2011 will be remembered as a year of voices.

The revolutions in Syria, Libya, Tunisia and Egypt had the world riveted. The Occupy Wall Street protests showed corporate powers that people won’t stand for corruption and inequality.

Every individual wants their existence validated – to be shown they matter; that they have a voice and will be heard.

I visited family in Vietnam for the first time in 1993 when a minor incident stuck with me and ultimately shaped my later years.

My grandfather didn’t seem to like me. In fact, he said one sentence to me the entire month-long trip: “You look like your father.” He kept asking about my brothers, who were not on the trip with us. I was hurt, crying and whimpering to my parents and aunts, asking why grandpa or “ong noi” ignored me. I later learned he viewed girls as insignificant so he didn’t bother to get to know me. This point-of-view stayed with me throughout my life. I’m naturally a stubborn and rebellious person. If I’m told I can’t go a certain direction, it’s guaranteed I’ll head that way. Add to that, being viewed as insignificant and you can imagine how hard I’d fight to think the reverse. Add thousands to millions more people who are treated inferior and ultimately, a profound change will occur.

For Asian Americans, it has also been a year calling for recognition. Census numbers proved what APAs already knew – that we’re fast-growing and influential on the national stage. Groups across the country utilized the Census numbers to create change, cultivate more support for the Asian American community, and leverage more influence.

A recent study suggested Asian Americans are the most bullied group, above all other racial groups. Advocates and young people across the country are fighting back now, calling for more awareness and understanding.

And it’s never too late. Universities and colleges locally and nation-wide awarded honorary degrees to former Japanese American students, who during World War II, were forced from their communities and interned in camps.

Recently, the Philippine government recognized slain Seattle activists Gene Viernes and Silme Domingo in its Wall of Martyrs. A first-hand account of the ceremony and its impact three decades after the killings, are shared here.

Also this year, community groups commemorated the 150th anniversary of the little-known but violent Chinese expulsion from the Puget Sound area in the 1880s.

And in March, a racist rant by a UCLA student catapulted the Asian American digital voice to new heights, proving APAs are a force in the Internet age.

It’s been an amazing year to observe Asian American unity and pride despite sometimes being ignored or abused. Today, I remember my grandfather’s words with pride, however brief it may have been. I do look like my father. That’s how I recognize myself.

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