Claiming Your Identity
I recently spoke at an international convention in San Diego, hosted by PCMA, the Professional Conference Management Association. Renowned for orchestrating top-tier educational and networking conferences, this event attracts seasoned event planners and hosts large, mostly medical and technical global associations. The attendance is predominantly White. This was my second time attending. While figures like the Clintons, Mayim Bialik, and Boyz II Men graced the stage, it was the intentional acknowledgment of identity by leaders of Asian descent that left a lasting impact.
Questions to Ponder
- Do you think matters differently to different people?
- Why does claiming your identity matter?
- Have you noticed when people claim their identity?
- How often do you see this happen?
- Have you ever felt the need to hide or downplay aspects of your identity in certain environments? How do you think this impacts individuals and the overall atmosphere?
A Step Forward in Representation
In contrast to last year’s event, which featured notable personalities like John Legend but lacked representation from the Asian American community (0/73 speakers), this year marked an improvement. I was in the speaker lineup, identifying as Japanese, Chinese, Swedish, fourth-generation American, and an American of Indian descent from LA, making it 2 out of 131 speakers, which is two more than zero. (You can view the speaker lineup and see their names, pictures, and bios on the website.) It’s a small step, and it is forward to include Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander in the mix.
Spotlighting Heritage on the Main Stage
On the main stage, three men of color proudly shared their diverse heritage – Indian, Puerto Rican, and Filipino descent. Yes, they stated their heritage-Wow – that’s rare.
Shawn Kanungo, a charismatic speaker from Canada with Indian roots, captivated the audience. The San Diego’s Mayor, Todd Gloria’s bold disclosure of his Puerto Rican, Filipino, and gay background set a tone of inclusivity. It struck a chord -a loud one.
Leonard Hoops, the new president, unfolded his origin story like a storybook. Featuring his white dad, Indian mom from Trinidad, showing a map of the Caribbean Sea, and a family picture, his story became real. His acknowledgment of proximity to disability, having a child with cerebral palsy, gave me hope. Why? Because of proximity.
My friend, Lakschmee Lachhman-Persad and last year’s Visionary Award Community Advocate of the Year, whose sister has cerebral palsy, inspired her to be an Accessibility Advocate. Seeing a leader like Leonard acknowledge his proximity to disability brought tears to my eyes. Perhaps the event industry will make better progress in accessibility efforts.
The Power of Claiming Identity: Beyond Diversity Events
Claiming identity is a rarity, especially outside dedicated diversity events. It’s not just special; it’s essential. Let’s foster environments where individuals can openly discuss their backgrounds. This is crucial, even if you belong to the majority – understanding the significance to others is important.
The Significance of Claiming Identity
Why does claiming identity matter? When leaders from marginalized groups proudly assert their identity, it sets an example, normalizing the practice for others. Empowerment radiates as individuals feel encouraged to share their unique stories. I felt it, and I hope others noticed too. It’s all about stories that help connect us.
Breaking Cultural Barriers
Many of us of Asian descent have been conditioned to hide our cultural roots, assimilate, and abandon our non-White heritage. Creating a safe space where cultures can be shared physically and psychologically is the key. Your willingness to understand and value diverse origin stories is where it all begins.
In conclusion, claiming your identity goes beyond a mere declaration – you know we are becoming inclusive when you know each other’s backgrounds. Let’s strive for environments where every individual, regardless of background, can proudly say, “This is who I am.”
What actions will take to create a place where people feel like they can say “This is who I am?”
To hear stories of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander I share them on my new podcast and on my youtube channel.