During the whole month of May is taken to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI for short). This is to create awareness and to recognize the contributions and influence of Asian Americans to the history, culture, and achievements of United States. It also celebrates the cultural variety and gives the community an opportunity to raise awareness about the challenges they face.
Asians had contributed in all aspects to history such as: science, medicine, literature, art, sports, recreation, politics, activism, and even law. Kamala Harris became the first Asian American Vice President of United States on 2020. On the film industry, Asian people, stories, and traditions have become more visible. In 2019, the Korean movie Parasite won the Academy Award for Best Picture and in 2021, the Marvel Cinematic Universe introduced Shang Chi, the first Asian Superhero, with the movie Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
Each year, there is a chosen theme and this 2022 it is “Advancing Leaders Through Collaboration”. The Federal Asian Pacific American Council chose this theme because it encourages the prioritization of collabs, development, diversity, transparency and inclusion of the community through leadership.
The date chosen to celebrate the AAPI Month is important because it commemorates the arrival of the first Japanese people to the United States. It also commemorates the completion of the transcontinental railroad in which many Chinese workers contributed.
And how the AAPI Heritage Month came to be? The efforts to make it official started around the 1970s and took over 10 years to make it a whole month celebration. The New York representative Frank Horton proposed the celebration to make it the first 10 days of May, but the project didn’t pass. The Hawaii Senator then made a similar request that also didn’t pass. Horton then introduced a new resolution to the president, asking for a week during the first 10 days of May. This project passed and in 1978, the President Jimmy Carter made official the Asian/Pacific American Week. In 1990, the Congress decided to expand it to the whole month and in 1992 the administration of George W. Bush made it a law to celebrate it the whole month. In 2009 the celebration was renamed as the AAPI HERITAGE MONTH.
Asians ARE NOT perpetual foreigners in America. The first Asians migrated over 15,000 years ago through the Bering land bridge that was between Asia and North America.
The Filipinos arrived during the 16th century escaping from forced labor and enslavement. In 1898, the Republic of Philippines became a US territory, which allowed them to immigrate to the US to work in the agriculture industry and to study.
On the 1850s, during the Gold Rush, Asians arrived to the West Coast to work on gold mines, factories, and the transcontinental railroad. Young Southern Chinese men were recruited to work in America and played a key role in the development of the country. In 1882, with the Chinese Exclusion Act, Chinese people were restricted for about 60 years, as the Americans complained that they were taking their jobs. As an effect of this act, they were short on workers and this is when the Koreans, Japanese, and Indians started to arrive.
In the 1970s, South Asians (from Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos), got to the US fleeing from war.
Asians are a great part of the United States today. In fact, according to the 2020 census, there are 24 million people who fall under the AAPI community. They are the fastest growing racial group, so this is why everyone should celebrate AAPI month. This community faces xenophobia daily and since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has gotten worse.
So how can you celebrate and create awareness while being respectful? There are many things you can do. The Library of Congress along with different organizations created a site where you can immerse yourself in the AAPI culture. They created a Care Package that has different entertainment items such as poems, meditations, songs, and films by AAPI members. They also host different events daily that you can join. Visit them at ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH.
You can watch documentaries about AAPI History. Netflix launched a collection called Our Roots, Our Stories and it highlights the work of AAPI stars. PBS also launched a documentary titled Asian Americans and it’s composed of 5 episodes about Asian Americans history.
You can listen to podcast by AAPI members. There’s everything out there, from beauty to food talk. If you’re into the food industry, you should listen DUDES BEHIND THE FOODS, hosted by David So and Tim Chantarangsu. They discuss about restaurants they visit, their experiences with certain foods, what places to visit, and everything food related. If your someone who loves shopping, you should listen to ADD TO CART WITH KULAP VILAYSACK AND SUCHIN PAK, these two talk about products you might have added into your wishlist and if they are worth it or not. From beauty and health products to fashion items, they explore it all. If you want to research more about Asian Americans, then you should listen to ASIAN ENOUGH, where the hosts discuss their experiences as Asian Americans. Here you’ll find personal experiences, culture, and identity.
You can support AAPI writers by buying their books. Some good recommendations are: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, a story of a poor Korean immigrant family who fight to control their destiny in Japan of the 20th century. Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen from the author Lili’uokalani is the portrait of a girl who grew up to become the first and only queen of Hawaii and how she fought for the rights of her people.
A fun way to support the AAPI community is to learn how to pronounce Asian names. If someone miss pronounce your name, you get mad, right? Then Asians deserve that pleasure of having their name pronounced correctly too. Ask them how do you pronounce it, learn it and embrace it, teach others too. Asians will be very happy about it.
Other ways to support and create awareness is to donate to AAPI organizations such as Red Canary Song which helps Asian and migrant sex workers, Kahumana Organic Farms which helps homeless families in Hawaii that has been displaced from their land to make room for the military and tourists, and Heart of Dinner which provides food to the AAPI elders. You can shop from AAPI-owned small businesses, help stop the AAPI hate and violence, and teach children about diversity and racism.
AAPI are an important part of our history and we should support them and let their voiced be heard. They are not eternal foreigners, they are an essential part of our country and they should be treated as such.