Editor’s Note: May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. The month celebrates all Asians and Pacific Islanders (think the island chains of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia) and became law in 1992. As with many months celebrating the ethnic heritage that creates the United States, our country’s history with Asian and Pacific Islander Americans is complex. We encourage you to learn more about the fastest growing US demographic.
At RPG, our core cultural building blocks are authenticity, belonging and compassion. But, without a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, these are just words. Our friends at The Diversity Movement remind us, “when companies downplay demographic differences, they actually increase underrepresented employees’ perception of bias from white colleagues and reduce engagement at work.”
As part of recognizing and celebrating Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM), we celebrate Racer Yalun Sleczkowski, and all that the month of observation means to her.
What motivates you?
Before joining RPG, I worked in lifestyle PR for a bit, that’s where I learned about fashion and design. Fashion motivates me to be experimental with different colors, styles, textiles, and it’s a way to creatively express and discover myself.
Who has served as an inspiration in your life?
My mom. She was born in a small village in Hainan (a Southern province near the harbor in China) and moved to Beijing at a young age. As the oldest of four siblings, my mom had many roles growing up — a caregiver to her younger siblings, and a helper to take care of cooking, cleaning, and other tedious housework. She also had to start working at a young age to support her family financially. She’s had many battles to fight her whole life but she’s always hopeful, compassionate, and empathetic. She’s my best friend and my biggest inspiration.
Also, as a new fur mama, I’ve been learning so much from my dog Tutu. He has taught me ways to communicate better, ways to manage and resolve conflicts, and the value of perseverance and loyalty. His daily routine of playing games and sniffing the world around him on his walks sometimes reminds me of a way to live life: follow your passion, indulge your creativity, and live the life you always want and deserve.
What book do you think everyone should read?
Lotus, written by Chinese novelist Anni Baobei. It’s a story about a forgotten past. A story about remembering and learning to live with the death of someone special. The two main characters embark on a journey travelling through the Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon in Qushui, Tibet. The rugged terrain of the Himalayas, the incredible stories told along the journey, and the exploration around the topics of death, pain, and grief make this book a must read for me. I like to bring this book with me on long flights. It calms my mind.
What does Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month mean to you?
Growing up, I never felt truly connected to my Asian heritage. I was fascinated by the outside world: foreign languages, western cultures, art, and history. As I grew older and had the opportunity to travel to different countries — and now living in the U.S. as a permanent resident — I’m able to look at my cultural heritage from an outside-in perspective. AAPI Heritage Month is a time for me to reflect on my identity and embrace the roots and culture I come from.
During the Gold Rush in the 1840s, many first-generation immigrants sacrificed a lot. They had to leave their families, learn a new language, find jobs and earn a stable income. Unlike many Chinese immigrants, I’m fortunate to live a comfortable life with the support of my family. AAPI Heritage Month reminds me of the hard-working Asian Americans who came before me and whose hard work has helped build a more inclusive society for us all to live in and contribute towards.