Asian Council of the New York Annual Conference
Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month (#APAHM or #AAPIHM), celebrated throughout May in the United States, is a dedicated time to honor and acknowledge the diverse cultures, contributions, and experiences of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) throughout history. It offers an opportunity to raise awareness about the vibrant AAPI community, its rich heritage, the challenges faced, and its achievements.
The history of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month dates back to the late 1970s. It originated as Asian Pacific Heritage Week, a week-long celebration established by Congress in 1978.
The chosen dates, May 1 to May 10, were significant milestones: the arrival of the first known Japanese immigrants on May 7, 1843, and the completion of the transcontinental railroad by predominantly Chinese immigrant laborers on May 10, 1869. The observance was officially expanded to a month-long celebration in 1992.
This year marks the 120th anniversary of the first official immigration of Koreans to the United States, where 102 Koreans landed in Hawaii to work as laborers on plantations.
AAPI community is not monolithic but encompasses diverse communities originating from East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and the Pacific Islands, such as China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, Fiji, Hawaii, Samoa, Tonga, and many others. Each of these communities brings its unique customs, languages, traditions, and historical experiences, contributing to the diverse fabric of American culture.
Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month provides a platform to showcase the accomplishments and contributions of AAPI individuals in various fields, including arts, literature, science, technology, business, politics, sports, and social activism. However, Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month is not only about celebrating successes. It also brings attention to the challenges and struggles faced by AAPI communities.
It provides a platform to address issues like discrimination, xenophobia, and the unique experiences of different AAPI groups. By promoting dialogue and understanding, it helps dispel stereotypes and misconceptions.
National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago recently conducted a nationally representative survey of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and found nearly half (49%) of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders nationwide have experienced discrimination or unfair treatment that may be illegal. In recent years, the observance of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month has become even more significant.
It serves as an opportunity to address the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes and discrimination, drawing attention to the need for solidarity, support, and advocacy against racism and violence targeting the AAPI community.
Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month reminds us of the importance of embracing diversity, fostering inclusivity, and promoting cultural understanding in our society.
By recognizing and appreciating the contributions and experiences of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, we can work towards creating a more equitable and harmonious society that celebrates the richness of our shared heritage.