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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Plative Stories: Advancing Leaders Through Collaboration by Recognizing Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May marks Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, which celebrates the histories of North Americans that hail across the Asian continent and from the Pacific islands of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. This year’s theme selected by the Federal Asian Pacific American Council is “Advancing Leaders Through Collaboration”, which builds on a leadership advancement theme series that began last year, and here at Plative, we share in the belief that all individuals, especially those from underrepresented groups, should be elevated, invested-in, and developed into future leaders.

Spotlight: Armie Calleja

How has your heritage shaped the person you are today?

My heritage has shaped me into being the resilient and hopeful person I am today. Growing up in the Philippines, located along a typhoon belt in the Pacific and the Ring of Fire, I lost count of how many calamities we have survived. Typhoons in our place are recurrent, successive, and devastating. But these crises also taught me important values in life; that is, to rise above difficulties, not to lose heart, and help one another.

Does your family have any traditions that are especially important to you? 

Filipinos love celebrations, and my family is no exception. We are fond of celebrating various festivals where we prepare and serve enormous amounts of food to our guests. We hold parties for all the birthdays, anniversaries, reunions, weddings, graduations, etc., and invite a large number of people, family or otherwise, into our home to eat with us. Also, we start celebrating the Christmas season every September, at which time we begin playing Christmas songs and displaying decor. I think these festivities are our collective way of recuperating from the several crises we have endured. Plus, they are fun, too!

What does Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month mean to you?

For me, the commemoration of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month is very empowering because it acknowledges the cumulative impact of Asians, like me, on the progress of the United States. It makes me feel appreciated since my unique personality, my contributions, and my services are being celebrated at this time.

Spotlight: Jangveer Singh

Tell us about your heritage – What makes you proud to be who you are?

The Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent has been the historic homeland of the Sikhs, having even been ruled by the Sikhs for significant parts of the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, Sikhs can be found all over India and elsewhere in the world. Sikh men as well as some Sikh women can be identified by their practice of always wearing a turban to cover their long hair. The turban is quite different from the ones worn by the Muslim clergy and should not be confused with them. The surname or more usually the middle name Singh (meaning lion) is very common for males and Kaur (meaning princess) for women. Of course, not all people named Singh or Kaur are necessarily Sikhs, the Sikhs adopted the name Singh in 1699 during the Birth of the Khalsa. The name Singh is closely linked to the martial antiquities of North India dating back to at least the Eighth Century CE.

The values that my family has instilled in me make me proud of who I am today (As Sikhs, we must believe in these values). The values are:

    • Equality: All humans are equal before God.
    • God’s spirit: All creatures have God’s spirits and must be properly respected.
    • Personal right: Every person has a right to life but this right is restricted.
    • Actions count: Salvation is obtained by one’s actions, including good deeds, remembrance of God, etc.
    • Living a family life: Must live as a family unit to provide for and nurture children.
    • Sharing: It is encouraged to share and give to charity 10 percent of one’s net earnings.
    • Accept God’s will: Develop your personality so that you recognize happy events and miserable events as one.
    • The four fruits of life: Truth, contentment, contemplation, and Naam, (in the name of God).

Does your family have any traditions that are especially important to you?

Ardaas: There is a protocol followed in almost every Sikh household’s spiritual practice, my family follows this too.
To begin with, any man, woman, or child, Sikh or non-Sikh, can participate in every aspect of a Sikh service. Including the reading of the scripture, singing kirtan, and leading the congregation in prayer. This single act forever eradicates the role of a priest in Sikhi. That is, in addition to being a warrior, worker, laborer, and the proverbial ‘lowest of the low’, every Sikh, male and female, is a priest in the purest sense of the word. The congregational prayer takes on a shape that is unique to Sikhi. Much of it is in a historical format that begins with invoking the blessings of God, then honors the memory of the Ten Gurus and the teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib. Our Elders and heroes are remembered, and so are the major watersheds in the growth of the community, including the three Holocausts (1746, 1762, and 1984). Followed by a plea (pleading before The Court, ‘ardaas’, which gives the exercise its name) consisting of an expression of gratitude, and an invocation of blessings for anything celebratory or solemn being marked that day, couched in the hopes, aspirations, and concerns of those in attendance. What makes the ardaas special is that it is said in almost exactly the same words in every home around the globe, thus uniting the entire community at every hour of every day. The distribution of Karah Prashad, the Sikh sacrament (if I may translate the term loosely) is an extraordinary feature expressly observed to wipe out the practice of casteism in Sikhi and to entrench equality for all. The marvel of it all is that nothing I have described needs to be done in a place of worship of any kind. Every home, every place of work, in fact, any place is fine for worship. It can be done alone or in a congregation. And no person is so special that only he or she can officiate.

How has your heritage shaped the person you are today?

My heritage has taught me to avoid discriminating based on caste, sex, race, or religion and to treat everyone as equal. This sense of unity and respect compels me to also go out into the world and demonstrate acts of kindness. In fact, this teaches me to not turn against, disrespect, or be hateful towards people who may not agree with me or go against me. It has also made me develop a sense of duty to represent my community in the industry.

Spotlight: Niranja Nair

How has your heritage shaped the person you are today? 

Being born and brought up in India has made me more open and enjoy the diversity of people. I have grown up with people speaking different languages and coming from different cultural backgrounds. I have always enjoyed learning and being part of different cultural backgrounds. It has made me more comfortable and open to people.

Tell us about your heritage. What makes you proud to be who you are? 

I am proud of coming from a heritage where we were taught about “Unity in Diversity” from when we were in school and was considered one of our strongest ideologies.

Can you tell us more about your journey to the US?

It was always a dream for me to be able to work in New York City and when I got the chance to work with Plative it was a dream come true to me. I had to wait 3 years after coming to the US to start working because of the work permit wait, but when I finally got it, it was my dream job. We had a very welcoming experience with everyone when we first came to the US.

What does Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month mean to you?

Being an immigrant away from your family, It means a lot to see different cultures being respected and celebrated in the US.

Spotlight: Bhavesh Naidu

How has your heritage shaped the person you are today? 

Indian heritage dates back several centuries. It is also one of the most extensive and varied. Flora and fauna, music, architecture, classical dance, and the innate secular philosophy of its people are the highlights of India’s treasure. Ever since the beginning, we have preserved our culture and tradition beautifully for our upcoming generations. We can never forget our tradition and culture as they are embedded in us and are an inseparable part of our lives no matter how far we plan to reach and how much we have progressed in all these years.

‘Unity in diversity’ – this depicts India very well. Thus the range of Indian heritage is also quite vast. As the number of religions is quite innumerable in India so does the diversity and so does the heritage sites.

The heritage sites are built decades ago and still stand alive with all the significance. These historical monuments and sites are proof of how our heritage witnessed the footsteps of various religions, various dynasties, and traditions.

I’m proud of such a vivacious culture that prevails in India. India’s natural heritage invokes a sense of pride in each and every citizen. The diversity adds beauty and richness to this country.

Does your family have any traditions that are especially important to you?

We Indians take our festivals very seriously, and no matter what time of year you visit our country, you’re likely to encounter some sort of traditional holiday or celebration going on. 

Diwali – the annual festival of lights held in October or November is the most important holiday of the year for us. Relatives living in other cities come together to celebrate Diwali. The significance of the holiday is associated with the triumph of good over evil, of light over darkness. Traditions include performing traditional “pujas” (ceremonies), giving gifts to friends, families, and neighbours (sweets and nuts are common), and also lighting candles or small oil lamps (known as “diyas”).

How do you feel empowered to bring your whole self to work?

I have been playing sports from the day I started walking. It taught me a lot of things that I apply in my corporate life as well.

“People do their best work when they’re free to be themselves” – this is the same for me and I think for most of them too. I try to bring my authentic personality, including the quirky bits, and also bring my interests, hopes, dreams, and even fears with me, even if it doesn’t seem relevant to my work.

In addition, when I value my own experiences, challenges, and unique perspective instead of burying them, it helps me discover that they are more relevant to my work than I thought.

By bringing my authentic self to work, I go beyond my comfort zone and the work doesn’t feel like work anymore. When we dare to be vulnerable and original, we become more resilient, adaptable, and driven. We open ourselves to essential human experiences where our personal life and work-life complement each other. It helps me to create an opening for others to bring more of themselves which creates conditions for great work experiences.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Plative Stories: Advancing Leaders Through Collaboration by Recognizing Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

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