First published in the May 13 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.
The City Council had resounding support last week as it proclaimed May as Asian-American and Pacific-Islander Heritage Month.
Congresswoman Judy Chu, chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, as well as David Kim, a district representative for state Sen. Anthony Portantino, video-conferenced into the meeting to praise the city for its action.
“With this proclamation, you are playing an integral role in uplifting the voices of AAPI communities, and I congratulate you for taking such an important step today,” Chu said.
AAPI Heritage Month was first observed in 1978 and garnered monthlong recognition in 1992. The month of May is rich in AAPI history — the first Japanese immigrants came to the United States on May 7, 1843, and the transcontinental railroad, which was built mostly by Chinese immigrants, was completed on May 10, 1869.
Councilwoman Evelyn Zneimer, who is partially of Hawaiian, Samoan and Filipino heritage, presented the city’s AAPI Heritage Month proclamation while Yuki Cutcheon, president of the South Pasadena Chinese-American Club, read it. This was followed by a performance by Kim’s Hapkido Karate Studio, which is located on Fair Oaks Avenue and Hope Street.
Celebrations will continue this month, with the city hosting a day-long AAPI Heritage Month event from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 21, at Garfield Park, 1000 Park Ave. It will feature AAPI entertainment, activity booths and food.
“Recognizing the contributions of our communities as you are all doing today with this proclamation has never been more important,” Chu said during the council meeting. “I truly believe that educating our country about AAPI contributions and history is one of the most powerful ways to combat anti-Asian hate and xenophobia.”
SUBHEAD: Council Approves Funds for July 4 Presentation
The council last week also approved funding for a Fourth of July live theatrical presentation designed by local arts stalwarts James and Lissa Reynolds. Councilmembers also pitched in money from their discretionary funds.
Mayor Michael Cacciotti said he was inspired to expand South Pasadena’s July 4 programming after visiting the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia last summer.
“It just shows a really diverse collective history of America,” Cacciotti said of the museum. “[Much more than] than a lot of us learned in school.”
The proposed theatrical production will be presented on July 3, the Sunday night before the city’s fireworks display, in the auditorium at South Pasadena High School, 1401 Fremont Ave. It’s slated to feature poetry, stage performances and songs by eight professional actors.
Lissa Reynolds, artistic and managing director of the Fremont Center Theatre, said the working title for the production is “We, too, are America.” Her husband, Jim Reynolds, a Daytime Emmy-winning actor in “Days of our Lives” and co-director at the theater, will direct the production and has already started drafting the script.
“The tone of the evening is the multi-ethnic makeup of this community and how that makeup is created not only in this community but the larger, national community,” James Reynolds said. “And with some experiences and history that many of us may or may not be aware of.”
James Reynolds also said he hopes that the production will become an annual Independence Day event that grows as time goes on.
The admission price is undecided, but staff and the council feel strongly that the event should be free and that hosting the production will encourage attendees to visit local restaurants and businesses before seeing fireworks the night after.
“This will be an incredible Fourth of July weekend for everybody,” Cacciotti said.