shared human experience by celebrating and respecting our beautiful, unique histories.”

Jacky Lai

 

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“Asian Heritage Month is a time to commemorate those who came before us, a time to honor the culture and traditions that make us who we are and to celebrate the beauty and promise of tomorrow. We owe so much to the sacrifice and courage of our ancestors, to carry with us a plethora of ideas and ingredients that the future generation can use to collaborate and innovate.”

Rupi Kaur

 

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“Asian Heritage Month is a time to celebrate Asian voices. Although I am of the thought that the effort to celebrate these should be year-round and not be pigeonholed into a month, it is nice to see the representation that occurs during this dedicated time. Asians have contributed extensively to Canada, and thus deserve to be celebrated for their contributions.

“I think it’s also important to remember that there are billions of Asian people in this world. That’s hundreds of ethnic groups and hundreds of languages. This means diversifying even the diversity we choose to represent. It can’t just be a couple of Asian faces that represent us all, but rather an endless ever-growing array.

“I am so proud to be a Punjabi-Sikh woman. I get so excited when I learn about people’s history and stories beyond the word Asian.”

Dr. Theresa Tam

Dr Theresa Tam by Michelle Valberg

“Asian Heritage Month is an opportunity to recognize the significant achievements and contributions of people of Asian descent in Canada. It is a time to share the diversity of our experiences and successes in the sciences, arts, culture, and business. While we celebrate our achievements, we must acknowledge the stigma and racism that many in the Asian-Canadian community continue to experience.

“I am inspired by the words of Dr. Vivenne Poy, Canada’s first senator of Asian descent, about her reasons for starting Asian Heritage Month: ‘My motivation was about education, about learning from each other, because once you learn, you respect.’ By celebrating our diversity, we help to break down the barriers between us, and contribute to a richer, healthier society.”

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan

“Some 4.7 billion of us Asians have 31 days to celebrate ourselves because we don’t see ourselves represented enough in media, entertainment, or public office in our own North American backyards. Some Asians are more in the shadows than others. To me, this is a month to reflect on why it is important we have this time to focus on AAPI, to unpack the diversity within this definition, and to look to create a world where we celebrate representation all year long. To one day have no need for heritage months because we are seen.” 

Gail Kim

 

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“I live in the US now and have been here for 18 years, but I grew up in Toronto which is known as one of the most multicultural cities in the world. I didn’t know when I was younger to embrace the uniqueness about my ethnicity, but now it’s what makes me stand out, and I’m proud of it. Moving to America was one of the things that made me appreciate my home country and being Korean Canadian.

“I think of all the things my mom and dad taught me growing up – the qualities they passed down – and I wouldn’t be the strong person I am today without them. I’m a forty-five-year-old woman now, and I feel very confident in the woman I’ve become. I love being different, and I love representing the Korean community in Canada and America.”

Shin Lim

by Shin Lim

“My parents are from Singapore, a little country in South East Asia, and my grandparents are originally from Xiamen. And though I currently reside in Vegas, to me, Asian heritage Month is about remembering where we came from; where our forefathers were from, what they did, and what they accomplished. It’s our duty to do right by them, to prepare for our future, and continue their legacy.”

Kaya Kanashiro

Kaya Kanashiro by Keri Anderson

“It means recognizing and celebrating the many wonderful contributions Asians have brought to Canada as well as spreading awareness and learning about Asian culture. It is crucial to learn about Asian culture to help overcome racial discrimination toward Asians in Canada. Asian culture is cool! I really enjoy listening to K-Pop Indie artists, eating ramen, and drinking bubble tea the most!”

Sean LoughranSean Loughran

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