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Picatinny celebrated Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month with an observance event May 9 at the Cannon Gate Catering & Conference Center.

The keynote speaker was artist Kam Mak, whose work has been featured on more than 200 book covers, magazines and editorial pieces for clients including HarperCollins, St. Martins Press, Random House, National Geographic, Time magazine, Newsweek, and the New York Times.

"It is important to recognize the significant contributions that Asian Americans have made to our great nation," said Gulia Dale, III, Equal Employment Office Specialist.

These observances allow the Picatinny community to highlight, "diversity and cultural awareness of the many distinct American cultures, and to celebrate the accomplishments of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islander and to tell the history of their contributions to our nation."

At Picatinny Arsenal's Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, 14 percent of the workforce is of Asian-Pacific descent, the second largest cultural group. Eighty-five Asian-Pacific employees are senior leaders or the equivalent.

During the observance, Mak showcased some of his paintings, explaining the tradition behind each item in the pictures and how its origin is related to the Asian American culture.

"Mr. Mak's presentation was wonderful," Dale said. "He skillfully used bold colors to tell the story of his culture."

Born in Hong Kong, Mak and his family moved to the United States in 1971 and settled in New York City.

On October 5, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a Joint Resolution designating the first ten days of May as Asian-Pacific Heritage Week. Twelve years later, President George H.W. Bush signed an extension making the week-long celebration into a month-long celebration. In 1992, the official designation of May as Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month was signed into law.

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.

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