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AAPI Heritage Month message from Interim Director Rico Quirindongo

Community Partners,

In May, we commemorate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, and this year’s commemoration comes at a critical moment — as we emerge from this pandemic and as we seek to elevate and renew the national dialogue on racial equity.

Since the opening weeks of this pandemic, the last Administration and their allies polluted our national conversation with language rooted in hate and discrimination targeting AAPI people. Scapegoating Asian Americans for the COVID public health emergency was a deliberate political strategy that has echoed across our country. We all must renounce this cynical ploy, and the race-based violence that has resulted, including in our region.

This recent racist scapegoating is just the latest shameful episode of its kind in our nation’s history. From the Chinese Exclusion Act, forced annexation of Hawaiʻi, colonization of the Philippines, the internment of Japanese Americans, atrocities committed during the Vietnam War, to recent events, we must acknowledge our past even as we work together to build a better future. And that we still have a long journey ahead of us. 

In Seattle, we are committed to empowering the AAPI community, embracing your vision for a positive future in Seattle, and lifting up your voices and stories. We must respond to racial injustice and violence by honoring and recognizing the value of our many AAPI cultures — and by investing the City’s time, energies, and resources. The City as an institution has played a role in causing harm to the AAPI community, and we must challenge ourselves to repair past harm and prioritize healing practices in our future work with this community.  

To this end, OPCD is developing a new community engagement ethos that prioritizes our outreach efforts to people who historically have been shut out of our planning processes, including many in the AAPI community. Our ongoing work in the Chinatown International District will be grounded in community leadership. As we work with Sound Transit, SDOT and others on our vision for a new Jackson Hub, elevating neighborhood voices and seeking better opportunities for residents will be at the heart of our work.

And through the Equitable Development Initiative, we are investing in community-led projects intended to fight residential and cultural displacement pressures to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to make a home in Seattle. We have already committed funding to several AAPI-led projects (Cham Refugees CommunityLittle Saigon Landmark ProjectFilipino Community of SeattleWing Luke Museum), and we continue to add new community-initiated projects to our EDI. This month, we are launching a new storytelling project to share more about these visionary projects and those benefitting other communities of color in Seattle. We look forward to working with you in the years ahead.

Rico Quirindongo, AIA
Interim Director