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Title: County Recognizes 2018 Baltimore County Asian American Excellence Awardees

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Baltimore County officials recognized the five recipients of the 2018 Baltimore County Asian American Excellence Award on Wednesday evening at a ceremony at the Owings Mills branch of the Baltimore County Public Library.  The annual recognition event is held in May, which is designated Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Chief of Staff Don Mohler presented the awards as a representative of Acting Baltimore County Executive Fred Homan.

This award is presented to individuals whose life work has successfully contributed to the socioeconomic vitality of the greater Baltimore region, and whose efforts inspire others to strive for success and to celebrate diversity and achievement.

The 2018 Awardees are:

Bel Leong-Hong is a mathematician and computer scientist. She worked at the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) for 30 years where she held numerous high-level posts: Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence; Principal Deputy Director of the Defense Security Service; and Deputy Commander of the Joint Inter-operability and Engineering. She was appointed the first Department of Defense Data-Wide Administrator and created the DOD  Center of Software Excellence in Defense Information Systems Agency.  

Sudip Patel is a successful entrepreneur and community benefactor. He owns 15 Dunkin' Donuts franchises between Baltimore and Washington D.C., employing more than 150 workers. He is a longtime community supporter, helping local schools and non-profits raise funds.

Marianne Brackney is a highly regarded community advocate. She was the lead liaison for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) issues for the Social Security Agency. Marianne was instrumental on the White House Initiative on APPIs Interagency Implementation Team and has made significant contributions in upgrading Social Security data for Asian and Pacific Islander language access and preferences.

Ravilal Sunar, an entrepreneur and father of four children, migrated from Nepal in 1996. Growing up in the Himalayan foothills, he fought against caste-based social injustice and ethnic discrimination for equity and human dignity. As a member of the Baltimore Association of Nepalese in America, he helped purchase the first Nepali Community Resource Center in Baltimore County. Similarly, as a Trustee of Nepali American Culture Center of Baltimore, he spearheaded the campaign to acquire the center’s 31-acre property in 2018.

Rosa Cruz Penafiel, an expert in economic and community development, is the Vice President of Communications for the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation (AAEDC). She supervised the marketing campaign of AAEDC’s VOLT Fund, a state-backed loan program funded with casino revenues to benefit small, minority, women and veteran-owned businesses. Since 2013, AAEDC has approved financing totaling $10.7 million, and is credited with retaining 378 jobs, creating 338 jobs, and spurring capital investment of almost $29 million.

About Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

May is designated nationally as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, celebrating the achievements and contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States. The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum are among the many organizations paying tribute to the generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders who have enriched America’s history and are instrumental in its future success.

In June 1977, Representatives Frank Horton of New York and Norman Y. Mineta of California introduced a House resolution to proclaim the first ten days of May as Asian-Pacific Heritage week. The following month, Senators Daniel K. Inouye and Spark Matsunaga from Hawaii introduced a similar bill in the Senate. Both were passed and on October 5, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a Joint Resolution designating the annual celebration. In 1990, President George H. W. Bush signed a bill passed by Congress to extend the week-long celebration to a full month. In 1992, the official designation of May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month was signed into law.

According to the Asian American Heritage Month website, May was selected to recognize the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869, which was constructed primarily by Chinese immigrants.

View photos from Wednesday evening's event.

Revised September 11, 2017