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More than 60% of the world’s population hails from Asia or the Pacific Islands, and the United States alone is home to more than 20 million people of Asian, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander descent. They are part of the fabric and foundation of the nation, which is one reason May is designated as Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month in the United States.

The month of May was selected to mark the immigration of the first Japanese people to American shores and to honor the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad in May of 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants. However, this year we cannot celebrate without also reflecting on the tragic upsurge in violence and discrimination against Asian Americans we are currently seeing in the United States. More than 80% of Asian Americans feel violence against them is increasing, and many in the community now live in fear on top of living in isolation and stress because of the pandemic.

I hope the words below of Jennifer Zhang, General Manager for Greater China, inspire you to reach out in a new way to your AAPI colleagues and friends, make some new connections, show your support, or simply share a dance move or two. While you’re at it, take a moment to refresh your world geography skills with a virtual tour of some incredible places like Sri Lanka, Kiribati, and Rotuma; and next time you order in, why not make it a spicy Thai Tom Kha or delicious Nepali momos! Another way to make a difference is to consider donating to anti-Asian-violence organizations, such as Stop Asian Hate. To show our support for the AAPI community, Impact donated $3,000 to Stop Asian Hate. 

Meet Jennifer Zhang

I’ve been living in Shanghai for nearly two years. I’m American-Chinese, and even though I’ve only been in Shanghai for a short time, I feel a deep sense of connection and belonging with this city. That’s a feeling I’ve never been able to truly find during my nearly 20 years living in California. But there was this one time in New York.

One smile sets a friendship spinning

I used to spend my entire summer break during graduate school taking dance classes in New York City, much like those professional dancers who train 5-7 hours a day. Those were very memorable days.

I loved the dance classes, the brilliant creative dance artists, and those progressive moves that I’d never seen before. But I was struggling to make friends. I felt somehow invisible, until one day a girl in my class stood there smiling at me while I was attempting a triple axel turn but kept getting stuck on revolution 2.5. She walked over, gave me a suggestion, and just like that, I was able to complete the move!

The next day we hung out together, and she introduced me to her other incredible dancer friends. For the first time, I felt a sense of belonging, and I actually danced better and learned more that summer than any summer prior. That sense of inclusion and belonging was a very warm feeling, and it all started with one smile.

Building bridges

America is known as a melting pot where people from all cultural backgrounds and countries can find their own places and integrate with society overall. In reality, it can be hard to extend beyond your own community, and people with a shared ethnicity and culture tend to group together.  That’s okay, as long as we all treat one another with respect and kindness.  

For me, a sense of inclusion started with just one smile from a stranger in a dance class. In my opinion, smiles are magical that way. 

So smile more, be kind, and make connections with one another – your smile could definitely go a long way.

Want to take the next step in your career with people from cultures around the world? Come find your place here at Impact

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