The City of Philadelphia Division of Aviation closed out its Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI) celebration with a roundtable discussion host by the airport's Racial Equity Advisory Council (REAC).
The panel was moderated by Api Appulingam, Deputy Director of Aviation-Capital Development, who is Sri Lankan-American. Participants included:
- John W. Chin, Executive Director of Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation, a first-born Chinese-American who was born and raised in Philadelphia’s Chinatown neighborhood
- Sopheap “Sophie” Heng, Senior Business Development Manager for Creative Economy at the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Commerce, who is from Cambodia
- Irfan Mandani, President and CEO of New York Ice Cream, Inc., who is from India
- Inez Setiabudi, President of Dan Food Service Corporation and owner of Gachi Sushi and Noodles at Philadelphia International Airport, who is from Indonesia.
The group discussed a wide range of personal and professional topics and shared anecdotes that gave insight into their lives. After a short, impactful video presentation, the panelists spoke about how many Asian Americans struggle to overcome biases. A common theme was how often they were given “Americanized” names, mainly by teachers and others in authority who were disinterested in learning the correct pronunciation of their non-American names.
The program addressed common microaggressions that people of color endure and included honest conversations on traditions and family life --even food-- that demonstrated the rich layers of history of the countries that the panelists represented.
All of the panelists are deeply proud of their culture and its diversity. When asked to express which aspects of their cultures makes them the most proud, Mandani spoke about the diversity in his Indian culture; Chin mentioned that he favors the celebrations and traditions of China; Setiabudi talked about the way Indonesian culture values working towards a common good for communities; and Heng spoke about finding ways to showcase traditional Cambodian dress like sarongs into modern attires.
The roundtable introduced a broad panorama of Asian cultures and experiences. Although only five of nearly 50 countries were represented in the program, the participants communicated the commonalities and differences in Asian nations.
Watch a video of the roundtable below: