The Neighborhood House Celebrating Asian Diversity Affinity Group centers on the lives and experiences of Asian and Asian American staff. We envision an organization where Asians and Asian Americans thrive. We will build a community that empowers, elevates, and celebrates our diverse social identities and cultures. The month of May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and we wanted to take this opportunity to share a few of our staff members’ experiences around passing down cultural traditions through the generations and how it has impacted our self-identity development.
My heritage is Japanese American, and my family has always had a strong love to celebrate and pass down traditions related to food, cultural holidays, and dance. My family has always made it a key point to participate and attend the Seattle Obon Odori festival each year which combines all 3 aspects! The festival is the largest local event and gathering of Japanese, or Japanese-American identifying people. Due to the fragmenting of the Japanese American Community here in Seattle due to World War II and the U.S. Internment Camps, it has been a key event to my family to maintain ties to our heritage as well as feel a connection to community and our shared history to this region.
My sister and I are Chinese Japanese American, and my parents had similar approaches on passing down traditions between the two of us with different outcomes. My sister was born in Japan, and when my family reached the US, they immersed themselves into the Japanese immigrant community. They were also balancing this with American culture assimilation. My family then moved to Florida, and when I was born my father intentionally built community with other Chinese immigrant families. I went to Chinese school and participated in many of the holidays and traditions which shaped my knowledge. Today my father sends me messages and videos on social media regarding Chinese traditions and thinking. My sister identifies more closely to Japanese cultural practices and influences, while I have more affinity with the Chinese side of my heritage.
I am Korean American born in Hong Kong, living there until I was about 8 ½ then moved to the United States. My sisters who are 13 and 17 years older than me, had different experiences growing up as a child. Their first language is Korean and they lived in Korea until they were in high school, celebrating our heritage through food, holidays, and family traditions until they moved to Hong Kong. To my knowledge, much of this dissipated when we lived there. When we moved to the United States, my father very much wanted my sisters and I to be as “American” as possible, which meant my family was not as involved in the Korean community. From time to time, we did celebrate our birthdays having traditional birthday seaweed soup or celebrating Chuseok (Lunar New Year) by having rice cake soup. This feeling of disconnect from my heritage has had an impact on my self-identity growing up in America, but I am continuing to learn and celebrate in small ways, creating new family traditions.
I am 2nd generation American with Vietnamese heritage. If you know one thing about our culture, it is our adoration of nourishing, yet homey food. Home, for me, is the scent of my mother’s cooking. The feeling of devouring a bowl of her noodle soups after a long day is unlike anything else.