RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- ABC11 is celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month throughout May, shining a spotlight on unique stories and people in the community including Pan Asian Voice and Experiences of North Carolina or PAVENC.
PAVENC is a nonpartisan, volunteer-led storytelling initiative amplifying Asian American voices across the state for collaboration and connection.
Tina Firesheets and Christie Sopher co-founded PAVENC in 2021 in response to growing violence against Asians not only across North Carolina but across the country.
"It has always been to raise awareness and visibility of AAPI'S in our state," Firesheets explained. "And then the shooting on the spas in Atlanta happened. And, we were even more strongly moved to do something that would, you know, draw awareness and raise visibility among AAPI's through storytelling, and also connect us."
NC Artist Raman Bhardwaj was one of the first to feature his story about moving to Greensboro in 2018 from India. Bhardwaj believes the platform helped him gain valuable exposure and build a network in the state. Today, his work is featured across North Carolina.
Since it launched, dozens have shared their personal stories about different experiences growing up Asian American in North Carolina or the path that led to living in the south.
According to AAPIVote, the population of AAPIs in North Carolina in 2022 was 441,478 with a 67% population growth rate since 2010.
"Oftentimes when folks here think of Asians, they tend to think immigrants, refugees," Firesheets said. "And, often we are the only ones like us in a professional setting, whether it's a meeting or leadership meeting or a chamber meeting, those networking types of events. And, so, we just really wanted to just make ourselves, our stories more visible. We felt making this a storytelling initiative would be an impactful way of sharing our experiences with others."
Firesheets says the exposure and recognition PAVENC and other organizations receive during AAPI Heritage Month is important to expand year-round awareness.
"Organizations like ours can serve as a bridge. And, as folks to console, and to get ideas and networking from," Firesheets said.