Tampa Bay celebrates AAPI Heritage Month; House passes anti-Asian hate bill

For The Culture

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – As the nation celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, the House passed an anti-Asian hate crime bill after recent attacks during the pandemic.

A spike in attacks on Asian Americans climbed during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 3,800 anti-Asian hate crimes were reported to Stop AAPI Hate within the last year.

On Tuesday, the House passed a Senate bill with a 364 to 62 vote to address the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes. The legislation makes the Department of Justice speed up the review of COVID-related hate crimes that were reported to law enforcement agencies. It also will establish a way to report incidents online and perform public outreach. The bill now awaits President Joe Biden’s signature.

Protests have emerged across the nation as many push to end Asian hate. The protests continue even as the country celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

“For me, AAPI heritage month is our journey,” said Man Le, the founder and president of the National Association of Asian American Professionals Tampa Bay. “It’s the inspiration that brought us to America. It made us want to be Americans.”

Le started the organization in 2018 as a way to bring the Tampa Bay AAPI community together. The organization hosts community events like bystander trainings, renders community services, and creates a network of individuals within the AAPI community.

He is grateful that none of the recent attacks have been in Tampa Bay, but says the attacks are a problem. Locally, the organization is advocating for change.

“The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has reached out to us to start a discussion to open the line of communication to say ‘hey, if there’s an issue you let us know’ and vice versa,” Le said.

With everything going on in the nation, Le says this AAPI Heritage Month is more important now than ever, especially for him.

“There’s a story of a family who (escaped) an oppressive regime. During the escape the family was separated,” he said. “The father and some of the students went to the United States. The mother and four other kids had to escape to a refugee camp. I know this story because it’s my story. It’s my family, my journey, and my inspiration to America. In the refugee camp, I saw the best of people and the worst of people. My shape and view of the world is I choose to see the best of people, the best of Tampa Bay, and the best of America.”

For the first time in Tampa Bay history, the City of Tampa will recognize AAPI Heritage Month. The celebration will take place with Mayor Jane Castor at 4 p.m. on Thursday.

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