Heritage, Not Hate

Posted on 06/12/20


In response to backlash against the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community due to xenophobia and the COVID-19 pandemic, AARP Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Mayor’s Commission on Asian American Affairs and the Office of Immigration Services hosted a webinar focused on celebrating resilience and building community within Philadelphia.

In a first-of-its-kind collaborative event to address the needs of the AAPI community, “what set our work apart was the ability to bring in national and local experts who gave practical guidance on how to care for yourself in the present moment,” said Romana Lee-Akiyama, Director of Multicultural Affairs, Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “Our speakers connected our participants with head knowledge to heart knowledge and created a forum where participants (and speakers!) felt safe and heard.”

The “Celebrating Resilience and Building Community” webinar served as a wellness check on the AAPI community in Philadelphia and provided resources to support community connections and mental health wellbeing.

“It is very appropriate that May is both APA Heritage Celebration and Mental Wellness month, especially in this environment of hate and blame against Asians for COVID-19,” stated John Chin, Executive Director of Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation.

The Philadelphia AAPI community has faced unforeseeable and unique challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, including ethnic bias, racial bias, bigotry, and hate crimes stemming from fear of the coronavirus.

“For more than 60 years, AARP has been working to promote the health and well-being of older Americans...In addition to informing our communities about coronavirus, we are helping to protect our communities during these difficult times,” said Daphne Kwok, Vice President of Multicultural Leadership, Asian American & Pacific Islander Audience at AARP.

“AARP’s focus on xenophobia stems from efforts to address discrimination impacting diverse communities,” stated Elaine Ryan, Vice President of State Advocacy & Strategy at AARP. “AARP is actively engaged in ensuring equity for all communities, particularly in the wake of the public health crisis which has amplified already existing disparities for many communities.”

AARP Pennsylvania submitted letters to Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman to address health disparities impacting diverse communities amidst the pandemic, and serves on both the state’s task force on health equity and Philadelphia’s Mayor’s Commission on Asian American Affairs in which xenophobia is a major topic of support and education.

“I am a proud Filipina and am thankful to represent AARP Pennsylvania and the work we are doing to support diverse communities across the Commonwealth, especially during these trying times,” said Grace Rustia, Associate State Director for Multicultural Outreach, AARP Pennsylvania

The “Celebrating Resilience, Building Community” webinar featured several guest speakers from both local and national organizations. Speakers provided valuable resources focused on empowering the AAPI community to overcome racial biases and promoting trauma-informed wellness. Presenters included:

  • AARP
  • Al Bustan Seeds of Culture
  • Anti-Violence Partnership of Philadelphia
  • The City of Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health
  • The Office of Immigrant Affairs
  • Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corp. (PCDC)
  • Victim/Witness Services of South Philadelphia (VWSSP)

“Intergenerational programs at the neighborhood level are essential to the care of the AAPI community. And thanks to the many successful collaborations between AARP and PCDC, we can continue to improve the physical environment and create intergenerational programming,” said Esther Castillo, Project Manager, The Chinese Immigrant Families Wellness Initiative.

The resources offered on the webinar focused on promoting mental well-being during the current COVID-19 pandemic, including:

  • Community Connections:
  • Mental Health/Wellness:
  • Violence/Victim:
    • AARP Fraud Watch Network – Learn about frauds and scams, including emerging scams related to coronavirus, to avoid becoming a victim. Protect yourself and your family. Learn more at aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork or by calling toll free at 1-877-908-3360.
    • AVPPHILA.org - Anti-Violence Partnership of Philadelphia provides information and resources for those dealing with the cycle of violence.
    • VWSSP.org - Victim/Witness Services of South Philadelphia offers free and confidential resources. You can also contact VWSSP at 267-808-4005.

To view the recorded webinar, click here.

To find out more about AARP 's work with the Asian American Pacific Islander community, go to aarp.org/aapi or visit chinese.aarp.org. For additional information and resources from AARP regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit aarp.org/coronavirus.

More from AARP in Philadelphia

Upcoming AARP Events

View All AARP Events »

Find information about getting a COVID-19 vaccine in your state. CDC information is available at cdc.gov/coronavirus; additional AARP information and resources are at aarp.org/coronavirus. En español, visite aarp.org/elcoronavirus.

AARP Member Card

Join or Renew Today


  • Immediate access to your member benefits
  • Discounts on travel and everyday savings
  • Subscription to the award-winning AARP The Magazine
  • An ally on the issues that matter most to you in Philadelphia
  • Free membership for your spouse or partner