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Assemblymember Raga hosts second annual AAPI Heritage Month celebration at Elmhurst Hospital

Raga poses with all honorees following Saturday’s celebration. Photo by Queens Post

May 13, 2024 By Queens Post News Team

More than 100 people gathered at Elmhurst Hospital on Saturday afternoon for the second annual celebration in honor of Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. 

The event, organized by New York Assemblymember Steven Raga, featured several cultural performances from music and dance groups from all over Asia in addition to appearances from elected officials, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and State Senator John Liu. 

Karen Lin, the first woman of East Asian descent to be elected to the bench in Queens County, was among a number of community leaders and organizations honored at Saturday’s event, which took place at Elmhurst Hospital at 79-01 Broadway.

Borneo Village performs at the opening of Saturday’s event. Photo by Queens Post

A number of Asian American advocacy groups, such as the Asian American Federation and Asian Americans for Equality, also attended Saturday’s event.

Raga, the first Southeast Asian ever to be elected to the state legislature, said it was important to celebrate cultures from all over Asia during AAPI Heritage Month. 

“We have such a large AAPI community here in our neighborhood,” Raga said. “It’s not a monolith at all, and hosting an event like this is reflective of our community. 

“We don’t get this opportunity much, so it’s amazing to do it together as a community,” he continued. “I think media coverage leans heavily towards East Asian communities, but you can see here in our neighborhood that we have a big Southeast and South Asian community as well. 

“Just here at our event today, we had representatives from the Filipino, Indonesian, Malaysian, Bengali, Indian, Nepali, and Thai communities. We have a wide range of communities that are working together and celebrating each other together. So it’s pretty special.” 

Steven Raga and Chuck Schumer pose with AAPI performers and honorees. Photo by Queens Post

Senator Schumer praised Raga for running the event and described the Asian-American community as the “future” of the United States. 

“Our Asian American community is wonderful and diverse and important,” Schumer said at Saturday’s event. I believe that the Asian American community is the future, not only in New York but in all of America.”

Schumer also pledged to fight for “comprehensive” immigration reform if the Democrats win control of the House, Senate, and presidency in November, stating that there needs to be an increase in legal immigration to the US. 

We should have more legal immigrants. more pathways to citizenship,” Schumer said. “Immigrants are good for our community. We need to ensure that the flow is regulated, but we need to have many more legal immigrants coming into our country.” 

The Senate Majority Leader also spoke of the need to protect the Asian-American community against hate crimes, pointing to the passage of the anti-Asian hate crimes bill that he co-sponsored with Congresswoman Grace Meng in 2021. 

“Asian Americans have been subjected to violence and threats as they walk down the street,” Schumer said on Saturday. “I’ve talked to young women who didn’t want to take the subway. I’ve talked to Sikhs who were stared at and threatened because of their turbans.” 

Schumer said the anti-Asian hate crimes bill has enabled the federal government to “go after” anyone who harasses, threatens, or violently attacks members of the Asian-American community. 

Raga also spoke of the importance of protecting the Asian-American community against hate crimes and violence, stating that more can be done to safeguard the community. 

“A lot more can be done because it’s still going on,” Raga said. “It’s not really being covered by media, but we hear it a lot. A lot of folks that are being attacked don’t want to record it with the police out of shame or embarrassment.” 

Raga encouraged anyone who has been a victim of a hate crime to contact their elected officials or community leaders. 

However, the Assemblymember said Saturday’s event was a cause for celebration for the AAPI community, especially because it took place in a hospital where many Asian Americans work as frontline healthcare workers. 

Raga said Elmhurst Hospital provided a “symbolic backdrop” for the event, showcasing how members of the AAPI community took care of New Yorkers throughout the pandemic. 

“We saw the AAPI community taking care of all New Yorkers even during a rise of hate against them. They still came to work to take care of New Yorkers. So it’s even more special to do it here.” 

Photo by Queens Post

Ahyoung Kim, Director of Economic Empowerment with the Asian American Federation, echoed Raga and said frontline healthcare workers deserve more recognition.

I can’t put into words how important it is to celebrate the work of healthcare workers. I wish we could do this every month,” Kim said.  

I remember during the pandemic when we went outside and banged the pots and pans. That was really beautiful, but we kind of forgot about it, and I hope an event like this brings back the attention and appreciation of frontline staff.” 

Kim described Saturday’s event as the “first step” towards ensuring that the AAPI community is seen and has a space in New York. She also hopes that it can “close the gap” and help inform Asian American small business owners about grants and opportunities available to them. 

 

email the author: news@queenspost.com
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