May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Nationally recognized since the 1970’s, this month is a time for reflection, celebration, and appreciation for the influence and contributions of Asian American and Pacific Islanders throughout U.S. history. By honoring key figures of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage, we as a country are able to embrace the roots of diversity on which the United States is built.
Read on for popular topics and speakers to further your audiences’ understanding and appreciation of the strides made to preserve the unique cultural history of those of Asian and Pacific Islander descent.
Asian & Pacific American Artists & Entertainers
Diversity in arts and entertainment is key in facilitating a culture of acceptance and inclusion. Many Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage speakers have used their backgrounds to create content and stories that are influenced by their experiences, further opening up the dialogue for others to discuss the impact of their Asian heritage on the American landscape.
Comedians like Hasan Minhaj and Charlyne Yi have brought their talents to the stage to illuminate their personal stories and backgrounds. Yi has contributed to and been on comedy shows like “Steven Universe” and “House,” and movies like Knocked Up and This is 40. Minhaj has performed on many stages across the country, including the 2017 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and has his own show on Netflix called “The Patriot Act.” By using humor to talk about their experiences, Asian heritage speakers like Minhaj and Yi have opened the door to talk about cultural differences and how to celebrate diversity meaningfully through entertainment outlets.
Others have taken their talents to the internet, influencing their followers on YouTube and other platforms. Ashly Perez had a leading role in producing videos at Buzzfeed, and is currently working on projects for both digital and traditional fields that focus on representation of queer women and women of color. Singer, performer, and filmmaker Anna Akana started her YouTube channel in 2011 and her videos discussing semi-autobiographical comedic stories have since garnered millions of views. Women like Perez and Akana lead the way for Asian American and Pacific Islander voices to be accessed and heard.
Writers and directors have the power to create meaningful stories, especially when based on their own experience and expression. Gene Luen Yang is a successful comic writer and graphic novelist, as well as a National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, encouraging youth to let their stories and inspirations be seen and heard. Mindy Kaling brings her Indian upbringing and experiences to many of the projects she works on, including her own books and television series she has written and produced. Her comedic takes, paired with an informed understanding of her South Asian history, make her content connect with audiences in meaningful ways that remind people of the importance of integrating stories from a wide variety of backgrounds. These creative writers tell stories that deserve to be told and help bring new perspectives to the entertainment industry.
Celebrity speakers have a unique ability to inspire their audiences and call for actionable change in the fight for racial equality. Check out more celebrities of Asian American and Pacific Islander descent, and read how their cultural background impacted their stories and became a pillar to their success.
Asian American Business Leaders & Entrepreneurs
In business, it’s important to have a variety of perspectives and backgrounds in order to foster more inclusivity and pave the way for people of color to pursue success. Many people of Asian American and Pacific Islander descent in business positions credit their success to the life experiences that helped them make better informed decisions. The invaluable contributions to the businesses they founded and endeavors they funded create new opportunities in their fields and inspire like-minded and diverse entrepreneurs.
Having people from diverse backgrounds as CEOs and key decision makers can help to facilitate a culture of inclusion and acceptance. Anjali Sud, CEO of Vimeo, the largest ad-free online video platform, has made huge strides in empowering creators to get their message out. On the entrepreneurial side, Anu Duggal is the Founding Partner of the Female Founders Fund, an early-stage start-up fund that invests in technology companies started by women. Her unwavering commitment to female-led startups continues to inspire women to pursue their calling.
Afdhel Aziz has made a strong name for himself in the marketing space, specifically leading on the topics of brand purpose and how to market for the greater good of society. His message has motivated many to make the most of their marketing through social impact efforts. Rohan Oza, former Chief Marketing Officer at Coca-Cola and Founder of CAVU Ventures, brings his expertise to entrepreneurial ventures, pushing companies to identify key trends that lead to success. Their contributions in marketing help to make Asian Pacific American heritage voices considered and heard.
These Leading Asian American and Pacific Islander Business Speakers are proud to celebrate their success and promote diversity within the business world.
Pacific Islander & Asian American Social Activists
Some Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage speakers use their voice to take a stand on social justice issues and try to make the world a more equitable place. Their cultural backgrounds lend them a more nuanced understanding of the causes they fight for, and make them passionate advocates for inclusivity and representation in media, entertainment, business, healthcare, education, and more.
Ai-jen Poo is the Executive Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the Co-Director of Caring Across Generations. Her thought leadership and social innovation have become a leading voice in the call for domestic workers’ rights. Her contributions have afforded actionable change in the communities she has worked with, and she can speak with your audience about how she got where she is today. Poo also advocates as a #TimesUp activist, along with Tina Tchen, the President and CEO of the “Time’s Up” Legal Defense Fund. Having served as Former Chief of Staff to Michelle Obama, Tchen’s efforts in advocating for women’s rights have had a lasting impact on many of the policies in place today.
Melissa Lee, CEO of the GREEN Program, has dedicated her career to inspiring young leaders to pursue sustainable development. Her experiential education program has been incredibly influential in the fight against climate change, and her enthusiasm for sustainability is palpable. On the topic of human rights, Hyeonseo Lee advocates for the rights of North Koreans as political refugees after her memoir “The Girl With Seven Names” became a bestseller. Her dedication to human rights and the cultural roots within her story make her an uplifting pick for your audience.
Frank Wu, Law Professor and Author of “Yellow: Race in America is Beyond Black and White,” has spent his career studying race in America and specifically the effects on Asian Americans. His research shows the importance of honoring the influence of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans as a vital part of United States history, and his work has illuminated the many inequalities that still exist for these groups today. His voice and teachings help educate on how to best move forward to a more racially equitable society, while still paying tribute to the cultural history, and can offer valuable insight for your audience during this influential month.
The devotion to activism and advocacy is not an easy one, but it is necessary to make actionable change in all facets of society, whether the issue be gender equality, the fight against climate change, human rights, or otherwise. Browse more inspirational Asian Pacific American Heritage speakers to find the right fit for your event.
In May, we take the time as a nation to reflect on the vast and varied contributions of those with Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage. No matter if they are actors, comedians, entrepreneurs, researchers, CEOs or scientists, these popular diversity speakers bring awareness to how their rich heritage has informed their success, reminding us of the importance of diversity and inclusion in order to achieve equity. The United States is built on the contributions of a diverse set of cultures, and paying respect to those who tell these stories is a vital exercise for our society.