May is Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) Heritage Month. On May 24, 2023, the Rhode Island Senate celebrated the generations of Asian American and Pacific Islanders who have enriched our nation and our state with their diverse cultural and economic contributions. The Senate recognized several local Asian-focused groups for expanding the community’s awareness and embracing our state’s diversity, including the Japan-America Society and Black Ships Festival of Rhode Island, Inc.
Retired US Navy Captain Robert Winneg, Treasurer of JASRI (center), accepted the award on behalf of JASRI. Presenting the certificate were Senator Linda Ujifusa (on left) who represents southern Bristol and Portsmouth, and Senator Victoria Gu (on right) who represents a section of South Kingstown, Charlestown, and Westerly.
Attending on behalf of JASRI were (far left to right) Steve Aveson, Vice President of JASRI; Everett Hoag, JASRI events and community outreach; Retired Captain Robert Winneg; Captain Tomoaki Hirao of the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force and Maryanne Brandmeier, JASRI Board Member. Senate President Ruggerio was there, as well as Gregg Amore, the Secretary of State and James Diossa, General Treasurer and several members of the senate. Former Mayor Alan Fung also attended.
The inspiring celebration at the State House was filled with warm feelings and colorful performances of Korean Harp by Junghee-Oh-Kayakum and folk dance by Kate Kim; and Brown University’s Lion Dance ensemble. The Master of Ceremonies for the event was Newport's new mayor, Xaykham (Xay) Khamsyvoravong. Other award honorees included the Alliance of RI Southeast Asians for Education; Center for Southeast Asians, India Association of RI, RI Association of Chinese Americans, Filipino-American Association of Newport County, and the Korean-American Association of RI.
The celebration is a way to honor the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to Rhode Island and the United States. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have made significant contributions to all aspects of American life, including business, education, government, science, the arts, and sports.
The Rhode Island Senate's first AAPI Heritage Month celebration was a very positive event for JASRI and the other groups represented. As valuable assets to the state of Rhode Island our work is essential to building a more welcoming, vibrant cultural community.