Celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Alieyah May Ordillano, Staff Writer

From important materials (silk, paper, glass) to historical contributions (rights for sexual assault survivors, YouTube, functional cure for HIV-positive infants) and even up to modern day popular culture (anime, K-pop, PlayStation), the influence of Asian cultures in modern American society is undeniably immense. Yet APA representation and integration in mainstream media and core curriculum have been pushed back in the margins for decades, thus serving the need for a specific month to focus on these. However, if APA culture, representation, and contribution are celebrated all year round, then there would be no need for us to only celebrate one month out of twelve in a year.

Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, later changed to Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Month, is held in the month of May every year. We celebrate Asian/Pacific Americans in the United States and acknowledge their contributions to American history, as  we should all year round, even outside this designated month.

Origin and Brief History

On May 1, 2018, House Bill 3360 was signed into law by Governor Charles D. Baker, recognizing May as AAPI Heritage Month. The month was picked in commemoration of the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States in 1843 and the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, where many of those who built it were Chinese immigrants.

Ways to Celebrate and Support

There are many ways to celebrate Asian Pacific American Month, big or small. Here are some ideas and suggestions:

Note: be sure to conduct thorough research prior to donating to any organizations. 

    • Awareness: Amidst the racism and hate crimes towards Asian Americans coming to surface at the height of a global pandemic, it is crucial to educate ourselves and others. A few resources in case you may want to know more:
    • Food: Try AAPI food, especially those you’ve never tasted before. Not only will you be supporting small API-owned restaurants and businesses, you will also be able to try something new and perhaps find a new favorite!
    • Entertainment/Media: Watch API TV shows and/or movies on your favorite streaming platform. Here are some suggestions:
      • Minari (2020) – This Golden Globe Award-winning movie follows a South Korean family migrating to rural Arkansas, a story that resonates with the immigrant experience in 1980s rural America.
      • The Farewell (2019) – This real-life story of a Chinese-American family gathering to silently bid farewell to their unknowingly dying grandmother will tug on your heartstrings as you follow a story about familial love.
      • Dangal (2016) – The real-life story of Indian wrestlers the Phogat sisters is depicted in this film documentary that is one of the highest grossing Indian or Bollywood movies ever made.
      • Birdshot (2016) – In this social commentary and coming-of-age film, 14-year old Maya shoots an endangered Philippine eagle that sets off a police investigation uncovering darker secrets.
      • Stones (2016) – This short film explores a mythical Hawaiian tale about a couple, who are part of the night-dwelling Mū people, torn between maintaining isolation from humans and embracing them. 
    • Music: Listen to music by API musicians and artists. There are many playlists currently available on multiple platforms. Here’s a playlist from Spotify to get you started.
    • Literature: Reading books from API authors is a great means to learn about API culture and experience secondhand, fiction or nonfiction. Asian American booktuber withcindy is also currently hosting an Asian Readathon so you can join other people reading books from Asian authors. Here are some recommendations:
  • Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong – Poet and essayist Hong discusses racial consciousness in modern America in this memoir as the daughter of Korean immigrants through her upbringing and “minor feelings.”
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Housseini – An unlikely friendship forms between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant in the midst of Afghanistan’s devastating historical events unfolding, serving a story of family, love, and friendship.
  • Know My Name by Chanel Miller – The formerly anonymous sexual assault victim in the Brock Allen Turner case “Emily Doe” speaks out in this debut memoir that will change the way we think about sexual assault.
  • On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong – This story is told through letters by a son to his illiterate mother, and it explores him uncovering a family’s history stemming from Vietnam that leads up to an unforgettable revelation.
  • Island of Shattered Dreams by Chantal T. Spitz – This first ever novel by an indigenous Tahitian writer depicts a Tahitian family and a doomed love story as they live through World War II and the colonization of their land.
  • Shopping: Similar to buying food, shopping from small API-owned websites and businesses is a great way to support them. This article from ET shows Asian-founded brands you can buy online or this article from Good Housekeeping for 40+ Asian-owned businesses with different products to shop.

In the face of the current events and circumstances, it’s important we educate ourselves and support people of color and racial minorities. These are just some ideas, but there are certainly more ways to celebrate Asian and Pacific Islander racial identity and culture, and appreciating and respecting people in these groups is a good first step.