April is Celebrate Diversity Month! Over the next few weeks, we’ll recognize and honor our employees’ differences and shine a light on their stories.
Fannie Tao, Structural Engineer II - Baltimore, MD
As an Asian-American, Fannie's culture plays an important role in her identity, especially when it involves honoring her ancestors. Each year, her family celebrates Qingming Jie, or Tomb-Sweeping Day, which is a traditional Chinese festival observed by the Han Chinese of mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, and by the Chitty of Malaysia and Singapore.
Held on April 4 this year, families visit the graves of their deceased family members to clear dirt/vegetation off the tombs, make food offerings, burn incense, and pray.
Currently, there are two celebrations of Qingming Jie within Fannie's family: one in Taiwan with her extended family and one in New Jersey with her immediate and extended family who live there. When Fannie was younger, she had a chance to visit Taiwan in April and was able to participate in all the traditions with her family there. She helped remove weeds, clean off the gravesite, set up the food offerings, and prayed with incense on the mountainside where her grandfather is buried.
"For my ancestors buried in Taiwan, my family members who live there perform all the rituals for Qingming Jie," Fannie says. "Here in America, my grandmother is in an outdoor mausoleum, so there is typically no major cleaning involved as the site is maintained. Instead, we bring her favorite foods, burn incense, and pray. It's an opportunity for us to show respect and remembrance."
As an Asian woman, Fannie is, more often than not, a minority in her field, so celebrating diversity in the workplace makes people like herself and other minorities feel seen and appreciated.
"We want to feel included and welcome in all areas of our life, especially the workplace since we spend a significant part of our life here. To not celebrate diversity in my life would be to not recognize a whole part of me. My culture has a long, rich history of traditions, foods, and beliefs that deserves to be elevated and celebrated."
Even though it may seem like a sad holiday, Qingming Jie gives Fannie and her family an opportunity to gather and do something together to commemorate their deceased loved ones. This is extra special now because the youngest family members are starting to move out of the house, and they see each other less often. Despite the distance, they know that every April will be a time where they can all see each other.