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May 06, 2009

Club Marks Asian Pacific American Heritage Month


May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Montha celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. To mark the occasion, Sierra Club President Allison Chin will speak at several public events this month. That's Chin, above, at a town hall meeting at the White House in March.

Chin will address the EPA in San Francisco and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in Washington, D.C., relating her own story as an Asian American environmentalist and stressing the importance of the Blue Green Alliance. She will also speak at two events in Southern California.

The Sierra Club has long been partnering with Asian Americans. In New Orleans, Delta Chapter activists helped parishioners at the Mary Queen of Vietnam Church form the Mary Queen of Vietnam Community Development Corporation, dedicated to sustainably rebuilding New Orleans' Viet Village neighborhood. Below, a Friendship Dinner held in 2007 in Viet Village by the Sierra Club, the Mary Queen of Vietnam Church, and the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association. Another Friendship Dinner is being planned for this fall.


Residents have been redeveloping a large swath of Viet Village as a community garden. "We've established a 3-acre site near the church that folks are getting ready to plant," says Sierra Club Environmental Justice organizer Darryl Malek-Wiley. "The Community Development Corporation is now looking to hire an environmental justice organizer, and I'll be helping them interview the folks who apply."

Meanwhile, the Sierra Club is in court to compel cleanup and environmental remediation of a closed but unprotected landfill containing toxins that are leaking into Viet Village groundwater. Below, Viet Village residents gather in the fall of 2007 to celebrate the closing of the landfill and demand state action to clean up toxic debris remaining there. "I want to see this debris removed to protect my community," said 15-year-old Cassandra Tran in a press release announcing the gathering.


In Minneapolis, Sierra Club EJ organizer Karen Monahan says Asian American participation in green jobs town halls has increased in response to Club outreach. A recent Club-sponsored green jobs rally at which many Vietnamese residents spoke garnered coverage in the local Hmong Times.

"We want to make sure everyone's at the table with our green jobs work and ensure that all communities are part of the outcome," Monahan says. "Many of our communities were left out of the pollution-based economy, but we want everybody to share in the prosperity of the green renewable economy."

Minnesota Inner City Outings leaders run monthly outings for participating youth from the Hmong American Partnership, among other local youth groups. Participants in two recent outings are pictured below.



"We run 10 trips a year with the Hmong American Partnership," says Minnesota ICO Chair Ian Harmon. "We're currently working with their 'leadership group' of about 40 high schoolers that HAP has identified as future leaders of their community. Our leaders rave about how engaging the participants have been."

The Club is also forging ties with Asian environmentalists who are active in their home countries. Below, the Club's International Team hosted visitors from the Chinese Center for Environmental Education and Communication and the Ministry of Environmental Protection. That's Michele Perrault of the Club's China Working Group at center, pictured with the Chinese delegation at Sierra Club headquarters in San Francisco this spring.


The same month, the International Team hosted Rintaro Sakurai, a science/environmental reporter for Asahi, Japan's leading newspaper, Kanae Musha, an economist with Kansai Institute for Social and Economic Research, and Yohei Yasui from the corporate planning and strategy division of Chubu Electric Power. International Team chair Jim Diamond is pictured with the visitors, below. 


Club Executive Director Carl Pope met in 2007 with Zhou Wenzhong, the Chinese Ambassador to the United States, in Washington, D.C., to discuss solutions to environmental challenges in both countries, and how the U.S. and China can learn from one another. Below, Pope presents Wenzhong with a copy of the Sierra Club book, Galen Rowell: A Retrospective.


Asian Pacific American Heritage month originated with an act of Congress in the 1970s. First designated as Asian Pacific Heritage Week by President Jimmy Carter in 1978, President George H.W. Bush extended the celebration by signing Asian Pacific American Heritage Month into law in 1992. The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.


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