News: Team Shaw celebrates Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
Story by Airman 1st Class Daniel Blackwell
SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. - Approximately 130 Team Shaw members attended the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month event held May 30, at Patton Hall, to celebrate our countries diversity and highlight the contributions of Asian American and Pacific Islanders to American society as a whole.
The themes and talking points for this year’s event was building leadership, embracing culture, values and inclusion.
Guest speaker, Dr. Rajarathnam (Raj) S. Aluri, shared personal experiences from his life about the benefits of diversity and being aware of other cultures within the United States.
In September of 1976, Aluri came to the United States as an international student to pursue further education in studies. Knowing firsthand the difficulties of cultural and communication barriers, he founded the Agape English Language Institute in 1993.
Aluri is of Indian descent and is an avid supporter of cultural diversity and the great things that can be accomplished when such diversity is embraced. These values were the corner stone of his speech during the event.
“I grew up in a very diverse country,” Aluri said. “In India we speak 1,600 languages and dialects. If I travel from Columbia to Charlotte, I’m in a foreign country.”
“They have different languages, different customs and even different foods,” Aluri explained. “But that’s what’s great about America; we are a land of great variety.”
Throughout his speech Aluri highly encouraged military members and civilians to embrace the cultural changes that are happening daily within America.
He explained that as a nation comprised of immigrants, embracing change gives the United States a unique opportunity to excel in areas where other nations that lack (or do not tolerate) such diversity may become stagnant.
“If you go anywhere else in the world,” Aluri said. “You won’t find any nation that’s more inviting to immigrants than the United States.”
“I’m proud to be an American,” he said. “There’s no other place I’d rather be.”
The Sumter Island Sisters are a group of active duty and civilian women who originate from the Pacific Islands who desire to find a sense of kinship within the local community while educating people of Pacific Island cultures through dance.
Throughout the event they performed dances originating from Guam, Samoa, Hawaii and Tahiti.
“The Sumter Island Sisters is not only a group, but a family,” said Amber Borja. “Together we embrace and share the love for our culture.”
“I feel the event went well,” said Staff Sgt. Ave Young, 20th Fighter Wing NCO in charge of protocol and SIS member. “From the beginning, the committee planning the event was diverse; made up of members from AFCENT, ARCENT, 9th Air Force and the 20th FW, it just reflects how many can come together as one, to work towards a single goal.”
“The Majority of the audience was military, but it was nice to see civilian employees, spouses and children,” she continued. “Even though this observance was just a glimpse of the Asian Pacific Islander way of life, it brings awareness to other Americans, and is another opportunity to celebrate our nation's diversity.”
A variety of Asian and Pacific Islander foods were served to guests at the end of the ceremony as well.
“I look forward to the next Asian Pacific American Heritage Month,” said Senior Airman Sasha Brown, 20th FW knowledge operations manager and SIS member. “It’s a time of year where we can shine a spot-light on a small portion of our service, to let everyone see who we are other than a nameplate and face.”
“I’m looking forward to next year’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month,” Young said. “Like every national observance, it's an invitation to reflect upon, educate and celebrate our diversity as a nation.”