Family means everything to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders


CHICAGO – Roger uy marketers take their shoes off as a courtesy every time they walk into someone’s house.

Male tennis player Phasu Sirinit attended Thai school at a very young age. Rich kim from Sports Performance attended Korean school from grades one to five.

Male golfer Perry chong remembers very well the long family trips to China, where he would explore his ancestral homeland and learn more about its traditions and cultures.

Bob sakamoto of Athletics Communications recalls growing up as a straight student at Lincoln Elementary School on Kemper Place, but being instructed by her traditional Japanese father not to raise a hand when a teacher asked a question because the Japanese do not draw attention to themselves.

As I grew older, a volleyball player Phoenix lee wants to know more about his Chinese heritage.

Asian American Pacific Islands Heritage Month (AAPI) in the United States commemorates the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843 and marks the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869 The majority of the workers who laid the foundation for the project were Chinese immigrants – more than 20,000 people.

It recognizes the 22.2 million Asians and 1.6 million Hawaiians and other Pacific Island communities in the United States.

As we celebrate AAPI Heritage Month in the midst of a national #StopAsianHate campaign, now is the perfect time to reflect on and appreciate the traditions and customs of this centuries-old culture.

At its core, a strong belief in family strength and sanctity is a fundamental cornerstone of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Sakamoto was raised to always uphold the honor of your family. Committing a crime would bring shame and dishonor on the individual and also leave an indelible black mark on the last name.

It was this sense of shame that for decades barred Sakamoto’s mother, grandmother, aunts and uncles from speaking out about their upheaval during WWII. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 which uprooted approximately 120,000 Japanese Americans from their homes and took them to detention camps.

Honorable Japanese people can sometimes be loyal and obedient to a fault. During the internment, some believed that they must have done something wrong for the government to treat them that way.

After being forced to sell their thriving Seattle grocery store for pennies on the dollar, Sakamoto’s mother, 12 at the time, along with her mother, father, two older brothers and two older sisters were shipped to the Minidoka camp in Idaho where they survived for three years in temporary, non-isolated barebones barracks, with barbed wire and armed guards tasked with shooting anyone who tried to leave the compound.

At the same time, Sakamoto’s father in Hawaii and many of his closest friends enlisted in the US military to fight for America. Their kamikaze zeal to prove their loyalty brought unprecedented military honors to the 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team and inspired Hollywood to produce a film about their WWII exploits called “Go For Broke,” which was the motto of the ‘unit.

They became the most decorated unit in US Army history with over 18,000 medals while suffering the highest casualty rate. Their successful suicide mission in southeastern France to save the “lost battalion” of Texas earned the 442nd the nickname “Battalion of the Purple Heart”. They saved 211 Texans while killing more than 800 people. The US military ranks the rescue as one of the 10 most important battles in its history.

Wayne Sakamoto told his son that when no other unit volunteered for the dangerous mission, the 442nd stepped forward. He rarely spoke of his wartime experience as the savagery, brutality and cruelty of seeing his close friends die just before his eyes left nightmarish memories in his eyes.


Chong, Lee, Uy, Kim and Sirinit also grew up immersed in a strong family bond.

“My parents and grandparents made people aware of my culture,” Chong said. “Growing up, I would always hide my culture because I wanted to fit in.

“But as I got older, my family made me realize that my culture makes who I am, and I wouldn’t be who I am without it.”

Uy arrived at the same realization.

“Family means the world to me,” Uy said. “I am very fortunate to have loving, supportive parents and an older sister who I can talk to about everything. It might sound simple, but when I was growing up it was almost a requirement that we have at least one sit-down meal together every day, we also attended family mass every weekend.

“Even now that we all work and live in three different states, we still find time to get together and plan at least one family trip a year. We have extended family members abroad that we stay connected with through family visits, whether they are traveling to the United States or we are going overseas, and there is also a large discussion group in family. We always have the best time and don’t skip a beat. Family is an essential part of who I am, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. “

During his first year at DePaul, Sirinit made history playing on the first men’s tennis team to win a BIG EAST title and win an NCAA Championship bid. This resulted in a memorable celebration and an experience that Sirinit gladly shared with his family.

“Our tight-knit family structure represents the world to me,” Sirinit said. “I feel incredibly close to my family and it’s my best support system. All the fun activities like camping, hiking, vacations and most importantly board games created amazing memories.

“My family really wanted to make sure that I stayed in touch with our Thai heritage. Very young I was enrolled in Thai school. There I was surrounded by a loving community of Thais. I grew up. learning to speak Thai. and was into Thai cultural dance. This community uplifted me and shaped me into the person I am today. “

Lee enjoys the process of self-discovery.

“As I got older, I slowly started to appreciate my culture and my heritage more,” said Lee. “Where I grew up, I was never really surrounded by people of similar backgrounds, so it was difficult for me to learn more about my culture.

“Unfortunately, I can’t speak Cantonese, so I can’t have conversations with people like my grandmother to learn more about her past. Today, I rely on my mother to tell me more about things like her childhood and traditional Chinese customs.

“Chinese New Year celebrations are one of my favorite things about my cultural heritage. Since I was little, we celebrate this every year with my extended family and eat tons of traditional Chinese food. that, the iconic Lion Dance with the big drums would always be super exciting. “


Consuming generous portions of delicious ethnic cuisine is a common trait for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

“I like to think of myself as a foodie, so one of my favorite things in my culture has to be the food,” Uy said. “I moved to Chicago a little over five years ago and quickly realized that the selection of Chinese food here was endless.

“The variety of food choices is incredible with dim sum (Cantonese dishes), hot pot (Chinese fondue) and bubble tea, to name a few. Plus, how lucky are we that Wintrust Arena is less than a mile from Chinatown where you can find authentic Chinese food any time of the day and night. I find myself visiting Chinatown a lot more frequently now. “

When asked about a favorite Asian custom, Kim was quick to respond.

“Korean New Year was definitely my favorite tradition to celebrate my youth,” he said. “It’s the tradition that you eat Dduk gook which is a rice cake soup that I absolutely loved.

“Another reason I loved Korean New Year as a child is because it is a custom for young children to ‘sebae’ or bow to elders to pay homage to them and wish them good health. . In return, the children usually receive gifts afterwards. ”

Each day was a real treat for the growing Sirinit.

“I love the food of my culture,” Sirinit said. “Pad See Ew (Thai stir-fried rice noodles), Pad Thai, Massamun curry, and chicken satay are all my favorites. I could eat Thai food all day and anytime. Growing up with my mom being the best Thai cook in my life. all the time was such a blessing. “

Rice is pretty much a staple in all Asian cultures, and going without it for a while can trigger withdrawal symptoms. Just listen to Uy’s story.

“When I was in college, I went without eating rice for a month,” Uy said. “It made me feel really weird and a little offbeat.

“One day I just went to the nearest Chinese restaurant, which also had drive-thru, and ordered a mixed dinner. I was craving rice so much that I ate my meal in the parking lot.


Sirinit, Lee and Kim said they had not encountered any Asian hatred, prejudice or bigotry. Chong has developed a method to deal with it.

“I would say that I haven’t experienced hatred, prejudice or bigotry recently,” Chong said. “No one close to me has said anything recently.

“I’ve known anti-Asian hatred, prejudice and bigotry in the past, but I’ve become so numb to all the ‘jokes’, comments and slurs that I don’t think about it when it happens.

Uy will never forget an incident in the summer of 2013 in his hometown of Kentucky.

“While pumping gasoline, I noticed a lady on the other side of the pump staring at me and she said, ‘I’m looking at you! “Said Uy.” I didn’t understand it at first, so I said ‘huh?’ She repeated it and pointed her finger at me. It gave me a very worried feeling that she was coming towards me, so I left the gas station in a hurry. She continued to look at me as I walked away.

“I spoke to my mom right after the incident and she told me the same thing happened to her at the same gas station. As a young college graduate who had never experienced anything like this before, it definitely caught me off guard. “

Lee’s self-discovery is about becoming more aware of anti-Asian attacks and hate crimes.

“Personally, I have not experienced anything or anyone close to me,” she said. “However, it really breaks my heart to learn about the increase in anti-Asian situations.

“Throughout my life, diversity has been a core value in all the schools, clubs, programs and organizations that I have attended or joined. I want our people and our culture to be appreciated like others.

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