Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month | May 2023

May is Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, and we celebrate the rich and diverse contributions of people of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage. May was chosen as AAPI Month because of two key dates:


Unfortunately, hate crimes against the AAPI community have dramatically increased across the nation and in NYC. For example, there were 131 reported hate crimes in NYC in 2021, compared with 28 in 2020. Unfortunately, this oppression is not new. The US has a painful history of discrimination against the AAPI community. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, for the first time, restricted entry of an ethnic group on the premise that it endangered the good order. During World War II, Japanese Americans on the West Coast were incarcerated at the order of the US Government because they were deemed a public danger.


The theme for AAPI Heritage Month in 2023 is Advancing Leaders Through Opportunity. We champion the successes of leaders in our AAPPI community. Here are a couple of organizations leading the cause for equal civil rights:

Learn More Through Literature!

Inclusion: How Hawai‘i Protected Japanese Americans from Mass Internment, Transformed Itself, and Changed America by Tom Coffman

Here to Stay: Uncovering South Asian American History by Geetika Rudra

Citizens, Immigrants, and the Stateless: A Japanese American Diaspora in the Pacific by Michael R. Jin

The Loneliest Americans by Jay Caspian Kang

Pedagogies of Woundedness: Illness, Memoir, and the Ends of the Model Minority by James Kyung-Jin Lee

Permission to Come Home: Reclaiming Mental Health as Asian Americans by Jenny Wang

We Were Dreamers: An Immigrant Superhero Origin Story by Simu Liu

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Despite cultural progress, mental health issues and care are still stigmatized in our society. Recent events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, political turmoil, environmental worries, and societal concerns of civil rights being stripped away only compound struggles with mental health.


Mental health care access for our clients is an acute problem. The Rikers Island, Department of Corrections complex is the largest psychiatric provider in NYC and one of the largest in the country.  Approximately 50% of the Rikers’ population has a mental health diagnosis, and about 16% have a serious mental health diagnosis. Yet, mental health access is extremely poor at the Rikers Island complex. The following article details the deaths at Rikers Island through 2022, many of which are suicides. As a disclaimer, the article is very sad and troubling:


Prioritizing access to mental health care should be a paramount concern for us, as QD colleagues and advocates for NYC’s most vulnerable populations. We struggle with criminal, family, housing, and immigration courts, and white supremacy and classism are baked into these systems which destroy lives, families, and communities. As public defender professionals, we consequently cope with secondary or vicarious trauma. This can manifest in many ways, including loss of sleep, headaches, stomachaches, chest pain, poor eating habits, or struggling to keep healthy relationships.

Learn More Through Literature!

Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others Paperback by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky and Connie Burk

Sometimes Amazing Things Happen: Heartbreak and Hope on the Bellevue Hospital Psychiatric Prison Ward by Elizabeth Ford MD, Bernadette Dunne, et al.

Stop Overthinking: 23 Techniques to Relieve Stress, Stop Negative Spirals, Declutter Your Mind, and Focus on the Present by Nick Trenton

The Body Keeps The Score by Bessel van der Kolk

Letting Go: The Pathway To Surrender by David R. Hawkins

Transgender Day of Visibility - March 31st 2023

International Transgender Day of Visibility aims to celebrate the transgender community, while also drawing attention to discrimination and attacks faced by transgender and non-binary people. This issue couldn’t be more relevant today as state legislatures around the country are passing anti-trans bills.

We would like to highlight this courageous story from the Nebraska legislature. Machaela Cavanaugh, a Nebraska state senator, has engaged in a filibuster since February to prevent an anti-trans bill from becoming law. This bill would criminalize certain medicine and health care procedures for trans people under the age of 19. This filibuster has snarled virtually all action in the Nebraska state legislature.

We would also like to highlight this video on NBC News that includes an interview with actress and GLAAD (the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy group) Board Member, Peppermint, and Executive Director of the National Black Trans Advocacy Coalition, Carter Brown. They discuss how to be a respectful ally to the transgender community amid this waive of harmful legislation.