When Nassau Community College Federation of Teachers (NCCFT) member Yih-Jin (Jim) Young helped found the Suffolk County Executive’s Asian American Advisory Board (AAAB) in 2005, his goal was to connect his academic work as a professor in Nassau Community College’s Sociology Department to the community in a meaningful way. Since then, his work as the AAAB’s chair, from 2008-2009, and as either chair or co-chair of the AAAB’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month celebration, has earned him proclamations, citations and other forms of official recognition from the executive officers of both Suffolk and Nassau Counties, the governor of New York State, and the New York State comptroller. Professor Young earned this recognition through the community work the AAAB has done, bringing issues important to Asian-Americans to the attention of the county executive, encouraging civic involvement by members of the Asian-American community, and addressing community concerns, including education, health, legislation, and small business development.
Professor Young has been a member of the Nassau Community College sociology faculty since 1999. His teaching and research interests focus on demography, race/ethnic relations and social stratification. “My research has shown that Asian-Americans have the highest levels of educational attainment among all ethnic and racial groups,” Professor Young explained. “Nevertheless, their overall level of personal income is still lower than that of non-Hispanic whites. Prejudice and discrimination offer one possible explanation for this disparity.” When Professor Young, as chair of the AAAB, organized the first Asian Pacific Heritage Month (APAHM) celebration in 2009, one of his goals was to fight that bigotry. “We all need to learn to be more tolerant of other cultures,” Professor Young said. “The APAHM provides a venue for that kind of learning.” The gathering also strengthens the communities themselves, Professor Young went on to explain, by helping Asian-American children to feel proud of their heritage. May was officially designated Asian Pacific American Heritage Month by an act of Congress, signed by President George H. W. Bush, in 1992. The celebration dates back to 1978, when President Jimmy Carter signed a joint resolution declaring the first week of May to be Asian Pacific American Heritage Week. This year’s proclamation was signed by President Obama on April 30th.
Now in its fifth year, the 2013 Asian Pacific American Heritage Month celebration will be held on Saturday, May 11, from 12:00 – 6:00 at the Charles B. Wang Center at Stony Brook. Attending will be the Hon. Daphne Kwok, Chair of President Obama’s Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Advisory Commission, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, other representatives from Nassau and Suffolk Counties, the New York State Assembly, ambassadors and consul generals from several Asian countries represented in the festival, and local community leaders. Admission is free and open to the public.