DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — May is Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage month. One South Florida woman is the keeper of Japanese history, art, and culture in Palm Beach County.
Wendy Lo is the curator of education at the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach.
“Me and my brother were born here in the United States and grew up in Miami. So, we’re the first generation here,” said Lo.
Her parents are Chinese immigrants, and she loves teaching Asian culture today. But, it didn’t start that way.
“I always wanted to be non-Asian,” said Lo.
According to Lo, growing up in Miami, where the majority population is Latino, there wasn’t much representation of Asians in South Florida. Lo said she experienced adversities at school for being Asian.
“There were a lot of people calling you names. From ‘China,’ ‘Chino,’ making the slanty eye,” said Lo.
Lo said she wanted to change her look to fit in.
“I wanted to have blonde hair and blue eyes because everyone was accepting of people not of other ethnicities,” said Lo. “But, when I went through high school and college, I found myself. I started to become very proud of my heritage.”
That new love led her to study international business with a focus on Japan and Asia at Florida International University. She then participated in the Japan exchange teaching program.
“It was a different dynamic, where I blended in but wasn’t fully Japanese, but because of my Chinese heritage, I understood the culture and customs a lot easier,” said Lo.
She taught English to elementary and middle school students for three years.
“Teaching in Japan kind of made me fall in love with education,” said Lo.
She later got her master's in education and landed an internship here at the Morikami Museum and then hired as a curator in 2009. Wendy lectures and leads outreach programs throughout Palm Beach county and South Florida.
“Asian immigrants and subsequent generations born into the U.S. have played an integral role in building this nation in all facets of life,” said Lo during a recent presentation.
Currently, the museum has an exhibit called ‘Beyond the Wall: Visions of the Asian Experience in America.’
“There has been such a rise of xenophobia and Asian hate crimes; I think it is very important to say, ‘hey, we Asians are here. We should be seen, and let’s have a conversation,” said Lo.
It's a conversation Wendy Lo hopes will create a better inclusive environment in our community.