Thursday, May 11, 2017

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (Benita and Mei)

The month of May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and what better way to celebrate than with a look at Best Day's origins? This nationwide non-profit started when Benita was just a 25-year-old Philadelphian calling her grandmother in Seattle. Next thing she knew, her grandmother Mei Chiu told her all sorts of incredible stories about her life surviving WWII and raising eleven children. But when Benita told her how proud the rest of the family must be to have such an awesome grandma, Mei said "No one knows any of this. No one knows because no one ever asks." So Benita started The Best Day of My Life So Far to end senior isolation, and to give older adults of all races a voice.

The full origin story can be found here, but I wanted to end this with some stories by Benita Cooper and Mei Chiu. 

Benita Cooper
What Americans Certainly Don't Do

Next year I am turning 30. I am excited about it. I love the idea of getting old, the peacefulness of it, the been-there-done-that of it. But then I look around and see people's attitude towards older people. It's upsetting. Youth in a jar, that's what people want. Not wrinkles, not physical delays. And when I poke around on the web I see on Yahoo this Q&A string entitled "What Cultures Respect and Revere the Elderly?" And the Best Answer - based on number of votes - said, "Africans and Amerian Indians definitely do. Asians had in the past but the younger generation is not following this past example. Americans certainly do not." Ouch. I am Asian and American, so that's a double whammy. I guess my relationship with my grandma has grown something in me. I don't know what else to call it except for a soft spot for seniors. I didn't know what to do about it until months ago, I suddenly noticed the senior center one block away. And after some meetings and emails with the fabulous staff there, I knew what I had to do: start a storytelling and writing workshop for seniors there. And put their voices here, online, for us to listen.

Mei Chiu
Two Mothers
From this story
When I was small, I had to serve two mothers. When I was a baby, about the time I was just learning to walk, a widow woman befriended my mother. At first the widow saw my mother in the market and approached her, saying nice things about her lovely baby girl. Then she joked about wanting to take the beautiful child. More and more the widow imposed her unwanted attention, until one day, the widow took me from my mother's arms and announced that from then on she would be my mother.

Curated by Caitlin Cieri