Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
Charlie Kirihara shares how the ‘Platform for Asian Community and Engagement’ at adidas is raising awareness around this rich cultural moment.
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPIHM) is observed during the month of May in the United States. It’s a moment for recognizing and highlighting stories from different cultures across the East Asian, South Asian, Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander diaspora, which consists of over 40 countries with dozens of languages and ethnic groups.
AAPIHM is celebrated during May to commemorate the first Japanese immigrants arriving to the United States on May 7, 1843. Additionally, it marks the anniversary of the transcontinental railroad completion on May 10, 1869. Most of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.
Raising awareness with Employee Resource Groups
At adidas North America (NAM), our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) play a key role in bringing awareness to cultural moments and community topics in the workplace. The Platform for Asian Community and Engagement (PACE) ERG works to support and promote Asian heritage, communities, and resources to increase opportunities across business, leadership, and philanthropy.
PACE’s goal is to highlight the collective Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) experience and what makes each culture unique. 2023 is the fourth year that PACE is celebrating AAPIHM and the first year with in-person events. From workouts fueled by music from Asian artists, virtual cooking, and crafting tutorials to the Daytime Night Market, there are many opportunities for adidas employees to get involved.
Meet the incredible project leads
We have a wonderful group of talented volunteers leading our PACE ERG at adidas NAM Headquarters in Portland, Oregon, including our co-leads Helen Yuen, Rima Patel, and me.
From PACE’s executive team, there are several volunteers taking the reins on large events through 2023. We’d like to recognize Shezad Khan and Carly Doi for leading our engaging activations in January and February for Lunar New Year, and Jennifer Cherry (goes by Cherry) and Kelsee Aganus for leading AAPIHM.
“It’s also important to Cherry to pass on her culture, heritage, and traditions so they’re not lost.”
Cherry’s main reason for joining the PACE executive team and leading the AAPIHM activation is to bring memories and experiences from her childhood to adidas. Cherry was born on Guam but also identifies as Chinese as she grew up around Chinese culture. She says that it is important for her to honor her mom, Yu Chih, because of the sacrifices her mom made to get her to where she is now. It’s also important to Cherry to pass on her culture, heritage, and traditions so they’re not lost.
Cherry notes that the night market was a big part of her childhood memories and visiting her family in Taiwan. We are lucky to have her leading the way for PACE’s biggest moment in AAPIHM 2023 – the groundbreaking Daytime Night Market on May 16.
PACE’s Daytime Night Market will bring in local vendors from the greater Portland area to create awareness of the diversity in AAPI cultures and engage employees with various cultural vendors. We’ll have tables of food, drinks, health and beauty, art, music, and gifts from vendors across the AAPI diaspora.
Alongside Cherry as the project lead is Kelsee Aganus, who grew up in Hawai’i and has heritage in Hawaiian, Filipino, Portuguese, Chinese, and Japanese roots. She grew up cooking Hawaiian food and dancing Hula, and attended Kamehameha High School, which taught her about Hawaiian history.
To Kelsee, AAPIHM is important because it’s an opportunity to recognize all the Polynesian cultures. She notes that people tend to forget about Polynesian cultures unless they’re visiting them on vacation. AAPIHM is an opportunity to educate everyone about the culture, history, and beliefs of the people. At the beginning of the month, Kelsee led adidas employees through a lei making class. She hosted a brief education session about Hawaiian culture and history and then taught a step-by-step instruction on creating leis. The Daytime Night Market will also feature several Pacific Islander vendors.
Since the first days as an adidas ERG, PACE has been lucky to have several creative leads on the executive team. Ken Peña has elevated the creative to a new level during his time in the role. The scope of the creative lead for PACE is to craft compelling designs that range from digital to print and even product. When the team saw Ken’s first designs for AAPIHM, we were in awe.
His design insight was to center the AAPIHM illustrations around a female figure to give a nod to Mother’s Day. He used warm and contrasting darker tones to create a bold look.
Takahiro (Taka) Chiba
Takahiro (Taka) Chiba is PACE’s first communication lead and makes sure the stunning creative gets seen by the adidas community. Taka enjoys the aspect of his role where he can showcase everyone’s great work and distribute it out to our employees. He is working diligently on recurring newsletters that recap prior events and bring awareness to upcoming moments. Employees can find Ken and Taka’s work across banners, displays, and Microsoft Teams backgrounds throughout May.
Ashley Joe, Celine Abello, and Melissa Tran
In parallel with the Night Market activation, there are several other moments during May where PACE is engaging with the community. Ashley Joe, Celine Abello, and Melissa Tran collaborate as PACE’s community leads where they focus on engaging with employees and Portland’s Asian community. The activations for AAPIHM also include gym workouts at the adidas Portland Village, an AAPI Pop Culture Trivia Night, and a happy hour with the AAPI ERG from Daimler.
We recognize there may not be moments in the typical day-to-day for employees to embrace and celebrate this part of their identity. It is our hope that through our connections we will continue to provide a progressive community that recognizes and celebrates our collective cultures.
To AAPIHM and beyond
We are grateful and excited to bring the AAPIHM 2023 activations to adidas employees across NAM. Our goal is to celebrate and grow the PACE community throughout the month and enable our employees to feel energized and recognized. We can’t wait to engage with you!
I’d like to give a special thank you to PACE co-leads Rima Patel and Helen Yuen for their help in sharing our story.