In British-Asian history, this September represents an important moment as the first ever ESEA Heritage Month in the U.K. Hosted by the British East and South East Asia Network [besea.n) it is an opportunity to give a platform to a community that often hasn’t had a public voice. It is a chance for individuals from these communities to share their stories, experiences and culture on a national level with each other and the wider community they belong to.
There are a wealth of different events that will take place up and down the country, a large portion of these are virtual due to the ongoing pandemic, the majority are also free, making them accessible to everyone. It really celebrates the vast array of culture, food and art from the diverse range of countries that make up southeast Asia. Too often we tend to refer to the geographical area as a whole, but they are actually 11 separate countries that are all unique in their heritage, religions, languages and cultures.
Besea.n is a grassroots non-profit, founded by six women during the 2020 coronavirus lockdowns, to create space and network for people in the community to be heard and seen. They want to tackle discrimination, promote positive representation and importantly provide a community for ESEA folks. In a piece written for one of the partners of Heritage Month, online feminist publication gal-dem, one of the founders Mai-Ahn Peterson writes:
If there’s anything we at besea.n have learned in life so far, it’s that cultural identity is so uniquely personal and fluid that there is simply no way any single organisation or individual can speak on behalf of a community. While members of the East and South East Asian (ESEA) community in the UK share many cultural traits, practices and the occasional in-joke, all of our experiences are uniquely our own – and therein lies their beauty.