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Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Heritage Month written in text with an orange background with flowers

AA and NHPI Heritage Month celebrates its broad diversity

| GSA Blog Team
Post filed in: Equity

GSA’s Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander employee group wants everyone to know that the AA and NHPI community is extremely diverse. 

“There is so much more to Asia than a handful of countries that we are all pretty familiar with,” said Kusuma Aralere, who emigrated to the U.S. from India and is a member of GSA’s AA and NHPI network.

Launched in March 2021, the GSA employee group is celebrating the nation’s recognition of Asian heritage this month with events they hope will expand knowledge of Asian identity. For example, they are holding a discussion titled “AA and NHPI Is More Than BTS” – who are Korean – to discuss how vast and varied AA and NHPI communities are. 

In fact, in the U.S., Asian-Americans identify as Chinese, Asian Indian, Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani, Hmong, Cambodian, Thai, Taiwanese, Laotian, Bangladeshi, Burmese, Nepalese, Indonesian, Sri Lankan, Bhutanese, Mongolian, Malaysian and Okinawan, in order of population from largest down, as well as other and multiple Asian ethnicities.

“Even when I was doing the research to talk to my own colleagues,” says Aralere, the senior project manager at GSA’s Federal Systems Integration and Management Center (FEDSIM), “I learned so much.”

Asian identity is just one topic the group will examine to increase awareness of the multicultural and multi-ethnic reality of being Asian within GSA.

The group’s mission is to maximize career opportunities, belonging, growth, education, and engagement for current and future Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander employees. And that mission reflects the communities’ needs across the country.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 25.7 million residents, making up over 6%, identify as Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Other Pacific Islander—alone or in combination.

And, this population is projected to double in the next 40 years, making it the fastest-growing demographic group in the United States. 

For the 2020 census, the bureau distributed materials in 59 different languages other than English, including 23 languages that originated in Asia: Bengali, Burmese, Chinese, Khmer, Gujarati, Hindi, Hmong, Ilocano, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Lao, Malayalam, Marathi, Nepali, Punjabi, Sinhala, Tagalog, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Urdu, and Vietnamese.

Many of these diverse communities are represented among the more than 850 GSA employees who self-identify as Asian or Native Hawaiian—a skosh over 7% of the entire GSA workforce, according to Office of Personnel Management’s FedScope data sets from December 2022. 

The employee group - and GSA as a whole - is also celebrating the contributions of the AA and NHPI community to GSA’s portfolios of work. For example, federal buildings are named for Asian Americans, such as William Kenzo Nakamura, a World War II hero whose name graces the U.S. federal courthouse in Seattle. Private First Class Nakamura drew his last breath after saving his platoon from machine gun fire in Castellina, Italy. 

Other areas include GSA’s Fine Arts program, which includes pieces like the painting by George Miyasaki: Dream Within a Dream, In Honor of the Pacific Asian Pioneers.

Congress established May as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in 1992 to coincide with two key milestones: the arrival of the nation’s first Japanese immigrants (May 7, 1843) and Chinese workers’ pivotal role in building the transcontinental railroad (completed May 10, 1869), says the Census Bureau website. 

In 2021, a presidential proclamation expanded this to include Native Hawaiians. 

That same year, GSA’s group was formed. It has more than 300 members that identify with 17 countries. The affinity group’s mission is to maximize career opportunities, sense of belonging, growth, education, and engagement for current and future Asian American Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander employees of GSA. 

– Nicole Alberico contributed to this article.