(Photo by Office of Sen. Bob Menendez)
On Saturday, May 13, Sen. Bob Menendez hosted his 2nd Annual Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month Celebration, with Jersey City professor Ernabel Demillo serving as the Master of Ceremonies.
Demillo, an Emmy award-winning journalist and chair of the Department of Communication and Media Culture at Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City, emceed the event at Fort Lee High School.
“AAPIs are the fastest growing racial group in the state,” said Demillo. “Celebrations and events like this one, hosted by Sen. Menendez, give us an opportunity to reflect and honor the contributions that AAPIs have made, not just to New Jersey, but to our country.”
The event was created to honor and celebrate the rich and diverse cultures of the AAPI communities in New Jersey and included Filipino, Korean and Indian cultural performances by the Filipino School of NY and NJ, K-MZ and Kulture Kool.
Sen. Menendez also spoke at the event, not only talking about the battles the AAPI community has and still faces today but emphasizing how the community makes New Jersey stronger.
“AAPI culture is an integral part of the American tapestry. AAPI history is American history and culture,” said the senator. “I’ve proudly worked with my colleagues in the U.S. Senate to combat anti-Asian hate, provide support to Asian-owned small businesses as they weathered the pandemic, and stood shoulder to shoulder with the AAPI community as they face challenges in light of rising anti-Asian prejudice, discrimination and violence. I have made it my life’s work to protect vulnerable communities and there is more to be done to keep AAPI communities safe, seen, and heard.”
Three honorees at the event highlight the many different ways in which the AAPI community has served as an important pillar in the daily lives of New Jersey residents.
The first honoree and keynote speaker was Arvin Amatorio, Bergenfield’s mayor, and New Jersey’s 2nd Asian American mayor.
The second honoree was the Philippine Nurses Association of NJ, which comprises nurses who served on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic and faced many of the horrors firsthand.
Finally, the third honoree was the Asian American Youth Council, an activist group that focuses on raising social awareness of the political rights of young Asian Americans and addressing all issues regarding race, gender, politics and society.