Orlando Magic Celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with Virtual Town Hall

by Josh Cohen

ORLANDO - Create loving and nurturing environments.

Understand that silence doesn’t mean a problem doesn’t exist.

Amplify voices and give people a platform to express their concerns and experiences.

Those were among the many sentiments shared collectively by NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum, United States Tennis Association Senior Director Bill Leong and Tavistock Senior Managing Director Rasesh Thakkar during the Orlando Magic’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Walk With Us Town Hall on Wednesday, May 12.

The conversation, featuring rare insights highlighting the Asian American experience in corporate America and unique perspectives concerning the recent #StopAsianHate movement, was moderated by Esu Ma’at, the Magic’s chief equity, diversity and inclusion officer.

Tatum talked about the challenges he faced being biracial while growing up in Brooklyn, New York in the 1970s after his Jamaican-born father moved he and his mother to the United States from Vietnam, his birthplace. Fitting in as a child being Black and Asian was difficult, he says, and it caused him to have some identity issues. He felt ostracized and lost.

It was as a teenager while attending Brooklyn Tech High School, which attracted kids of all different backgrounds and cultures from across the five New York City boroughs, that his confidence grew and his perspectives changed. There, he was introduced to other biracial students, which helped him realize he wasn’t alone.

“For the first time I felt at home and I felt like it was okay to be different and it was actually celebrated at that school to be different,” Tatum said. “That’s when I really started coming into my own.”

A very disturbing statistic was cited during the town hall, and that is that more than 3,700 incidents of Asian hate attacks, according to data, has been reported in the country from March 2020 to February 2021.

Stopping the violence, minimizing bullies and promoting acceptance and compassion requires awareness and role models. It’s critical, Tatum, Leong and Thakkar each brought up during the town hall, for high-profile organizations and community leaders to stand up, speak up and show people what’s right and what’s wrong.

Thakkar specifically mentioned the Magic and how their passion for the community and yearning to inspire others is making a positive impact on so many people in the Central Florida area.

“A concern is that the victims don’t get heard. They don’t get a voice,” he said. “And a great way to address that is through awareness, which is exactly what a program like this (Magic Walk With Us) does. Go Magic. It’s a good thing and the platform that for example you have and the Magic organization has and the DeVos family and Alex (Martins) and everybody on the team (has). The way that you guys put that platform to use for such amazing causes and in such a caring and nurturing way is an incredible example for this community.”

Deepening the sense of belonging among Asians in the workplace and encouraging them to work toward obtaining leadership positions in their respective industries was another important topic addressed during the near one-hour discussion. One of the many great ideas came from Leong, who suggested that innovation sessions could pave the way for more growth and development within the Asian American community.

“Having an innovation session where you ask the question of ‘how might we create a thriving culture of inclusiveness where your voice is heard, valued and celebrated?’” he proposed. “And let them tell us. Let them tell us because a lot of times we try to come up with solutions based on our assumptions.”

Throughout May, the Magic are honoring and celebrating the achievements and contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States. During Magic home games this month, the team highlighted their many accomplishments in the Central Florida community. The Magic also hosted local community leaders at the games including the Asian American Chamber of Commerce of Central Florida and the Indian American Chamber of Commerce Orlando.

The Magic celebrate diversity and embrace its many characteristics and the value it brings to both business and community – understanding what can be accomplished when everyone works together to achieve legendary moments. The Magic are committed to creating an environment in which employees, community partners and fans feel welcome, valued and appreciated.

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