Since 1992, Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month has been celebrated nationally each May. This month was chosen to commemorate two important events in American history: the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the U.S. on May 7, 1843 and the May 10, 1869 completion of the transcontinental railroad, predominantly built by Chinese immigrants.
This May, Solid Ground celebrates the contributions of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities. We use the term AAPI to include all people of Asian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander ancestry who trace their origins to the countries, states, and/or the diasporic communities of these geographic regions. We’re showcasing a glimpse of AAPI communities’ rich culture, traditions, and history by spotlighting AAPI individual and institutional leaders in our community.
Today we spotlight a Solid Ground staff member, Tamara Bauman. Tamara has a Master’s degree in Public Administration and is a JourneyHome Housing Advocate. With Solid Ground since 2015, she says she connected to the agency’s mission to end poverty and undo racism and other oppressions that are root causes of poverty: “Solid Ground’s mission is important to me given my own lived experience with poverty and racial bias.”
Tamara is the daughter of a Tongan immigrant mother and spent much of her first five years in Tonga before moving to Sumner, WA. When she returned to the U.S., her dad reported that she could only speak Tongan. Tamara laughs recalling this, saying, “Now all I remember are the swear words!” But coming to another country and moving to an area that was predominantly white wasn’t easy.
“Tonga is an extremely poor country and has only gotten electricity, paved roads, and plumbing (for some of the islands) within the past 50 years or so,” she says. “Additionally, my sister and I grew up with a single disabled father in a predominantly white town, and our peers made us abundantly aware that we were different. My sister and I were two of a handful of people of color in the town of Sumner, Washington. My sister was often mistaken for Black/African American and threatened to be ‘strung up’ by a group of white teenage classmates. I was all too often asked, ‘What are you?’”
“By being of service to others, I am also serving and healing myself!” ~Tamara Bauman, JourneyHome Housing Advocate
Tamara says these comments “reflect a type of violent white supremacy and racist exotification that historically targets Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). Solid Ground’s mission allows me to work through that. By being of service to others, I am also serving and healing myself! In doing anti-racism work, we need to better understand the complexity of Pacific Islander experiences.
“For instance, Pacific Islanders have the highest rates of homelessness per capita than any other racial group! Pacific Islanders are also more vulnerable to chronic health conditions and are more likely to die from COVID-19 due to issues such as vaccine accessibility. Solid Ground is central to increasing the visibility and representation of Pacific Islander communities in our service design, outreach, civic engagement activities, and partnership development.”
If you’re interested in connecting Solid Ground with your work or that of other individuals or organizations working with AAPI communities, please leave a comment or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.