Each year, May celebrates the accomplishments and contributions Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have made to our fine nation. And as a company that recognizes the strengths that comes with diversity, we’re proud to take part in that celebration.
In this week’s blog, we caught up with our own Kevin M., who’s been working at Gas South as a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion coordinator for a little over a year. Kevin is Filipino American, so we wanted to get his insight on the importance of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
Hi, Kevin. Thanks for sitting down with us. Can you tell us a little more about your background and family heritage?
Definitely. I was born and raised in metro-Atlanta, but my parents are from the Philippines. Thus, I’m Filipino American. Filipinos have a distinct Asian background, with a strong Western tradition. The modern Filipino culture developed through influence from Chinese traders, Spanish Conquistadors and American rulers. Because of our strong connection to Spanish culture, Filipinos are emotional and passionate about people in a way that leans a little more Latin than Asian. It’s kind of cool because we’re the best of both worlds.
From your perspective, why is it important to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage (AAPI) Month as a nation? What are the things you hope people take away from the experience?
Well, it’s always important to recognize and embrace those who are different from you because we live in a global community. But for AAPI month specifically, it’s imperative that we not only celebrate this month but recognize the unique struggles Asian Americans face in this country. From familiar issues like the bamboo ceiling and the model minority myth to more recent issues, like blame for the pandemic, AAPI month gives us the opportunity to debunk these misconceptions and shed light on truth.
With your heritage and job as one of our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) coordinators, you’re especially qualified to talk about why this month is important to Gas South as a company. What are your thoughts?
While I’m honored to talk about my culture, I also recognize that I can’t speak about every Asian culture in existence. There’s also a group that can be overlooked during this month: Pacific Islanders. People of Hawaiian, Samoan, Tahitian, New Zealand, etc. descent. My point is that I’m also learning as well and that I also benefit from cultural months like these.
Is Gas South’s reputation as a diverse, equitable and inclusive employer what attracted you to working here? And how are we living up to our reputation? What are Gas South’s strengths? And what are the challenges we have in front of us?
What really attracted me to Gas South was their openness and willingness to have a whole team dedicated to DEI. I loved the idea of being on the ground floor in strategizing ways we can move the company forward in ensuring equity, whether through internal initiatives or external partnerships. I
would say that Gas South is at the ‘Emerging’ phase of our journey – meaning we’re still in the process of creating baseline foundations to promote equity and inclusion standards. Our strength lies in the fact that we’re always looking to be better. If we keep that mindset, we’ll be one step ahead of other companies in this industry.
You came up with a great idea for employees to take part in recently—the National Treasure AAPI Contest. Tell us a little more about it and how it helps others take part in and celebrate AAPI month.
Sure. This contest is derived from a real-life treasure hunt based on a book called “The Secret.” In essence, employees analyze a painting from the book and answer questions based on it. The painting happens to be connected to the AAPI community so I thought this contest would be a fun way to engage audiences while learning some trivia about the community.
How have employees responded to the contest?
We’ve gotten a pretty high response rate so far! So, at the very least, our employees are engaged.
What are some of your personal favorite Filipino cultural traditions? And what about other aspects of the culture—food, music, art, language, dance, literature? What do you love most about your heritage?
To name a few, I would say Group Karaoke, ‘Eat, Drink, Repeat’ mindset at parties, and Four-month Christmas (The Philippines doesn’t celebrate Halloween or Thanksgiving, so the lead-up/prep for Christmas starts in September). As for food, right now, my favorite is egg rolls. For the rest like music, art, books, etc. – don’t really have a favorite. What I love most about my heritage is that it’s very family-oriented with an appreciation for performing arts, fashion, music and food.
As part of what it means to “Be A Fuel For Good” at Gas South, we’re honored to highlight the diversity that makes this company great. Stay tuned for future blogs that spotlight our talented employees as we pay homage to different cultural heritage celebrations throughout the year.