By Ms. Joyce M. Conant, ARLJune 17, 2013
The 2013 Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month ceremony was held at the Myer Auditorium at Aberdeen Proving Ground, May 20. The guest speaker was the Honorable Heidi Shyu, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology.
May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month -- a celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. A rather broad term, Asian-Pacific encompasses all of the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands), Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia) and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Easter Island).
Asian-Pacific Heritage Month originated in a congressional bill. In June 1977, Reps. Frank Horton of New York and Norman Mineta of California introduced a House resolution that called upon the president to proclaim the first ten days of May as Asian-Pacific Heritage Week. The following month, senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga introduced a similar bill in the Senate. Both were passed. On October 5, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a Joint Resolution designating the annual celebration. Twelve years later, President George H.W. Bush signed an extension making the week-long celebration into a month-long celebration. The official designation of May as Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month was signed into law in 1992.
The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.
The theme for this year's observance was Building Leadership: Embracing Cultural Values and Inclusion and it was sponsored by the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command with support from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, 20th Support Command, Army Test and Evaluation Center and the U.S. Army Public Health Command.
In addition to the formal opening ceremony, the event featured entertainment by the Federal Asian Pacific American Council, a performance by Abington Martial Arts, outdoor displays and exhibits and plenty of food sampling.
Committee members had to attend a food handler's course in which they received a certificate of completion to be able to assist with the setup and distribution of the different types of foods.
"We had lots of different food types to sample including Indian, Filipino, Chinese, Vietnamese, and also from Guam," said Sheryl Coleman, who was one of the food handlers from ARL's Laboratory Operations.
Coleman said that some of the food was purchased from Lee Hunan and said that Bombay of Elliott City donated a fried vegetable.
"The Pig was truly a traditional meal and a treat for all!" expressed Coleman.
ARL provided an outdoor display that was coordinated by Shauna Mintz. Mintz said she wanted to participate because she has a strong interest in Japan.
"I spent some time in Japan as an international exchange student and I still go back from time to time to visit friends," said Mintz. "Although I am not Japanese, I feel like I have enough knowledge of Japan and the culture there to contribute to this kind of event."
Before moving to Baltimore, she worked at Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio where she assisted with the events organized by the Asian Pacific Islander Advisory Group.
"It was a great experience and I hope to similarly contribute here at APG," said Mintz.
For this year's heritage event, Mintz was responsible for the "Japan Table" that she ran with Howard High from CECOM. Rather than posters, they put together a slide show with pictures and information relating to different aspects of Japan. This included things like food, living space, temples, natural beauty, and fashion among many other things.
"I also brought several items from home to display," said Mintz. "The most noticeable items were two framed TENUGUI, long fabric dyed with an image or pattern. The most popular item seemed to be the Osaka version of the classic game MONOPOLY, where you can buy things like the HEP 5 building and Osaka Castle. Some other items of interest were a variety of magazines, cookbooks, brochures on a variety of destinations throughout Japan, a large clay pot (DONABE) used for family style cooking, and a Japanese style lunchbox (OBENTO). I also had a set of dolls (HINA NINGYOU) and accessories normally put out for Girl's Day (HINA MATSURI)."
Even though Mintz did not participate in the fashion show this year, she wore a modern summer kimono (YUKATA) during the event.
"I am really glad that I was able to participate in the event this year. The whole observance came together so well thanks to the efforts of everyone involved. It was such a great success, and can't wait for next year," said Mintz.