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May 29, 2024 | Insights

Celebrating Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month was established to recognize and celebrate the contributions, achievements, and diverse cultures of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders in the United States. It originated from a series of events and movements advocating for greater recognition and representation of AAPI communities in American society.

The origins of AAPI Heritage Month can be traced back to the 1970s. In 1977, Representatives Frank Horton of New York and Norman Y. Mineta of California introduced a resolution in Congress to proclaim the first ten days of May as Asian-Pacific Heritage Week. This timing was chosen to commemorate the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States on May 7, 1843, and the contributions of Chinese immigrants to the building of the transcontinental railroad, completed on May 10, 1869.

In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed a bill passed by Congress to expand Asian-Pacific Heritage Week to a month-long celebration, officially designating May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. The term “Asian Pacific American” was later expanded to “Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander” to be more inclusive of the diverse communities within the AAPI umbrella.

AAPI Heritage Month serves as an opportunity to raise awareness about the history, experiences, and contributions of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders, as well as to celebrate their rich cultural heritage. This month provides a platform for education, advocacy, and community-building, promoting greater understanding and appreciation of AAPI identities and experiences in the United States.

Celebrating Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is a wonderful way to recognize the contributions, cultures, and histories of these diverse communities. Here are some ideas for how you can celebrate:

1. Educate Yourself: Take the time to learn about the history and experiences of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders in the United States. Read books, watch documentaries, or attend lectures and events that focus on AAPI history and culture.

2. Support AAPI-Owned Businesses: Explore and patronize businesses owned by Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders in your community. This could include restaurants, shops, or service providers.

3. Attend Cultural Events: Look for cultural events, performances, or exhibitions in your area that celebrate AAPI heritage. This could include dance performances, art shows, film screenings, or food festivals.

4. Volunteer with AAPI Organizations: Many organizations dedicated to supporting the AAPI community could use volunteers. Consider offering your time and skills to support their initiatives and events.

5. Share AAPI Stories: Use your platform on social media or in your community to share stories and experiences of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders. Amplify voices that are often underrepresented or marginalized.

6. Host a Potluck or Cultural Exchange: Organize a potluck or cultural exchange where friends and family can share dishes, stories, and traditions from various Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander cultures.

7. Attend Workshops or Lectures: Look for workshops or lectures that focus on issues relevant to the AAPI community, such as immigration, social justice, or cultural identity.

8. Support AAPI Artists and Performers: Attend concerts, art exhibitions, or theater performances by AAPI artists and performers. Show your support for their work and talent.

9. Advocate for AAPI Rights: Get involved in advocacy efforts to support the rights and well-being of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders. This could include supporting policies that address discrimination, hate crimes, or immigration reform.

10. Celebrate Diversity: Recognize and celebrate the diversity within the AAPI community. Explore the different cultures, languages, and traditions represented within Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities.

Remember that celebrating AAPI Heritage Month is not just about one month of recognition but about fostering understanding, appreciation, and solidarity throughout the year.