By Sara Magnuson
Kent District Library will be highlighting heritage and diversity events and festivals throughout the year and focusing on local organizations that bring awareness and engagement opportunities to our community.
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month, and KDL is celebrating the Grand Rapids Asian-Pacific Foundation as they prepare for their festival, coming June 11-12 at the Calder Plaza downtown. The Grand Rapids Asian-Pacific Foundation (GRAPF) is a nonprofit organization that aims to share Asian culture with West Michigan and help Asian folks feel seen and loved in our community.
Samantha Suarez, Marketing Director for GRAPF, said, “We’re best known for our annual summer festival, the Grand Rapids Asian-Pacific Festival, but we do other events like Lunar New Year Celebrations, Mid-Autumn Festivals and are in the process of planning a Water Festival, which is a Southeast Asian celebration. During these pandemic times, we also regularly do food drives and partner with other organizations to help plan Stop Asian Hate rallies.”
The Grand Rapids Asian-Pacific Festival started in 2017. Since the success of the first festival, it has become an annual event and expanded into other events as well. GRAPF hosted the first Grand Rapids Lunar New Year Celebration, the first Filipino Lantern Celebration and the first Sumo Wrestling exhibition in all of Michigan in 2018, featuring Sumo champions from Japan.
While the 2020 cancellation was disappointing to both organizers and participants, Samantha is excited to see the Grand Rapids Asian-Pacific Festival return for 2021 and encourages community members to get involved. "Join the GR Asian-Pacific Family Facebook group at www.facebook.com/grasianfoundation/ or reach out to our Founder, Ace Marasigan at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Additional information on events and volunteer opportunities can be found at grapf.org.
Samantha encourages people to engage, explore and learn about the variety of cultures and ethnic groups that make up our communities.
“Google University is free! But I also recommend doing a deeper dive through books or educational videos. I follow a lot of YouTubers to learn more about communities I’m not a part of, such as the trans or the Black community. If you want more hands-on learning, volunteer with us!”
KDL has created recommended reading and viewing lists for those wanting to learn more about Asian and Pacific-Islander heritage. Check them out at www.kdl.org under our We Recommend booklists, or visit CultureGrams in our Online Resources to get a one-of-a-kind perspective on daily life and culture of the world's people, including their background, customs and lifestyles .