Written by Celeste Granger, Director of Talent Initiatives
Growing up Asian American was and is very special to me, although I may not have always realized that when I was younger. My childhood was rooted in traditions, culture, and food that told the story of my family and where we were from.
My mother is from the Philippines, and she was the first in her family to move to the United States. The Filipino community is a very tight knit community that celebrates its culture so it was not hard to find other families in the United States to make us feel at home and to be able to continue our traditions. Most areas within the U.S. have a Fil-Am (Filipino-American) organization within their communities. The families I grew up with would come together for holidays, birthday parties, and a large Christmas party at the end of the year where we performed traditional dances, wore traditional clothing, and of course had all the best Filipino food. It helped us keep our culture alive and allowed the children that were being raised in America to have a connection to their roots.
Growing up it was obvious that most kids in my classes didn’t look like me or have the same cultural upbringing. It’s easy to want to assimilate into the norms of society and try to blend in so that you aren’t seen as different or made to feel different. I ashamedly did this from time to time as a child because it was easier to try to be unseen then to have to constantly explain and defend your cultural background and why it may be different. Now as an adult, I realize that having a strong understanding of self, family, and cultural identity has made me who I am. I carry this with me into my professional roles as well. I try to use my experiences of not feeling like I belonged or did not fit in, to remind myself to be aware of my actions and to be aware of those around me and how they may be feeling.
I always strive to be inclusive and acknowledge that everyone has a different story and path that has brought us together and those different paths are special and are what make us who we are. It’s these differences in life and lived experience that when brought together can create such powerful and meaningful outcomes. I believe that is why I was drawn to the mission and the work here at the Chamber and I hope to be able to continue to foster inclusivity in my work and celebrate the experiences and stories of our members and community, because that is what is truly special and makes us who we are.