By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS
Rafu Staff Writer
The thunder of traditional Maori dance inside the Los Angeles City Council Chambers on May 10 helped to kick off the 2013 celebration of Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa made a brief appearance to praise Angelenos of API heritage and related organizations for their contributions to the greater Southern California community.
“Our city’s greatest strength is found in its diversity,” Villaraigosa said. “Each culture contributes to the rich multiculturalism that makes Los Angeles an international capital. That is why I have made hosting these Heritage Month celebrations a priority as mayor.”
The mayor offered special recognition to three individuals with community awards.
Bruce Saito, executive director of the L.A. Conservation Corps, was presented with the Spirit of Los Angeles Award, for his organization’s efforts to provide at-risk teens and young adults with opportunities for success through job skills training, education and work experience.
“I’m absolutely honored,” Saito said after the ceremony. “This is a great recognition by the mayor and the City of L.A., and I’m extremely appreciative. The citation will be hung on a wall, but what it really represents and honors is the hard work of the L.A. Conservation Corps.”
Calling himself a servant of the public, Saito said his staff is committed to working with all of Los Angeles.
“API Month is not just about hearing from folks like myself, it’s about being inspired, if not to enter public service, then to look at Los Angeles and the greater community, and how we can all continue to make this a better and healthier L.A.,” he explained.
The mayor presented the Dream of Los Angeles Award to Thai cuisine artist and Iron Chef America Jet Tila, who later Tweeted, “Beyond honored, and in such great company!”
The Hope of Los Angeles Award was given to Dennis Davis, general manager of LA 18 KSCI-TV, Los Angeles’ number one Asian-language TV station, bringing news and entertainment to nearly 2.5 million Asian consumers in the nation’s largest Asian market.
Following the ceremony inside City Hall, a lunchtime event with free food and entertainment was held at the South Plaza. Several local restaurants offered samples of their dishes, and a ceremony emceed by ABC7 anchorman David Ono showcased local musical and dance groups.