When Real Salt Lake takes the pitch this weekend against Austin FC more than what happens on the field will be remembered as the club hosts its first-ever Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage night, highlighting and honoring members of the AAPI community in the state of Utah.
But what is AAPI and why does it matter to Real Salt Lake and the greater soccer fan base as a whole?
The anagram AAPI is used to describe the fast-growing population of more than 23 million individuals living in the United States, representative of more than 50 ethnic groups and 40 countries. The United States census describes Asian American Pacific Islander to include “all people of Asian, Asian American or Pacific Islander ancestry who trace their origins to the countries, states, jurisdictions and/or the diasporic communities of these geographic regions.”
But as conversations and numbers around the coronavirus have risen, so has the amount of hate speech and violence against members of this community, drawing attention to a population long left out of discussions of social equity, economic disparity and politics.
In May the country celebrated its annual Asian American Pacific Islander Month, bringing further attention to the population and providing an opportunity to learn about this diverse and unique community.
In Utah the AAPI population has more than doubled since 2000, growing at a rate of 128 percent, making it one of the fastest growing communities in the state. Moreover, Utah has the highest percentage of Pacific Islanders in the contiguous United States.
And of the more than 38,000 Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders living in Utah, more than 85 percent reside in Salt Lake and Utah county. Meanwhile, Salt Lake City and West Valley City have two highest populations of Tongans in the entire country.
In recognition of this growing population, Governor Spencer J. Cox declared August Utah Pacific Island Heritage Month. And outside of RSL AAPI Night there are a host of activities and events across the state that can be seen by visiting here.
In much the same way, Real Salt Lake recognizes and praises its Asian American Pacific Islander fan base and sees Saturday’s match as a way to further support and honor them. As a result, a portion of the proceeds from the ticket sales will be donated to Manuia (MONU-wee-uh) Group, a non-profit that aims to provide students from the Pacific Islands opportunities and resources to achieve higher education.
For those interested in learning more about the AAPI community here is a list of resources.
To further support the Utah AAPI community, consider visiting one of these businesses, or discover your own.