May showers don’t just bring spring flowers. It is an important month for recognizing the diverse cultural heritages of various communities across the United States and the Americas and beyond. With the advent of Ancestry, 23andMe and similar products, we are learning more than ever about our own heritage and doing so can provide a rich bridge not just to the past, but also inform how we think about ourselves as members of our communities.
An Opportunity to Reflect, Discuss, and Learn
While this month celebrates the history and culture of the Asian American Pacific Islander, Jewish, and Haitian communities, we also can focus on heritage overall. Observances like these serve as important reminders for us to take a moment to reflect, discuss, and learn about the rich and diverse histories of everyone we work and live with.
Giving Voice to Diverse Perspectives
At Cisco, we are committed to ensuring a welcoming, diverse, equitable, and inclusive work environment. When George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis, Minnesota three years ago this month, we gathered to have Courageous Conversations about what we thought and felt.
As we saw Asian and Semitic hate crimes rise, we continued this tradition of offering all a safe space to create connection, check in on our teammates, learn from each other, and better understand how we can move forward together–in solidarity and as allies, through dialogue and more.
We offer more than 100 inclusive communities or affinity groups our employees can participate in, as a part of our commitment to creating an experience of Belonging for all employees, which represents one pillar of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts. I am proud to lead a council which works to drive our DEI strategy and ensure that we are also attracting, recruiting, and hiring in an inclusive manner, and are developing a support model which includes mentoring. Attracting, Developing and Hiring the best talent possible, and maximizing experiences where people can feel connected and have a sense of belonging represent the two other pillars of our DEI efforts.
Embrace a Growth Mindset
With the one-year anniversary of the war in Ukraine, more school shootings, increased polarization, and economic uncertainty in the United States, and additional social and political events worldwide, it is clear that we can benefit more than ever from forging new ground together.
How? By continuing our dialogue while embracing a growth mindset, first described by Stanford Professor and psychologist Carol Dweck, and by continuing to learn from one another.
Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month
This month, in celebration of Asian American Pacific Islander month, the Cisco Asian American Network (CAAN) is offering our employees a fireside chat with Brian Tippens, our Chief Social Impact Partner and Gloria Goins, our Chief DEI Officer. We will also tackle the difficult but important conversations about social justice and mental health.
The month of May was chosen to commemorate the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States on May 7, 1843, and the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869, which was largely built by Chinese immigrants.
AAPI Heritage Month recognizes the challenges that these communities have faced, including discrimination, exclusion, and xenophobia, and celebrates the resilience and perseverance of these communities in the face of these obstacles.
It is also an opportunity to highlight the contributions of individuals of the AAPI community to science, technology, business, the arts, and government.
Looking for ways to celebrate AAPI month? Here are some ideas: 12 Ways to Celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
Jewish American Heritage Month
May is also recognized as Jewish American Heritage Month, which celebrates the contributions of Jewish Americans to American culture, history, science, government and more. President George W. Bush proclaimed May as Jewish American Heritage month in 2006. This was a result of a concerted effort by American Jewish leaders to introduce resolutions in the U.S. Senate and the House urging the President to proclaim a month specifically recognizing this community’s contributions.
Want to learn more about and celebrate Jewish American Heritage? Visit a Jewish museum or historical interest site, explore the Jewish American Heritage Month site, take a quiz on Jewish American trivia, listen to a Jewish podcast, watch a binge-worthy Jewish television show, or take a class.
Haitian Heritage Month
In May, Haitians around the world, including in the United States, celebrate the country’s rich culture, art, cuisine, history, and other community contributions in May. The annual celebration is an extension of Haitian Flag Day on May 18, which is a patriotic holiday in Haiti.
During the 1960s and 1970s, many Haitians emigrated to the U.S. to escape the oppressive conditions during the dictatorships of François “Papa Doc” and his son Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier. Today, more than 3.5 million Haitians live outside of Haiti than in the country.
Haitian Heritage Month was first celebrated in the United States in Boston in 1998. Since that year, governors, members of state senates and houses of representatives, mayors, and city councilors have issued annual citations and proclamations, recognizing the Haitian Heritage Month celebration in their states or cities.
If you are interested in learning more about Haitian history and culture, consider these ideas.
- Check out the Haitian Heritage Museum in-person or online. The museum’s Newsroom and Blog offer articles about Haiti and Haitian culture.
- Explore the Haitian Arts Society and its offerings.
- Listen to a podcast. Check out the Haitian Arts Podcast Series (HAPS) on Apple or Spotify.
- Learn about the history of Haiti.
- Watch “Freda”, an award-winning movie about a Haitain woman’s struggles to escape violence and unrest, a common narrative for many who have come to America.
Heritage encompasses not just traditions and culture we’ve inherited, but also the meaning and activities we draw from them. We can only be more inclusive if we approach heritage, your own as well as other heritages, with curiosity. As our world continues to become more diverse, understanding heritage will become even more important, both in the workplace and beyond.
This May, and throughout the year, I hope you’ll take the opportunity to celebrate and learn – or share — some of the rich and diverse histories of those we live and work with.