Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month: Cultural Experiences and Inspiration from Levy Team Members

Throughout Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May, Levy team members have shared what the month means to them, how they stay connected to their cultures, how they inspire others, and how their families have provided personal inspiration. As May comes to a close, we are reminded that the first step to be better is by knowing better. And we know better by embracing and learning from the unique experiences of others. We pledge to keep this spirit of learning and sharing alive throughout the year.  

Jennifer Wu, Assistant Director of Operations, Mercedes-Benz Stadium

In 2021, AAPI Heritage Month is more than a celebration of heritage and culture: it is also a platform to further #STOPASIANHATE. It is an opportunity to share what makes us unique while fighting to acknowledge what makes us the same. 

Lancy Wu is both my personal and professional inspiration. As a little girl, she would tell me about how hard she fought to come to this country. But it is only recently in the context of looking at history that I realize how truly difficult – and frightening – that must have been. She is truly one of the strongest people I have ever known. 

In her time as a naturalized citizen, she did everything she could to help win the fight for so many others. In all, she helped countless individuals and families come to America from China, but her fight did not end there. She tirelessly worked on their road to citizenship and took part in many naturalization ceremonies. There is a memorial to her in the U.S. District Court in recognition of her work. 

And she did all of this while raising a family, volunteering in the community, and operating a successful business. My grandmother never told me about hard work, commitment, perseverance, or compassion: she showed me.

Cornell Morris, Food Safety Manager, Tropicana Field

My personal inspiration is my mother Patricia McNeal (Vetonio), she was born in Olongapo (Philippines) and she and her five siblings, her mother (my “lola”- Filipino for grandmother) immigrated to the United States. My mom never quit on her dreams, she was a professional dancer for American Bandstand, working for her good friend Dick Clark. Fast forward to now and my mother, an athlete, grandmother, and most importantly a stroke survivor, has her own non-profit organization, called Heels on Wheels. On Dec. 22, 2013, I almost lost my mother to a stroke, and on September 29, 2018 my mother began her quest for stroke awareness and rode her bicycle cross country, pushing herself to new limits and going on to be featured on news outlets across the nation, even doing an interview on Good Morning America. She is currently getting ready for another trek across country.

Asia Tanner, Senior Catering Manager, Tropicana Field

I was truly blessed by being born into an amazingly diverse family with strong roots to their home countries. My mother’s side is Chinese/Filipino and affectionately refer to me as an “ABC,” as I’m the first “American Born Chinese” in our family line. My mother, her parents, and her two brothers all emigrated to the US from the Philippines. In true “American Dream” fashion, my grandfather found work as a dishwasher in NYC’s Chinatown, and a decade later saved enough money to open his own restaurant. Tse Yang, our second home in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, was a testament to the unwavering support of the Asian community to uplift one another. Other Asian families who had struggled to find their footing a generation before, donated time and resources to get our restaurant on the map. Thanks to their unending support, in 2001 Tse Yang was named the #1 Chinese restaurant in Manhattan by Zagat and the New York Times. Tse Yang is where my passion for the hospitality industry flourished, and I am forever grateful to the Asian community for providing me with all my beloved memories and experiences. It’s a true gift to be a part of such a supportive and hardworking community, and my memories of Tse Yang are a constant reminder of how proud I am to be Asian!

Elisha Smaw, Sanitarian, Allegiant Stadium

I am Hawaiian. These three words do not define me, but instead give context to what makes me who I am. I was raised to be proud of my heritage, to embrace all that it has to offer, and to share my culture with others. The word “Ho’ona’auao” in Olelo Hawai’i (Hawaiian language) means to teach wisdom and knowledge. AAPI Heritage Month gives me the opportunity to do just that.  To share and teach others about my heritage in hopes that they understand and appreciate my culture as much as I do.

Las Vegas has been nicknamed the 9th Island because of the influx of people moving here from Hawaii. Because of that, I wanted to find a way to be more involved in my community. In 2021, I became the Event Coordinator for an organization aimed to help AAPI people live healthy lives all while educating them on different aspects of their culture. I assist in coordinating monthly events that range from arts, cultural performances, and awareness of health related issues that affect people of AAPI heritage.

Princess Ramiro, Retail Supervisor, T-Mobile Arena

This month gives me a source of pride because it gives opportunity to share the Asian and Pacific Islander culture. Being a Filipino myself allowed me to appreciate all the values that come with my heritage. I am what I am today because of the Filipino values that my parents have taught me, like hard work. Hard work is something that my parents have instilled in me since I was a kid. If you want to achieve success, you have to climb and work for it.

What I do to inspire others is to tell people I know to embrace your culture. If you have the ability to learn the language, do it. Take it from me, I was born and raised here, but because of my parents, I was able to understand and speak the Filipino language since it was purely spoken in my household. Have the opportunity to know the history or even the traditions of your culture because it is what makes you who you are.​

Myohan Oh, Graphic Designer, Creative Studio

AAPIHM to me means recognizing our backgrounds & upbringings, and celebrating our differences. It means knowing and embracing my roots, and seeing my culture as something worth sharing, through stories, and especially through food.

I am Korean-American. I was born in South Korea, and my parents and I immigrated to the states when I was 4. Growing up, my mom would always cook this one meal for me, a dish called doenjang-jjigae (된장찌개), which is a savory fermented soybean paste stew, which she typically served with tofu, anchovies, sliced zucchini, and serrano peppers. It was hot and filling, with a bit of spice from the peppers and a whole lot of aromatic funk from the fermented soybean – it was delicious and I loved it.

I remember throughout grade school, I hated bringing doenjang-jjigae (and Korean food in general) to school for lunch, for all the weird looks and comments I got about the smell or the look of my food. I tried hiding my lunch while eating or skipped lunch to eat my food after school. I would beg my mom to pack me sandwiches or buy me lunchables to avoid embarrassment.

Fast-forward to right when I left home for college, I felt really homesick, especially not knowing how to cook Korean food for myself. Knowing this, my mom would have doenjang-jjigae hot and ready for me at the dinner table whenever I visited home for break to lift the spirits. Now, I’m always requesting it for my first meal back, every time I visit my parents. The dish itself became a form of comfort. It’s always been my mom’s way of expressing her love towards me, and is a part of me that’s worth embracing.

Helene Feagaimaalii, General Manager at the Hawaii Convention Center

I believe inspiration starts in the home. Our sense of helping others, learning about our culture, respecting our elders and taking care of our land and natural resources were instilled in us at a young age. As my parents get older, I’m finding a need to specifically help in the Kupuna (senior citizen) community. They are walking history books and I find it fascinating of how much they have accomplished without the use of computers, cell phones and social media.

My personal inspirations are my grandparents. Specifically, my maternal grandmother. She was of Chinese and Hawaiian decent and taught us three important values: 1) learn something new each day, 2) treat others as you want to be treated, and  3) we should never use the word “hate.”

Kaeo Yuen, Executive Chef, Boston Convention & Exhibition Center

This month signifies our cultural seat at the table. It is a celebration of the impact and sacrifice immigrants have made. My paternal great grandparents immigrated from China, and my maternal great grandparents were Native Hawaiian, from a roundabout journey through Europe and Massachusetts. Immigrants from everywhere collaborate in pursuit of a better life for themselves and their family.

It is this collaboration of people of different backgrounds, who bring with them their cooking style and flavor, which has evolved through generations of cultural technique and locally sourced ingredients, that drives my love for food and the search for unique combinations of flavors and experiences.

The Native Hawaiians, being immigrants themselves over 200 years ago, defined themselves as ‘Kanaka Maoli’ or a ‘Real Person’. They also use the term ‘Kama’aina’ to define those who are children of the land. Whichever land you are on, you are a child of that land. We celebrate that concept of land and community through food, and bring people into our ‘Ohana’ or family. All nice people are welcome. In a broader sense, there is only one land, Earth, and therefore we are all children of that one land. We have a responsibility to take care of that land, and each other. Responsible farmers, humane ranchers, minimalist foragers, sustainable fishermen, and those who take care of the land and others, and give of themselves without the expectation of anything in return will forever be my inspiration.

Ross Luciano, Executive Chef, Dignity Health Sports Park

Being born in the Philippines and moving here when I was 3 years old, I feel my culture’s view on family, along with traditional foods plays a huge role in my connection with my heritage. Anytime I have my mom’s cooking, it always takes me back. Those flavors are the only vivid memories I have. AAPI Heritage Month gives us time for all in our community to gather, talk, eat and celebrate. Home is not as far as we think, it’s actually here, right where we are.

AAPI Heritage Month gives us the opportunity to keep our culture strong and our tradition alive. I will always be a proud person, but never forgetting where I came from makes me a proud Filipino.