This week went by quick! This week is not just any week, but Taiwanese-American Heritage Week (TAHW), which meant giving special attention on our heritage.
Held against the backdrop of the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM), the Week celebrates the culture and values Taiwanese immigrants brought from Taiwan over many decades. While this month commemorates Asian and Pacific Americans, TAHW focuses on the Taiwanese subset of the Asian American diaspora through highlighting contributions they have made and continue to do so. The path to having this Week commemorated was not easy; it wasn’t brought into national limelight until the early 1990s when the Taiwanese American Cultural Festival was first started in San Francisco. This year the governors of Washington and Oregon openly declared Taiwanese-American Heritage Week to be official celebrations in their respective states.
We asked some of our team members to reflect on the meaning and importance of the Week to them, and to provide a glimpse into their own journeys that led them to joining the OFT team. Even though our origins are all different, bringing awareness of Taiwan to the world is the common underlying thread that ties us together. Tell us what YOU think about Taiwanese Heritage week.
Interest, Love, Passion
There are many factors fueling my inspiration for what I do. My parents have always been supportive of exploring Taiwan – encouraging my siblings and I to go out, to explore, and to learn. My mother was especially always on the look-out for any summer camp opportunities in Taiwan to send us back to attend. Because of their continuous support, I’ve been thankful and lucky to have gone on many adventures in Taiwan and see with my own eyes what Taiwan has to offer. Slowly but surely, my interest in Taiwan grew from interest, to love, to a passion, to something that I will forever fight for.
My own personal goal is to strengthen the Taiwanese American community and to impact individuals. I would like to create awareness. Even if I have exposed a bit of Taiwan to just one person, I believe that it does make a difference. So why not expose it to more than just one person?
Small But Steady: Becoming Known
When I hear of Taiwanese-American Heritage Week, I think of the headway the Taiwanese-American community made in both reinforcing and spreading awareness of Taiwan. When I was visiting the US as a kid in the 1990s, I neither heard much about Taiwan nor did I see items of Taiwan origin being displayed. Taiwanese food and culture were viewed as oddities, a subject left “exotic”.
Fast forward to now, and the difference is remarkable. Instead of being an oddity, I see Taiwanese culture becoming more highlighted. The tangibles such as Taiwanese food, Jeremy Lin, and Fresh Off The Boat became much more pervasive while more conceptual topics such as the support of Taiwan’s democracy and its elevated cultural ties are being enhanced and enshrined. This achievement came from the hard work and awareness of the Taiwanese-American community, and we ought to remember their efforts by pushing more for Taiwan in the United States. These small steps are the inspiration for me being involved in helping bring Taiwan to light to both organizations and individuals, especially in the United States. We love Taiwan.
Happy Taiwanese-American Heritage Week!
Rooting Myself: Embracing My Heritage
As I was growing up, my family moved every two to three years because of my dad’s job, and the areas where we lived had very few Asian people, let alone Taiwanese. I was constantly bullied for “looking different”, “eating weird foods”, and “speaking gibberish”; however, I am the kind of person who, if pushed, will push back. Instead of being intimidated, I ended up becoming infuriated and resolved to fight back in the only way I knew how: by embracing my Taiwanese heritage even more proudly. This often meant bringing dumplings to school for lunch and intentionally wafting their fragrant aroma towards the gagging bullies. Although this strategy probably back-fired by provoking the bullies into harassing me further, it also motivated me to begin learning more about my Taiwanese identity and to embrace it because I realized that, no matter what the bullies said or did, they could not take away my heritage.
Understanding Taiwanese culture, history, and other aspects of the rich Taiwanese identity has given me a sense of belonging. No matter where I go or what I do, nothing can change the fact that I am Taiwanese. My background has played an important role in determining who I am today; therefore, I seek to help other Taiwanese-Americans understand and embrace their heritage.
Stumbling Upon Treasure
I didn’t know Taiwanese-American Heritage Week was a thing until I joined Outreach for Taiwan.
Since elementary school, most of the people I’ve met related Taiwan to the following: China, Thailand, Taipei 101, night markets, oyster pancakes, and bubble tea. Even in college, most people can only relate to these and clubbing in Taiwan. Then I found this group of people who wanted to dig into the history, talk about politics, see Taiwan through the lenses of a global mindset, and educate Taiwan’s future. We learn and grow with each other to help change Taiwan’s tomorrow. This is why the Taiwanese American community is so precious, we remember our roots in order to embrace the future.
It is by learning and highlighting important facts that defines us during Taiwanese-American Heritage Week that makes the designation so much needed.
This is our gift and our mission to benefit the next Taiwanese-American generation.
Earlier this year, I was able to head back to Taiwan to observe the Presidential elections. It was an emotional experience seeing how much people cared about voicing their opinions and being a part of all the passionate festivities on the streets of Taipei. It has only invigorated my desire to give back to Taiwan.
For me, Taiwanese American Heritage Week is important because it gives the Taiwanese community a chance to come together. When we showcase the heart of the Taiwanese people through sharing our culture and identity, it shows that despite our rocky past in Taiwan we stand united.
There are so many reasons to celebrate Taiwanese-American Heritage Week, whether it be celebrating identity, growth, change, culture, even food! It is important for us to always remember to reflect and appreciate the hard-earned milestones that Taiwanese-Americans have accomplished together.