The White House announced this week, “This May, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center theme for AAPI Heritage Month is “I Am Beyond.” The phrase captures the aspirations of the American spirit, how Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander descent have always sought to excel beyond the challenges that have limited equal opportunity in America.”
#IAmBeyond because my ancestors believed in their causes, took risks, and worked for a better life for their families and communities.
Naukana Hikiau, my four times great grandmother, left her home in Maui on May 25, 1870 aboard the Sumatra and lived in China as a missionary for nine years. To me, she represents that being Hawaiian isn’t just about being in the islands with our beautiful scenery, delicious food, and great music — it’s also important to be a Hawaiian out in the world to be a cultural ambassador and affect change.
On January 13, 1903 when the SS Gaelic arrived in Honolulu, my great-grandmother was one of the 102 on-board — the first Korean immigrants to arrive in the United States.
My great-grandfather was born at Mana sugar plantation camp on Kauai in 1897 and grew up to be the Japanese foreman. Although he died in 1964, to this day, people still remember his generosity and kindness as a community leader.
These are just three of the many people who give my Asian American and Pacific Islander ohana the values of courage, strength, and hard work — powerful forces to help us face the new worlds we live in. #IAmBeyond because of their spirit.