PHILADELPHIA — On Thursday, May 25, in recognition of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, the City of Philadelphia hosted Back to the Roots, a celebration honoring the many contributions made by our Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) community and a homage to the cultures and rich heritages that have shaped their identities and lived experiences.
“Over the last 10 years, more than 39 percent of Philadelphia’s growth was due to our AANHPI communities,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “Back to the Roots is an opportunity to hear from some of the community members who are part of that growth and who have worked and continue to work hard to bring both their cultural heritage and their dreams of economic opportunity forward. This is just one of many reasons why Philadelphia is a proud Welcoming City.”
Today’s celebratory event is a collaborative program sponsored by multiple City agencies and advisory groups, including the Mayor’s Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs, the Office of Immigrant Affairs, the Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement, and the City’s Department of Commerce. It involved cultural performances, food, and a dedicated panel of up-and-coming entrepreneurs who have all started new ventures in the last five years including:
- Raquel Villanueva-Dang, Baby’s Filipino Kitchen + Market,
- Chance Anies, Tabachoy,
- Pheng Seng, Unrivaled,
- And Samantha Son, Lotus Nails and Philadelphia VIP Aestheticians.
Each panelist shared their journey and discussed entrepreneurship as a means to celebrate cultural heritage.
“The Office of Immigrant Affairs is committed to lifting up the stories and experiences of immigrant communities,” said Amy Eusebio, Executive Director of the Office of Immigrant Affairs. “This year’s focus on entrepreneurship as a tool for preserving and celebrating culture is an exciting area for the city and community to explore. We hope that everyone attending recognizes the meaningful contributions of the AANHPI community and the ways they enrich our economy and cultural fabric.”
Philadelphia’s AANHPI residents make up a rapidly growing 8 percent of the city’s population and 11 percent of small business owners.
“The Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement is dedicated to ensuring that community voice is heard at all levels of local government, and to that end, we are excited to be supporting this week’s event featuring stories and experiences of our Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander residents,” said Romana Lee-Akiyama, Executive Director, Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement. “Every time we make room at the table for diverse communities to be included, we strengthen our democracy and our city. Philadelphia’s future is bright when we lean into the gifts, talents and contributions of our residents, including our AANHPI communities.”
“The Department of Commerce is dedicated to helping entrepreneurs plan, start and grow in Philadelphia while honoring the multicultural roots that interweave and grow our economy. Our Business Services Managers who speak many languages, including Khmer, Vietnamese, and Chinese are here to assist, share resources, and support their needs,” said Anne Nadol, Director of the Department of Commerce. “The multifaceted stories, talents and skills of immigrant entrepreneurs, including Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders help shape our city as a world-class destination. Back to the Roots event celebrates such vibrant cultural, social, and economic impacts that uplift our city every day.”
“I am so excited and honored to have been a part of the Back to the Roots event celebrating AAPI Heritage Month,” said Raquel Villanueva Dang, Owner of Baby’s Filipino Kitchen + Market. “Rediscovering and honoring my heritage through entrepreneurship and as a first-generation Filipina-American has been both empowering and challenging.”
The U.S. Congress established May as Asian Pacific American Islander Heritage Month in 1992 to highlight the stories of people in the United States who are of Asian or Pacific Islander descent and to honor the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, which was built due to the majority of Chinese immigrant laborers as well as the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the shores of the U.S. The month-long celebration honors the heritage and histories of people from the Asian continent and islands across the South Pacific including Hawaii, American Samoa, Federated Islands of Micronesia, Guam, and more.