Participating in the panel discussion were Rachelle Arizmendi of the AAPI Equity Alliance, left, Alexander Kim, founder and principal of Three Kings Public Affairs, Snehal Desai of East West Players, Leslie Ito of the Armory Center for the Arts, and World Trade Center L.A. President Stephen Cheung. (Photo by ELLEN ENDO/Rafu Shimpo)

By ELLEN ENDO, Rafu Shimpo

Consul General of Japan Akira Muto addressed a gathering of Asian American and Pacific Islander communities on May 31 as AAPI Heritage Month ended, urging the development of stronger ties among the various groups in the Los Angeles region by working together and sharing knowledge.

Held inside the newly opened, state-of-the-art Toshizo Watanabe Culinary & Cultural Center, the event featured tastings of food and beverages from Japan. However, Muto noted that “although the items are from Japan, it is similar to food that can be found in other Asian cultures and evokes what binds us together.”

The reception also marked the momentary return of former JACCC Executive Director and CEO Leslie Ito, who now serves as executive director of the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena.

Current JACCC Executive Director and CEO Patricia Wyatt served as moderator for the panel discussion that, in addition to Ito, included Stephen Cheung, president, World Trade Center of L.A.; Snehal Desai, producing artistic director, East West Players; Rachelle Arizmendi, AAPI Equity Alliance board president and mayor of Sierra Madre; and Alexander Kim, founder and principal of Three Kings Public Affairs.

U.S. Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside), L.A. City Councilmember Nithiya Raman, Taipei Economic and Cultural Office Director General Louis M. Huang, and Little Tokyo Community Council Managing Director Kristin Fukushima were also among the speakers.

Huang noted that there are approximately 100,000 Taiwanese immigrants living in Southern California. He also underscored the achievements and contributions of Chinese Americans. “They are a force for good.”

The Taipei diplomat encouraged unity, citing an old saying: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. Yes, we are working together and standing strong,” he said, echoing the theme of the cross-cultural event.

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