Design by Taruni Manam *Highlander should be Islander

Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month

By Ashmita Annamalai & Arushi Choudhury (of ColorForEmpowerment), Edited by Kavya Gurunath & Parker McElroy, Art by Sahithi Lingampalli, Layout by Leesha Pilla, Blogged by Taruni Manam

Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage (AAPI) Month, celebrated during May, pays tribute to the generations of contributions Asians and Pacific Islanders made to American society.

Why May?

The month of May was chosen because the first transcontinental railroad wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts of Chinese immigrants on May 10, 1869. Before that, the first Japanese immigrant came to the United States on May 7, 1843, which are two of many reasons why the month of May is dedicated to Asians and Pacific Islanders. In May of 1979, the President signed a resolution that proposed the first ten days to be Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week, but recently in 1992, Congress turned the week into a month.

Who was behind the creation of Asian Pacific Heritage Month?

Jeanie Jew, a former Capitol Hill staffer, witnessed the Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Week celebrations of 1976 and was concerned about the lack of recognition given to Asian Pacific Americans. And for Jew, the lack of recognition was very personal: her great-grandfather, M.Y. Lee, had come to the U.S. from China in the 1800s and had helped to build the transcontinental railroad. He and his peers had played a key role in American history but had suffered greatly for it. Jew and Ruby Moy, Horton’s Chief of Staff, spearheaded the efforts to gain support for a proclamation and fought for the creation of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month (Moon, 2019).

How has Asian Pacific Heritage Month benefited our society in the past?

Boeing’s first aeronautical engineer, Wong Tsu, was Chinese. The airplane he designed was Boeing’s first financial success, and on top of that, he introduced Boeing China as well. Even local Asian Pacific Americans have developed fields and worked in fisheries of factories that helped build our economy to where it is today. Asian Pacific Americans were active in the civil rights movement, defended passengers facing the Muslim ban at airports, and are currently standing with the Black Lives Matter movement regarding justice and police accountability as well as the Stop Asian Hate movement, which reflects recent hate events and fights back in support of the safety and well-being of the Asian population.

Ways to Celebrate Asian Pacific Heritage Month!

1. Raise awareness by spreading the word on social media.

2. Donate to AAPI organizations, such as the AAPI Civic Engagement Fund.

3. Dive deeper into AAPI heritage sites.

4. Check out AAPI art museums and exhibits, like the Asian Art Museum and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art.

5. Get familiar with Asian history and culture (literature, art, food, clothing, etc.).

6. Try out some of these cool Asian-related activities!

References:

8 Ways to Celebrate Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month With Kids — Connecticut Children’s. (2021, April 16). Connecticut Children’s. https://www.connecticutchildrens.org/diversity-equity-and-inclusion/8-ways-to-celebrate-asian-pacific-american-heritage-month-with-kids/

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2021. (n.d.). Asianpacificheritage.Gov. Retrieved May 14, 2021, from https://asianpacificheritage.gov/

May Is Asian-Pacific Heritage Month: 12 Ways to Enrich Kids’ Appreciation of Asian-Pacific American Culture. (n.d.). U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved May 14, 2021, from https://www2.ed.gov/free/features/asian-pacific-heritage.html

Moon, K. (2019, May 23). How One Woman’s Story Led to the Creation of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Time. https://time.com/5592591/asian-pacific-heritage-month-history/

Wong Tsu. (n.d.). Cnac.Org. Retrieved May 14, 2021, from https://cnac.org/wongtsu01.pdf

Originally published at https://issuu.com.

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