As Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, it is heartening to see progress in Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities, and especially inspiring to see community growth and leadership in my home state of Georgia. In a recent visit to Gwinnett County, I had the opportunity to meet with elected officials and AAPI leaders to learn about Georgia’s rapidly growing AAPI population, including nearly 13% in Gwinnett County, and how public officials and community leaders have embraced the rapidly changing demographics in Georgia.
On my trip, I met with local AAPI nonprofit organizations to gain a deeper understanding of the community, and to discuss issues concerning Georgia’s AAPIs. One of these organizations - Center for Pan Asian Community Services - provides a range of social services from after school programs to health screenings within the AAPI community. I also had the opportunity to check out the famous Buford Highway that houses hundreds of AAPI businesses and restaurants, including Atlanta Radio Korea, where I chatted with the host on live radio in Korean (my comments translated simultaneously) about the Initiative’s work, commonsense immigration reform, the Affordable Care Act and student debt.
An important part of the visit was meeting with local officials, including Gwinnett county mayors and commissioners. Together, we discussed AAPI issues and concerns in Georgia, including small business growth, health care, immigration, and AAPI representation in government (Read about how fixing our broken immigration system will help our economy here). While the population growth of AAPIs is heartening, it is critically important that this level of growth be reflected in participation and representation in local and state government, and ensuring public officials are responsive to issues that impact diverse AAPI communities.
The day culminated in Building Georgia’s Asian American Future, a dinner hosted by the Georgia Asian American and Pacific Islander Task Force and many other organizations. The event brought together local community members and public officials, and highlighted how active and engaged Georgia AAPIs are becoming. There, I shared my sentiments on what I’d seen in Georgia, and my hopes for a bright future for all of us. My time in Georgia allowed me to look back at my past and reflect on AAPIs in Georgia when I was a kid, growing up in Savannah, Georgia, and to now witness a great deal of positive, inspiring change and growth. The local AAPI community and business leaders, and public officials illustrated a conviction to build on the progress being made for all Georgians, including AAPIs. What I saw assured me of all the positive things to come.
Kiran Ahuja is the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.