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United Way Blog

Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month Matters

Maui County is known as the “piko (center) of the Pacific” and is a melting pot of Eastern and Western cultures, and one of the most diverse is our Asian Pacific Islander community. This month, we celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, an opportunity to recognize and honor the rich history, culture, and contributions to Hawaii and beyond.

As we celebrate, it’s crucial to acknowledge that a good portion of inequity in Hawaii stems from colonization. The effect the overthrow of the Monarchy had can still be seen in our massive ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) population, made up largely of our AAPI community. For example, Asian Pacific Islander communities have often faced racism, discrimination, and marginalization in various aspects of their lives, including employment, education, healthcare, and most importantly land ownership.

At Maui United Way, we recognize the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as a crucial framework for addressing inequalities and creating a more just society. We work closely with our community to ensure that every voice has value and adds to this amazing rock in the Pacific that is Maui Nui.

Our DEI lens means that we strive to create a culture of respect, inclusivity, and belonging for all members of our community. We prioritize equity by supporting programs and initiatives that address the unique needs of different communities and promote opportunities for everyone to thrive. We believe that every individual deserves access to the resources, opportunities, and support necessary to lead a fulfilling life.

We understand that systemic change requires a collective effort, and we work closely with our partners and stakeholders to create meaningful impact. By collaborating with organizations, individuals, and community groups across Maui County, we are able to address the root causes of inequity and work towards a more just and equitable society.

As our elected member of Congress, U.S. Rep. Jill Tokuda, put it,  “Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the contributions of our Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities and to honor our unique cultures and traditions.  I am proud to be a fourth-generation Okinawan and proud of my family’s history in the islands, including Maui. My grandfather spent his youth in Puunene, learning to swim in the irrigation ditches with Coach Sakamoto. Our country has come a long way since my great-grandfather was interned during WWII, yet we still have an immense amount of work to do to address anti-Asian hate and violence and to live up to the ideals that this country was founded upon: freedom, equality, and opportunity. This month, as we reflect and celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage, let us all come together to embrace the fabric of diversity that unites all of us in this country.”

This Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage month, we are proud to celebrate the rich culture and history of our community, while also recognizing the challenges they continue to face. We remain committed to working towards a more just and equitable society for all members of our community, and we invite you to join us in this effort. Let’s continue to work together to create a brighter future for Maui Nui.