INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Around 40 Asian nationalities are represented in Indiana, and, if you ever wanted to know more about the heritage, now is the time to learn: Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
Asian community members said the observation isn’t just about highlighting heritage, but hopefully a chance to help bridge cultural gaps between all communities. Sometimes that can happen through conversations, food and so much more, and you can find it all in central Indiana.
Indiana is home to roughly 170,000 Asian Pacific Islanders. Philip Smith was born in the Philippines and adopted into an American family.
“I know there is a lot of issues going around about discrimination and racism, but I think if you can educate someone then you can tear down those walls,” Smith said.
Yearning to learn his roots, he found his birth family in 2010; that led him on another path of discovery, opening the Philippines Cultural Community Center. It’s a safe space to bask in culture from food clothing and more to language classes.
“There’s a lot more Filipinos than we we imagined.”
He’s said growing up Asian in a white American family created challenges. But, he said, for other Asians, it doesn’t have to be that way. With more people immersing themselves into different cultures, they’ll see just how much we are alike than different.
Rupal Thanawala said, “There’s so many ways you could say this is the month that I’m going to take a moment to learn about different cultures who they are and explore the food.”
Thanawala is president of the Asian American Alliance. In a typical year, in-person events would allow people to experience and learn about the culture. But with the dozens of restaurants and places of worship in Indiana, those could be good places to start.
“This also send a message to the community we are excepting this demographic as part of our community our neighbors are friends.”
The Philippines Cultural Community Center has a business bazaar every Saturday, and Visit Indy, the city’s tourism arm, has launched an Asian and Pacific Islander heritage month blog. Each week, writings will highlight different Asian in the community making a difference.