May marks both Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and Better Speech and Hearing Month! With heightened anti-Asian violence, India’s COVID-19 crisis, and the invisibilization of Pacific Island communities, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (API) have been thrust into the spotlight. Yet many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders refuse to define themselves solely by their oppression. With diverse heritages and languages, API activists have historically come together in solidarity to meet the linguistic, social, and political needs of their communities.
Nowhere is this activism more evident than in the field of speech-language pathology. According to ASHA’s 2019 demographic data, Asian Americans comprise merely 3% of speech-language pathologists, with no data on Pacific Islander-identifying professionals. Recognizing this urgency early on, a cohort of Asian American and Pacific Islander speech-language and hearing professionals gathered in 1985 to amplify the need for culturally and linguistically responsive services. Moderated by Lilly Li-Rong Cheng, the forum has since grown into ASHA’s API Caucus. This group of organizers and community leaders continue to advocate for multilingual, culturally sensitive hearing and communication services for API communities, increased resources for API professionals within the field, and a commitment to anti-racism work.
The API Caucus’ work is a continual reminder that successful advocacy centers those most directly impacted. As a speech therapy nonprofit rooted in social justice, CHAT recognizes the importance of this community collaboration to deliver the most effective therapy. This month, we challenge ourselves – and readers – to more fervently ally ourselves with API communities and effect change beyond this month. From continual training on multilingual intervention, to intentional outreach to Chicago’s underserved communities, the work to support Asian American and Pacific Islanders must be done in a way that centers API leadership and moves beyond representation to systemic change.