Asian Heritage Month Festival celebrates Hapa community

May is national Asian Heritage Month, and organizers with Vancouver's Asian Heritage Month Festival are celebrating the mixed race community this year.

Anna Ling Kaye, who sits on the advisory panel for the Asian Heritage Month Festival, says every year organizers select one community in the diaspora to highlight.

For Canada's 150th anniversary, they selected the "Hapa" community.

"The term [hapa] originated in Hawaii," Kaye explained. "It originally referred to half-Pacific Islander and it was used — as many terms referring to mixed people — in a slightly derogatory way."

"But it's one of those words that we're trying to embrace and claim because there's no complimentary words to celebrate people of mixed heritage."

Kaye, who calls herself Hapa and identifies as Taiwanese and Jewish-American, says the community faces a number of challenges.

"Obviously, discrimination is a challenge, not fitting in," she said.

A more 'life and death' concern, she said, is the difficulty of people of mixed heritage to find bone marrow and blood cord matches.

"There are ever-diminishing odds...there's already few minorities, and there's even fewer mixed minorities," she said.

New generation embraces identity

Kaye said the mixed-race community, especially in the Lower Mainland, is growing, and she sees people embracing the Hapa identity.

"Our kids are born into it. They grow up with it. They're excited about their heritage and they've never had to hide," she said."

"They're comfortable in their own skin … That's beautiful to see."

For more information on events happening during Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Festival, visit explorasian.org or hapapolooza.org.

Listen to the interview on CBC's The Early Edition