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May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Awareness Month. Why do we celebrate awareness months?

Bishop Carlye J. Hughes

When we honor people through these awareness months, says Bishop Hughes, it is to help us see that we're all actually part of one another. We are all more of who we are because of all of us being part of the same family, that is the people of God. (Time: 4:20.)

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Video Transcript

This is Bishop Hughes in the Diocese of Newark, and it is Asian American Pacific Islander Awareness Month. This is one of the five months that I've asked every parish, all 93 of them, to observe in a way that makes the most sense for them, and that works within the context of their gathering for worship and for other events. It's late in the month for us to be talking about this, but the month is not over yet, and certainly you don't have to stop your celebration after the month is over. And many parishes have already been thinking about Asian American Pacific Islander, or AAPI, Awareness Month, all of the month of May. There have been festivals, there have been special prayers, there have been book studies, there have been suggestions for things to watch in terms of television and film – a number of ways that parishes have been thinking about how to be more aware and more observant of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and the cultures that they may observe.

Part of why we do this, to observe these various months, Black History Month in February, AAPI Awareness month in May, Pride Month which begins next month in June. In mid-September, September 15, we begin Hispanic awareness or Latino Awareness Month. And then November, Indigenous People or Native American Awareness Month. Part of the reason we do this is for our own education. But part of it is to show the amount of honor and respect we have for those cultures that are part of who we are as a diocese, and more importantly, who we are as people of God.

Somebody said to me at one point this year, "When you focus on all those awareness months, you're making us separate, Bishop!" And I said, "Think of it a different way. When your grandchild asked you how did you meet your spouse? Or tell the story of how they came into being? Does it feel like you're being separated from them? No, it feels like your history is being honored and that your love of that child is being honored and the love of your family is being honored." The same thing with these awareness months. It gives us a chance to show how much we love, honor and appreciate those folks who are walking in and around us and part of our lives, or people who we want to get to know better.

There's another reason that this is especially important right now. It has become a way of being for some to "other," to look at other groups of people and call them "other" and to ostracize them, to discriminate against them, to call them "those people" that live "that way" – to make them other than ourselves. And othering has gotten to the place where not only is it disrespectful, it is dangerous. We, the things that we saw happen in Buffalo with the death of those 10 people who simply went to the grocery store to shop, is the extreme version of othering.

So when we do what we do to honor people through these awareness months, it is to provide a preventative. It is to help us see that we're all actually part of one another. There is no one of us, that is "other." We are all more of who we are because of all of us being part of the same family, that is the people of God. So I invite you, if you haven't started a celebration, or taken any kind of steps to focus your parish on Asian American Pacific Islander Awareness Month, it's not too late! Go ahead and start now.

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