As SBN’s first Asian American Executive Director, my journey and connection to sustainability is not unlike that of many Asian Americans in our region and nationwide – it’s rooted in environmental conservation, community resilience, and financial security.
I was born in Guyana, where I spent my early years living with my extended family in a small rural community. My father carved spoons out of shells from the coconut tree in our backyard, my grandfather repurposed zinc from our roof into kitchen utensils, and my grandmother and mother collected water from our rain barrel to hand wash clothing. They also shared these items – fruits from their small farm, repurposed tools, and basic resources such as water – with their neighbors. When we moved from Guyana to Brooklyn, New York, my family continued many of these traditions, making household essentials that we could have bought from a store out of the materials we already had. In this way, without being conscious of it, sustainability was instilled in my psyche from an early age. I saw that sustainability was inextricably tied with financial security, environmental conservation, and community resilience.
Experiences like mine are not unique. Households all across the country continue similar traditions. Sustainability is a lived practice and the experiences of the Asian American community exemplify this.
The community continues to be a driving force in our local economy, from Ellen Yin, restaurateur for High Street Hospitality Group and a trailblazer in the farm to table movement, who continues to support the food industry to survive the pandemic to the way that Peicha Chang, owner of Vault + Vine, supports local farmers through her use of seasonal and local flowers.
I’m an example that Asian Americans are not a monolith. Whether we are from Bangladesh, Vietnam, Myanmar, Timor Leste, or from any of the Asian diasporic communities, we all represent the diverse backgrounds that collectively contribute to the Asian American experience today.
Regardless of their specific countries of origin, SBN continues to support local values driven independent businesses in the Asian American community throughout our region. I’m proud to be SBN’s first Asian American Executive Director and even prouder of the way in which our organization is supporting diverse communities across our region. That said, we still have a great deal of work to do. We must continue to meet our unique moment amid the COVID-19 epidemic and other challenges to celebrate, support, and uplift our communities. I invite you to take a look at our list of Asian owned and operated businesses in the region that practice a triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit and join us in supporting them.
– Devi Ramkissoon, Executive Director
Discover more Asian American and Pacific Islander owned businesses within SBN’s network here.
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