In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Stark & Stark’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee are shining a spotlight on some of our AAPI employees.
We sat down with Heather Morgan, a personal injury settlement coordinator in our Marlton office, to discuss her favorite cultural traditions, and what AAPI Heritage Month means to her.
Stark & Stark (S&S): What is your cultural identity?
Heather Morgan (HM): Korean-American.
S&S: What is your favorite cultural tradition?
HM: Korean Dol (or Doljanchi) is the first birthday celebration for a Korean child. “Dol” means birthday and “janchi” means banquet or feast. For the Doljanchi, parents celebrate by having a party with many traditional foods and rituals. This ceremony blesses the child with a prosperous future. The birthday baby wears a “hanbok” (traditional Korean clothing). The highlight of the “Dol” or “Doljanchi” is the “Doljabi”. The “Doljabi” is a fortune telling game where the parents lay out several symbolic items. Some Doljabi items include:
- Pencil: The baby will be a scholar.
- Paint Brush: The baby will be an artist.
- Money: The baby will be wealthy.
- Microphone: The baby will be an entertainer.
- Stethoscope: The baby will be a doctor.
- Gavel: The baby will be a lawyer.
- Computer Mouse: The baby will be a software engineer.
- Golf Ball / Baseball: The baby will be an athlete.
Whichever item the baby picks first predicts what type of person the baby will be when they grow up! I have two boys…ages 8 and 9. We had a Dol celebration for both boys when they turned 1 years old. My older son Kai picked a pencil and my younger son Jace picked a golf ball.
S&S: What does AAPI Heritage Month mean to you?
HM: To me, AAPI Heritage Month is a time to acknowledge, appreciate, respect and celebrate the rich and diverse culture, traditions and contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. It’s a great time to remember our own history and be proud of who we are. I am proud to be a Korean-American. It’s an opportunity to share my culture with the community and highlight all the positive contributions. It’s also a great opportunity to recognize the accomplishments and successes of AAPI individuals.
S&S: How do you think your culture has influenced you in your professional life?
HM: Respect, hard work and family are very important in our Korean culture. My family and I immigrated to the United States when I was 7 years old. We didn’t speak English and had to attend public school and integrate into my local community. My parents instilled within me the values of hard work and discipline. They taught me to respect others and by being disciplined, I could achieve success in my career and life.
S&S: What do you hope to see for the AAPI community in the future?
HM: I hope that we continue to believe that we can make a difference even if progress is slow and to appreciate, respect and celebrate all the different Asian cultures. I believe that we can always learn something from the perspective of others.