At the start of May, The Town of North Hempstead declared the month as Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. To commemorate the success of the month and work on continuing Asian American inclusivity, the town’s Asian American Advisory Committee met to discuss future initiatives and strategies. Councilwoman Veronica Lurvey hosted the committee meeting that brought together community members, leaders and stakeholders.
Former Town Supervisor Judy Bosworth and Councilwoman Lurvey were approached by residents during the pandemic, informing them of a variety of biases and Asian American prejudices arising in Great Neck and across the world. In response to the concern, former town Supervisor Bosworth and Councilwoman Lurvey established the Asian American Advisory Committee.
“We needed to have a response to our residents and we needed to have a way to help them explain to us what was going on for us to help address their concerns,” said Councilwoman Lurvey.
Before the Asian American Advisory Committee began, the “Not in our Town” initiative to combat hate was started by former supervisor Bosworth. The initiative advocates for inclusivity and serves as a pledge to not be silent in the face of hatred. The signs have become more popular in response to concerns from the AAPI community, leading to the message on the sign, “Stop hate. Together”, to be written in a variety of languages.
“We’ve provided the signs to community events and people have been taking them home also,” said Councilwoman Lurvey.
The signs are available for residents and businesses to pick up at North Hempstead Town Hall, the ‘Yes We Can’ Community Center and Michael J. Tully Park.
In addition to emphasizing the display of “Not in our Town” signs, the town and the Asian American Advisory Committee were able to use the month of May to inform residents about iconic Asian American figures that have impacted the community.
“Committee members had brought up wanting to focus on the positives and wanting to focus on pride in Asian American Pacific Islander culture.,” said Councilmember Lurvey.
The town’s press team researched various notable individuals that have served the Asian American community in a powerful way and shared their stories on the town’s social media platforms.
According to a press release from the Town of North Hempstead, “Notable individuals mentioned included Choua Thao, an inspiring nurse and community leader; Didar Singh Bains, a trailblazing entrepreneur; Jackie Young, an accomplished politician and activist; and Vice President Kamala Harris, who shattered barriers and inspired generations.”
The meeting also discussed the success of bystander training sessions. The sessions were held on Zoom for the residents of North Hempstead to learn how to intervene in harassment or assault situations. An organization called Defend Yourself presented safe and effective ways to handle abuse and discrimination.
“Sometimes your initial reaction might be to do nothing because you don’t know what to do, or you don’t wanna escalate the situation or make it worse for the individual. You just want to make it go away,” aid Councilwoman Lurvey. “[The organization discussed] all of these different emotional reactions that you have. Then they gave us information about what you should do. So it makes it easier to take the right action if you ever find yourself in a situation where you really wanna be the upstander. You don’t wanna be the bystander, you wanna be the upstander.”
Due to the positive feedback from the sessions, the town and the advisory committee are working on planning more of these trainings in the future.
Focusing on progress, the town and committee went over new initiatives to help foster empowerment within the Asian American community. According to a press release from the town, “These initiatives include the adoption of a language access policy and hiring of translation services to ensure effective communication, scheduling Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) trainings to support entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds, launching a pro-diversity, anti-bullying initiative involving a quilt made from drawings by children, and considering a social media video program involving local students to promote cultural differences, meaningful dialogue and inclusivity.”
“I met two different women-owned small businesses at the Great Neck Village Festival. I told them about [the Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) training] and they were interested,” said Councilwoman Lurvey. “I think that the Asian American Pacific Islander community might not know all the resources that a company is able to have, such as being able to characterize yourself as a minority and women-owned business enterprise and contracting with certain municipalities for training and funding. We’re hoping to get the information out there and give them more support as they begin and run their businesses.”
One of the possible initiatives the town and committee is planning on looking into involves local students and children. The Great Neck student community has always been passionate and out-spoken when it comes to inclusivity for all.
On Saturday, May 13, Great Neck South High School students Sophia Long and Yujin Lily Wu came together to organize an AAPI festival to share various Asian American cultures and promote acceptance.
“As a new immigrant myself, I think our achievements and beautiful cultures should be seen and heard,” Wu shared with the Great Neck Record. “Meanwhile, I’m proud to be a member of our community, which is getting increasingly diverse in the past few years. Therefore, through organizing and hosting this festival, Sophia and I hope to foster more interest in learning about the AAPI cultures and contribute to the diversity and inclusivity of our society as the youngest generation.”
“One of our goals was to gain a cultural experience with our fellow community. We wanted to demonstrate the pride in AAPI heritage by sharing music, dances, and food,” said Long.
Students like Wu and Long are eager to have the opportunity to share their culture with the community to help promote acceptance. The town and advisory committee is exploring the possibility of launching an AAPI-themed art show in the future to “celebrate the rich cultural rituals within the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. This exhibition would provide a platform for artists to depict the beauty and significance of various customs and rituals, promoting understanding, appreciation, and unity among residents,” wrote the Town of North Hempstead.
“This initiative, although it’s in the beginning stages, I think we see all the different ways that it would be a positive because it would involve students. It would give them artistic freedom to express who they are, their culture and what they love about their culture,” said Councilwoman Lurvey.
The passion behind the Asian American Advisory Committee remains strong outside of AAPI month. For more information on the Asian American Advisory Committee and future initiatives, please call 311 or 516-869-6311.