APIDA Heritage Month

Raising Our Voices:

Our Collective Responsibility for Change

“You cannot change any society unless you take responsibility for it, unless you see yourself as belonging to it and responsible for changing it.” – Grace Lee Boggs


May is Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Heritage Month which uplifts and honors the identities, experiences, histories and cultures of Asian Pacific Islander and Desi-identified individuals. APIDA is a pan-ethnic classification that intentionally includes South Asians (Desi) as part of the community along with those in the community of East Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander heritage. APIDA represents a diverse community of more than 50 ethnic groups and includes all people of Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander ancestry who trace their origins to the countries, states, jurisdictions and/or the diasporic communities of these geographic regions.

The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. Most of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants. 

APIDA history is an important part of the American experience, and we encourage our community to celebrate and learn about the achievements, hardships and sacrifices of APIDA people that deserve to be explored. Please join us for this year’s APIDA Heritage Month Speaker Series:

APIDA Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Heritage Month logo

APIDA Heritage Month Events

Byron Yee sits outside undercover in the rain.

May 17, 2022

“#stopAsianhate,” with Byron Yee

2-3 p.m.

Zoom Registration   for Byron's event

Byron Yee is a 5th-generation Chinese-American. He graduated from Western Washington University in 2009 with a double major in Theatre Arts and Business Administration. From 2009-2011, Byron served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal, Africa. At the end of his Peace Corps service, he was inspired to travel to China to learn Chinese and find his roots. He ended up staying in China for four years while he became fluent in Mandarin Chinese and did successfully locate both the paternal and maternal villages of his ancestors. 

Byron now works in Seattle for Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center for the Coronavirus Prevention Network (CoVPN). He is on a team of people managing finances for the Phase III clinical trials of several major COVID-19 vaccines. Aside from writing poetry, Byron enjoys yoga, tai chi, and hiking with his wife and two young boys.

#stopAsianhate will be a conversation that engages our senses, connecting awareness to creative thinking and inspiration. Byron Yee shares his story about connecting with his roots as a 5th generation Chinese American through a powerful keynote, poetry, and conversation with our local students and community members. Join us to learn more about how we can all use our best skills to #stopAsianhate and build community and belonging.

Paula Yoo smiling in her red glasses and matching red blouse.

May 18, 2022

“From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry,” A Discussion with Paula Yoo

11:30 a.m - 1 p.m.

Zoom Registration   for Paula's event

Paula Yoo is an award-winning book author, TV writer/producer and feature screenwriter. She is also a former journalist, having worked for the Seattle Times, The Detroit News, and PEOPLE Magazine. 

Paula is the author of 12 children’s books and young adult novels. Her books have won multiple awards including her latest young-adult narrative non-fiction book “From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry: The Killing of Vincent Chin and the Trial that Galvanized the Asian American Movement.”

Paula’s TV credits include, “Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists,” the CW’s “Supergirl,” SyFy’s “Defiance and Eureka,” Amazon’s “Mozart in the Jungle,” and NBC’s “West Wing.”

Paula is also a professional violinist playing with multiple symphonies. She has also toured with Il Divo, No Doubt, Fun, Arthur Lee, Love Revisited, and Spiritualized. When she’s not writing or playing her violin, Paula loves hanging out with her family and cats in Los Angeles.

May 19

“Raising Our Voices through Civic Leadership”
 A Panel of APIDA Washington State Leaders

11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Zoom Registration   for Civic Leaders event

Washington State’s legislative and judicial leadership leads the nation in many firsts, including the first time in American history that Muslim, Sikh and Hindu lawmakers have served together in any state or federal legislative body. King County also appointed the State’s first ever judge of Samoan heritage to serve on the bench of a court in Washington State. This panel of three of Washington’s trailblazing leaders will share their personal, professional and political experiences as individuals of Samoan and Indian heritage and how their journey shaped them to be the leaders they are today. 

State Representative Vandana Slatter

Senator Manka Dhingra

King County District Court Judge Fa’amomoi (“Moi”) Masaniai

Vandana Slatter wearing a navy jacket with a colorful dragonfly brooch

Washington State Representative Vandana Slatter

Vandana Slatter represents the 48th Legislative District, which includes parts of Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland and all of Clyde Hill, Medina, Yarrow Point and Hunts Point. She chairs the House College & Workforce Development Committee and serves on the Environment & Energy, and the Transportation Committees. She is also co-chair of the Science, Technology and Innovation Caucus, and serves on the Future of Work Task Force, the Electric Airplane Working Group, and the Sustainable Aviation Biofuels Work Group. 

Her public service activities include advocacy for access to medicine, healthcare, and education. Prior to her public service, Rep. Slatter worked for more than 20 years as a clinical scientist in leading biotech/pharma companies Amgen, Genentech/Roche, UCB Pharma & Pharmacia/Pfizer. She also worked as a hospital pharmacist.

Rep. Slatter, her husband Greg and their son have called Bellevue home since 2003.

Manka Dhingra smiles wearing a red jacket and black blouse.

Washington State Senator Manka Dhingra

Manka Dhingra is deputy majority leader of the Washington State Senate. She brings two decades of experience as a prosecutor and behavioral health expert to her role as chair of the Senate Law & Justice Committee. She also serves on the Behavioral Health Subcommittee and the Ways and Means Committee.
Sen. Dhingra was first elected to the Senate by the constituents of the 45th Legislative District in November 2017, becoming the first Sikh state legislator elected in the nation. 

Dhingra continues to serve as a senior deputy prosecuting attorney with the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. As a mental health and crisis intervention expert, she has also been an instructor at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission for the 40-hour Crisis Intervention Training for law enforcement officers to reduce the risk of tragedy and improve the response to people in crisis.

Outside the courtroom, Dhingra is a community leader and anti-domestic violence advocate. She co-founded Chaya, an organization that assists South Asian survivors of domestic violence. She serves on the board of Hopelink, a nonprofit organization in Redmond working to end poverty in our community, and on the Behavioral Health, Aging, and Disability Steering Committee of NASHP, the National Academy for State Health Policy. 

King County District Court Judge Fa’amomoi (“Moi”) Masaniai wearing a Hawaiian leis

King County District Court Judge Fa’amomoi (“Moi”) Masaniai

Fa’amomoi (“Moi”) Masaniai was unanimously appointed to the King County District Court bench in 2021. Active in the Puget Sound Region’s Pacific Islander community, Judge Masaniai is the first judge of Samoan heritage to serve on the bench of a court in Washington state. 

Prior to his appointment, Judge Masaniai served as a pro tem judge in numerous municipal courts in King and Pierce counties. Additionally, his legal experience includes work in both criminal defense and prosecution. He has argued cases in numerous legal venues, including district and municipal courts in Washington state; the U.S. District Courts for Western and Eastern Washington; the U.S. Bankruptcy Court; and courts in American Samoa. Judge Masaniai also is a former federal-appointed independent prosecutor whom the High Court in American Samoa assigned to prosecute human trafficking, fraudulent immigration matters and public corruption in American Samoa.

Judge Masaniai notes that he grew up “in the poorer parts of town in Seattle and San Francisco.” He adds, “I am honored and humbled to have the opportunity to serve the people of King County as a district court judge. In the Samoan community, love, respect and honor are important values, which I am committed to bring to all people who come into my courtroom.”

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Bellingham Technical College Logo
Whatcom Community College
Northwest Indian College Logo
Western Washington University
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City of Bellingham Washington Logo


Chris Roselli, Community Relations, Western Washington University

Janis Velasquez-Farmer, Diversity Equity and Inclusion, Bellingham Public Schools

Rick Flores, Student Equity and Inclusion, Skagit Valley College

Tanya Zaragoza, Intercultural Services, Whatcom Community College

Hannah Simonetti, Diversity Equity and Inclusion, Bellingham Technical College

Janice Keller, Communications Director, City of Bellingham

Victoria Retasket, Student Life, Northwest Indian College