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Celebration of Heritage - A Reflection from Cindy Kim-Hengst

As a second-generation Korean American woman married to a white spouse and raising a mixed-race child, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month holds important significance in our household. While we may embrace the cultural nuances in our daily lives, AAPI Heritage Month is an opportunity to celebrate identity, culture, and diversity with everyone else – not just within the walls of our household.

Growing up in Pendleton, IN (population 4,717 (2020 census) and 96.6% white (2010 census)), I was required to navigate the delicate balance between my ethnic Korean heritage inside the home and American society outside the home. I participated in and cherished family traditions, language, and cuisine, yet also embraced the values of individuality ingrained in American society. This lived experience of intersection and duality shaped my perspective and identity, instilling in me a deep appreciation for the rich tapestry of AAPI experiences.

Today as a wife and mother, I strive to impart the same sense of pride and connection to my family and community. My spouse, though not of AAPI descent, understands the experience of an immigrant family, as his parents also immigrated to the US at a young age, and respects my cultural heritage, while not always understanding the “why.” Together, we work to create a nurturing environment where our daughter can embrace her unique backgrounds with pride.

We use this month as an opportunity to not only celebrate but also for education and advocacy. During AAPI Heritage Month, we have supported local events and attended programs highlighting AAPI communities/individuals, including the unique opportunity to see Yo-Yo Ma at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. We have also worked within our community to develop an understanding and awareness of the AAPI culture by organizing a collection of books by AAPI authors to donate to my daughter’s elementary school library. As a family, we all enjoy celebrating the AAPI culture through delicious Korean foods like ddeok-boki, kimchi, and ddak-dori-tang (spicy chicken).

We share stories about the challenges and triumphs of AAPI people throughout history and of our own families and friends. We encourage our daughter to read books or watch films that have characters who resemble her or relate to her heritage and history. We strive to raise our child with a strong sense of cultural identity and social awareness, instilling in her the values of empathy, respect, and equality. We encourage her to stand up and advocate for the AAPI community as able and age-appropriately. 

I recognize that AAPI Heritage Month is not just about celebrating the past, but also about shaping the future. I work to develop AAPI young adults in the church both formally through programs like National Benevolent Association's Peer Learning and Wellness Group and informally through intentional relationships. Both of these serve a greater purpose of developing and supporting AAPI young adults in their journey of understanding their past to become their unabashed authentic selves.

AAPI Heritage Month is a reminder of God’s created diversity in this world; inspiring us to embrace our heritage with pride and work towards a brighter future for all.

How can you celebrate AAPI Heritage Month? 

  1. Find a North American Pacific Asian Disciple (NAPAD) congregation in your area and worship with them. 

  2. Engage in conversation with someone of AAPI descent, listening to their story of origin. 


Cindy Kim-Hengst currently serves as the Moderator-Elect of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). She resides in Elmhurst, IL with her spouse and child and is a member at Chicago Christian Church, the oldest NAPAD congregation in the IL/WI region. 


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