A rich tapestry

We have a beautiful gem in our backyard – the Asia Pacific Cultural Center – founded by Patsy Surh O’Connell and led by the incomparable Lua Pritchard. Known as APCC, the center celebrates 47 cultures and countries all under the banner of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage – which reflects the rich tapestry of our community. I look forward to their annual New Year’s celebration which highlights a particular country. It’s an opportunity to reflect on our strong connections to both the local communities and trans-Pacific partners. The food, dancing and music, and colorful dress are incredible!

The month of May recognizes Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) countries and culture. Having spent time in many of these countries, one month is hardly enough to celebrate so many beautiful places, rich heritages, and distinct cultures!

I hope you had a chance to sit in on the “Lunch and Learn” session hosted by Human Resources this week as three of our colleagues shared their perspectives on their AANHPI heritage.  I especially enjoyed listening to Lillian Allred, a member of my Executive Team, discuss what she calls her “unicorn” background reflecting her uncommon Korean and Japanese ancestry. She definitely is one-of-a-kind, and we are fortunate to have her input and contributions on our team.

I was really moved to hear Sangkros Lok from our Parks Department talk about his friends who felt pressured to change their beautiful Cambodian names to something more “American” in an attempt to blend in and assimilate. There are few things more core to your identity than your name. He also mentioned how he would sometimes eat lunch in his car since he didn’t want to be judged for his “smelly” Cambodian food. Learning to say a colleague’s (or customer’s) name, as they pronounce it, is a sign of respect.  And I always am eager to try new foods!

Prima Turczynski from District Court was also a panelist at the “Lunch and Learn.” She spoke about the beauty of the Philippines and the loving, giving culture of her mother’s homeland.

If you missed it, you can watch a replay of this session here. I watched last month’s “Lunch and Learn” with three amazing Black women leaders in the County – and their sharing gave me some important insights!  The next “Lunch and Learn” session will focus on employees from the LGBTQ+ community.

Navi Phay with the Crystal Judson Family Justice Center has quite a story to tell. Her family came to the U.S. from Cambodia by way of Thailand during the terror of the Khmer Rouge. Their escape to a welcoming country is sadly familiar as our region has welcomed Afghan and Ukrainian refugees to the Pacific Northwest in recent months.

You can learn more about Navi and how she brings her culture and understanding of the trauma of fleeing danger to her work with domestic violence survivors in this video:

I feel like I can’t end this week without acknowledging the heartbreaking events that have taken place in Uvalde, Texas.  I’m shaken and struggle to comprehend such an event – the grief of the parents, the trauma to everyone in the school and the loss to the community.  I will never be able to make sense of the murders, but I know that we must act to prevent this from happening again.

It’s been a tough week and I’m glad most of us will have some time away to regroup and rest this weekend.  Please remember that we have an Employee Assistance Program, a great resource that is free of charge for you.

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones,