White House ‘hangs out’ with Asian Americans

From left Konrad Ng,Gautam Raghavan and Kiran Ahuja

From left Konrad Ng,Gautam Raghavan and Kiran Ahuja

By Maricar CP Hampton

The White House hosted its first national community engagement with Asian Americans via Google Hangout as an “exciting” way to connect the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community with the federal government.

“We launched several public engagement initiatives and unveiled some of our priorities and plans for the months and years ahead,” said Jason Tengco, Advisor on Community Engagement on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

The theme of the program is “Expanding Opportunity for AAPIs.”

Tengco said using Google Hangout is a “visually engaging way” to reach out to the AAPI community.

“I’ve found out that Google Hangouts are really exciting,” he told The FilAm in an email interview. “We were able to spotlight our community’s geographical diversity by showcasing AAPIs from across the country, including our Regional Interagency Working Group members in San Francisco, business leaders in Austin, students in D.C., and Maulik Pancholy, an actor who lives in Los Angeles.” “Weeds” and “30 Rock” actor Pancholy has announced the Initiative’s #AANAPISIstory campaign on Twitter.

Moderating the Hangout were Kiran Ahuja, executive director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI); Konrad Ng, director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and Gautam Raghavan, who is the White House Public Engagement Advisor.

There were many “great ideas” proposed for expanding opportunities for the AAPI community, according to a White House statement. “The challenge is to think beyond the existing work and to have a proposal that would make a meaningful impact on the community.”

The officials also released a report on what federal agencies have accomplished to improve access to federal resources for underserved AAPIs.

“We encouraged the community to submit their feedback on how federal agencies plan to improve access to services for AAPIs,” said Tengco.

Regional interagency working groups representing more than 25 federal agencies and sub-agencies have been formed and trained to work with AAPI communities, he added.

“Regional working groups in New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles have already hit the ground running. In the last few months, they heard directly from community members about their challenges and have started to demystify the work of the federal government and its programs and services and create new partnerships with community leaders,” according to the press statement.

Smithsonian director Konrad Ng said the theme of AAPI’s Heritage Month in May will be “I Am Beyond.” The idea is to enrich the appreciation of the Asian American and Pacific Islander contributions to the American story.

In commemoration of AAPI Heritage Month, Tengco said the White House invited community leaders and organizations to share their interpretation of the theme, “I Am Beyond,” through art, music, performance and literature.

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