Woman credited with proposal to designate month to Asian heritage part of organization with Hudson Valley ties
The woman credited with first proposing the idea of designating a month to Asian heritage in America was part of an organization that has a chapter still operating in the Hudson Valley.
Jeanie Jew was a staffer to upstate Rep. Frank Horton and raised the idea to him in the 1970s.
Jew was concerned about the lack of awareness of the role Asians played in American history and the prejudice they faced along the way, including tough manual labor building the transcontinental railroad (1860s), the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882) and Japanese internment camps(1940s).
"Asian Americans did contribute to the progress and the strength of this country a long time ago," said Bob Chao, member of the OCA Westchester & Hudson Valley.
Congress designated May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in 1992 in part thanks to Horton's support.
"It took quite a bit of effort from her and some other OCA members to make this happen," said Chao.
Jew was a member of the Organization of Chinese Americans, now known as OCA Asian Pacific American Advocates, which has a local chapter in Westchester and the Hudson Valley.
"She's one of the reasons I joined OCA," said Jaclyn Liu, executive vice president of the OCA Westchester & Hudson Valley.
They continue to advocate for Asian and Pacific Islander Americans following in the footsteps of Jews' work.
"She's one of the pioneers that's inspiring people and also I admire," said Liu.
The group has spent the last few years fighting an increase in anti-Asian hate crimes.
Research published earlier this year by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism revealed that anti-Asian hate crime jumped more than 300% in 2021 compared to the year before.
"If we don't voice ourselves, people will never hear us," said Liu.
OCA leaders say anti-Asian hate crimes go underreported in the Hudson Valley but at least two in the last few years have made national headlines.
Police arrested a homeless man for assaulting and spitting on an Asian woman in White Plains in 2021,butprosecutors dropped the case and released the suspect because of a flawed police investigation.
Earlier this year, a Filipina woman was violently beaten as she entered her Yonkers apartment building. Resident Tammel Esco was charged with attempted murder as a hate crime. His case is pending.
But to create change -- the local OCA aims for the top.
"We have the chance to watch how the policy is done in the political center of the U.S.," said Chao.
They are helping to send dozens of young, Asian and Pacific Islander Americans to Washington,D.C. every year to intern with politicians.
"Eventually, theywill stand up for themselves and step into the political area," said Liu.
Perhaps, they will inspire one of them to become the next Jeanie Jew.