Members of the Asian-American community came together on Saturday to celebrate Fairfax County’s first Asian American Appreciation Day at the Fairfax Government Center. Hosted by the Voice of Vietnamese Americans (VVA), the goal of the event was to recognize the contributions of Asian-Americans to the county and allow Asian-American leaders to show their appreciation to the local representatives who have supported them over the years.
“We wanted to have the coalitions of Asian-Americans come together for something like this for a while. We wanted to appreciate the leadership here because we feel very lucky to be in Fairfax County to enjoy the kind of stability the county provides,” said Genie Nguyen, president of the VVA.
Several elected officials attended and received awards including: Fairfax County Chairman Sharon Bulova, who received an award for Best County Management in the Commonwealth of Virginia; Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-11th), who received an award for leadership in health care and education; and Del. Vivian Watts (D-39th) and Del. Mark Keam (D-35th) were recognized for their work as legislative leaders. Mary Ann Cannon accepted the Congressional Leader in Human Rights Advocacy Award on behalf of Congressman Frank Wolf's (R-10th) office (see a full list of the rest of the honorees here).
Braddock District Supervisor John Cook, newly elected School Board At-Large member Ted Velkoff, and Col. , who ran against Del. Kaye Kory (D-38th) in last month’s election, also came to show their support. Organizations such as the Asian American Chamber of Commerce, the Washington, D.C. metropolitan chapter of the Asian Real Estate Association of America, the Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote (APIA), and Virginia Organizing also participated.
During her remarks, Bulova said the county has very special relationships with the Asian-American community and mentioned an exchange program that Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) has with the Songpa-gu school district in Seoul, Korea. Songpa-gu, which is located in the southeast part of Seoul, is one of two sister cities the county has. The other is in China.
Nguyen said education is the most important issue to Asian-Americans and later in the program went on to praise the contributions of the members of the School Board for their efforts to improve language issues in FCPS for all minorities.
“In Fairfax County Public Schools, our Asian-American community is a vibrant and growing part of our educational system. It’s so important to recognize the heritage and traditions that our Asian American families and students bring,” said Mason District School Board Member Sandy Evans. Evans received an award for Best Education Leader. She also mentioned a Taiwanese delegation recently visited in Falls Church.
According to 2010 Census numbers, 189,661 residents in Fairfax County, about 17.5 percent of the population, are of Asian or Pacific Islander descent. A further breakdown of the numbers shows that of that 17.5 percent, 43,956 are Asian Indian, 41,356 are Korean, 28,770 are Vietnamese, 26,197 are Chinese, 15,431 are Filipino, and 2,909 are Japanese with the remainder belonging to other Asian descent. Some areas of Fairfax County such as Annandale, Centreville, and McLean to name a few, have larger populations of some of the above groups compared to the rest of the county.
Census data also cited the Survey of Business Owners, published in 2007, which found that 17.3 percent of the businesses in Fairfax County are Asian owned. The Washington, D.C. metropolitan area is one of three areas in the country to have the largest amount of Korean-owned firms (11,424) and other Asian-owned firms (8,370).
“Our broad diversity has contributed to the quality of life for everyone, not just in Mason District, but in Fairfax County,” said Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross, who received an award for best leader in Mason District.
“No matter what we look like or how we came here, we’re all headed in the same direction and that’s toward the future of this country,” said Keam in his remarks after receiving his award.
Although it is not an official recognized day in the county (meaning the Board of Supervisors has not issued a proclamation naming Dec. 3 as Asian-American Appreciation Day), Nguyen said she hopes the event will become an annual tradition. The VVA previously held an Asian American Advocacy Day back in August.
“It’s good for us to come together, remember our roots, and say thanks to the people who support us,” Nguyen said.