ABC13 We Belong celebrates AAPI Month, MECA Houston, and a local Dancing with the Stars

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Monday, June 12, 2023
ABC13 We Belong celebrates locals making a difference
ABC13 We Belong spoke to Executive Assistant Chief Ban Tien, MECA curator Lizbeth Ortiz, Plant Project owner Bree Iman Clarke and danced at DWTS Gala.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- ABC13 We Belong celebrates all the communities that make the greater Houston region the most diverse in the country. On this episode, we celebrate AAPI Heritage with an in-depth profile of the highest ranked Asian American member of the Houston Police Department, including a bit of Dancing with the Stars, Houston style.

Every May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, where we celebrate AAPI heritage that's woven into the fabric of our country. This year, the historic promotion of Executive Assistant Chief Ban Tien is worthy of extra attention. Chief Tien immigrated to Houston with his family when he was 6 years old and joined the Army right out of high school.

In 1997, he joined the Houston Police Department, and never left. In April 2023, Tien became not only the highest ranking, but also the first Asian American Executive Assistant Chief on the force.

"I'm extremely proud, proud not for myself, but the fact that it opened up, you know, a lot of doors, a lot of doors for perhaps, you know, immigrant kids coming in," Tien said. You can watch Tien's story on ABC 13 Localish.

Just North of downtown Houston, a historic building houses art programs for the next generation of artists. Including a fun annual festival that everyone needs to know about.

Lizbeth Ortiz shared with ABC13 We Belong about the efforts of Multicultural Education and Counseling Through the Arts (MECA).

"MECA has been a great supporter of the arts and a big influence in my life," she said. Ortiz was first introduced to MECA in 1993 when she was a junior in High School.

"I painted the murals in the restrooms downstairs," said Ortiz. Now, she is the curator for MECA.

The organization provides after school programs, art classes and in school programs. "(We're) targeting urban youth that don't have the means or benefits to take a class at an institution that is more expensive," said Ortiz.

Ortiz is passionate about healing through art and finds inspiration from very well know Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo.

"Frida used her art to heal and to really work through a lot of things in life," she said, noting that MECA's aim is to provide a safe space for young artists to express themselves.

Ortiz even co-founded the Frida Festival to help bring the Houston community together to celebrate and learn through the arts.

"I want to make Houston the Frida fan destination," Ortiz said, brimming with pride.

This episode also features a unique destination for plant lovers. In the spirit of bringing the community together, Bree Iman Clarke founded the Plant Project, where her store is more than just a place to shop.

"It's a plant shop where plants and community both grow," said Clarke.

While growing up, Clark says she never saw black women own a plant store. "This is the first black woman owned plant shop in Texas," she said. Clark wants to inspire generations of entrepreneurs who come from diverse backgrounds.

"I wanted to show that you can have ownership of something that (you) create with your hands, create with your heart, and grow," said Clarke.

The Plant Project has become a hub for small community gatherings with the hope of bringing individuals together and start having important conversations.

To Clark, every day is Earth Day is every day. However, for Earth Month, she hosted a succulent bar to gather visitors around a table. It allowed shoppers to plant something unique while enjoying wine and hors d'oeuvres.

"I don't care if I sell a single plant," said Clark. "If I show that community is able to connect to each other and have those conversations that lead to more conversations, (that's what's important.)"

After all, says Cleark, taking care of Mother Earth means we must first work together and start the conversation.

Finally, on ABC13 We Belong, a local fun twist on the ABC hit, Dancing with the Stars. For a decade now, Asian Pacific American Heritage Association (APAHA) has featured a local DWTS edition as part of its annual gala. This year was no exception.

Among local celebrities who spent two months practicing how to dance and performing for a crowd, were ABC13's Race & Cultural Reporter Rosie Nguyen, and ESPN producer Howard Chen. Rosie performed a tango, and Howard did a hip-hop dance.

APAHA promotes Asian American art and community events throughout the year. But the dancing event, is always a crowd favorite. Watch the segment as we cheered on Rosie!!