It’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the US which is a time to recognize and celebrate the contributions, achievements, and influence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. As we are a global team, we are taking a moment to celebrate our larger Asian Pacific Islander (API) community by using AAPI month as API month at Mapbox!
The terms “Asian” and “Pacific Islander” are very broad descriptions but in this context it encompasses the people, cultures, and heritages from the Asian continent and the Pacific island groupings of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. While these cultures are all celebrated during this month, we are not stating that these cultures are all the same or similar, but giving space to recognize the various cultures, histories, and peoples that we are celebrating.
Internally, our API Employee Resource Group (ERG) is hosting a series of live events which range from a community town hall discussion for API employees and allies, virtual boba tea making and henna classes, and highlighting the contributions of Asians in technology through our weekly newsletter.
To recognize this month, we have Will Braganza, a Technical Account Manager on the Localize Team and the proud chair of the Asian Pacific Islander ERG, sharing what this month means to him.
“Lately I have been heavily reflecting on the representation that this month brings for us in the API community. For me, visibility and representation is a complicated issue. On the one hand, when we talk about the vastness of the “Asian - Pacific Islander” label - we are consolidating a number of incredibly different identities under this category. On the other hand, despite our differences, I feel this incredible sense of belonging and community.
When I was growing up in northern Florida in the 90s, anytime I saw someone who vaguely looked like me, I felt this sense of connection. I remember when I was younger and I saw the movie Hook. I stopped with wonder when I saw Dante Basco’s character Rufio. Here was someone that looked familiar: with brown skin like me, thick black hair, and a nose that reminded me of my Dad. Until that point, I had never seen someone like me on television. In my TV centric childhood worldview, seeing Dante Basco was a feeling like no other.
Others might understand when I say that growing up sometimes you’re “tracking” to see who is like you. It is that practice of wondering who can give you a sense of camaraderie. It isn’t something that is limited to our youth. It extends into our adulthood and careers as well. It wasn’t until I interviewed at Mapbox that I saw, not just one but several people in the interviewing process who I felt were “like me.” It gave me this sense of camaraderie and made me feel heard and seen.
What being Asian-American means to me? Representation. What makes me happy today is seeing the representation that is available to us now. In the form of films like Moana, superheroes like Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan), athletes like Sunisa Lee, and important figures like Madame Vice President Kamala Harris - I am thankful for all the ways our visibility is highlighted in society.
If I could have you walk away from this with one takeaway, it is this: Representation really does matter. Representation means so much more than media visibility. It is more than just me renting Raya and the Last Dragon for my little niece to watch. It is the understanding and demonstration that there is a welcome place for all of us in society. For those of us who come from marginalized communities, it shows us that there are options, that there are choices, and it shows us what we can pursue for ourselves.
As we continue the conversation, I want to recognize the rest of the API ERG leadership team for putting together this month’s activities: Zakiya Hussein, Shrawani Pampatwar, and Holly Nicola. Happy API month from all of us at Mapbox!”