Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month was celebrated on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall May 22 at the community center. This year’s theme is “Building Leadership: Embracing Cultural Values and Inclusion.”
Following the singing of the national anthem by Staff Sgt. Matthew Smith from The U.S. Army Chorus, and the invocation by Chap. (Maj.) Jerald Jacobs, JBM-HH deputy installation chaplain, the Commander of JBM-HH, Col. Fern O. Sumpter, talked about the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
“This is the time for us to celebrate the contributions and to honor the sacrifices and accomplishments of all of the Asian American and Pacific Islanders who have helped forge and build our great nation,” said Sumpter. “Generations of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have helped develop and defend the United States, often in the face of tremendous racial and cultural prejudice. Despite these difficulties however, these men and women struggled, sacrificed and persevered to build a better life for their children and their families.”
Sumpter pointed out a few Asian American and Pacific Islanders who stand out as leaders in our society, including the late U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, from Hawaii, a World War II hero and Medal of Honor recipient; Secretary of Veterans Affairs — retired Army Gen. Eric K. Shinseki — who was also the Army chief of staff from 1999 to 2003, and Elaine Chao, the first Asian Pacific American woman and first Chinese American in history to be appointed to a president’s cabinet. Chao served as Secretary of Labor from 2001 to 2009.
“Whether small business owners or as proud members of the United States armed forces, Asian American and Pacific Islanders have been an instrumental part of the American story,” said Sumpter. She encouraged everyone to learn more about the heritage of Asian American and Pacific Islanders. Entertainment was provided by the Hawaiian Entertainment Company, led by Maui, Hawaii, native, Aaron Paki Allen. According to the event program, Allen was raised in an entertainment industry family where he started work as a Hawaiian dancer in the family’s luau show at Maui Surf Resort. Allen has studied Hawaiian and Polynesian dance, history, culture and language. He resides six months of the year on Maui and the other months in Baltimore.
Allen served as narrator for the dance group describing the materials of their colorful costumes, origins of the dances from Polynesian, Tahitian and Hawaiian culture, mixed with historical facts and humor, prior to each performance. The dancers wore traditional costumes, including plant fiber “grass” skirts, some adorned with colorful, belted tassels, shell necklaces and Hawaiian leis, and colorful head pieces.
The group entertained the audience with a variety of cultural dances, including Otea — a traditional Tahitian dance; Hula Kahiko – an ancient Hawaiian chant; a variety of hula dancing, and the dance of the Maori Poi balls.
Women audience members participated in a hula called the Hukilau or “pulling of the fish nets,” and men were selected to join in the Maori Haka “war dance.” Attendees went outside for the final number, a Samoan fire dance. A traditional food sampling concluded the program.