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Tahirih CEO Archi Pyati

As an Asian American, I have never felt welcome in this country. When I was little, I felt placed in the category of “other” – my given name too hard to say, my ethnicity a fascinating puzzle, my skin tone apparently enviable and the cause of regular microaggressions by both kids and adults. 

I internalized this as a problem with me, not with the people or society around me. The consequence was a feeling that I will never be enough, one which has stayed with me into adulthood and impacts me personally and professionally.   

Last week, I attended The Asian American Foundation’s third annual summit to kick off Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. It was uniquely fulfilling for me to learn and connect with hundreds of other leaders, activists, and artists invested in the flourishing of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPIs).  

I listened to celebrities and politicians talk about their challenges growing up AANHPI and how they overcame feelings of insecurity to chase their dreams, changing what we all think is possible for Asians in America. And I was inspired by activists who described decades of tireless organizing in search for equality for AANHPIs and in solidarity with other minority groups. 

But I also heard that a tragic 70% of AANHPI people feel unsafe in public spaces. In 2023, 54% of AANHPIs reported being harassed, threatened, or attacked because of their race or identity. And women and girls who are AANHPI experience acts of hate 2.2 times more often than their male peers.  

There is a lot we can do. We can read, like, and listen to change our perception of people who look and sound different from ourselves. We can fight for systems that include and welcome people from all backgrounds instead of excluding and dehumanizing them the way our immigration system does. And we can ensure services – like the critical legal and social services offered at Tahirih – reach a diversity of communities so we do not perpetuate the isolation that worsens vulnerability to violence. 

I am grateful I had the chance to attend the summit. I’ll keep reflecting on how my experiences of otherization, as well as the gifts of incredible privilege I’ve enjoyed, shape who I am and how I show up. And I’ll keep fighting so we can all be safe enough to dream.