Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
Did you know that every May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month? Why is it observed? What is this year’s theme? How could you celebrate it? Let’s talk about AAPI heritage month and why it is so important.
When Is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month?
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is celebrated in May every year.
AAPI Heritage Month History
AAPI Heritage Month originally started off as Pacific/Asian American Heritage Week in 1979 before eventually becoming Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month in 1992.
Why May? The first 10 days of May were originally chosen to honor the arrival of the first Japanese immigrant in the United States (May 7, 1843) and the contributions of Chinese workers to building the transcontinental railroad, which was completed May 10, 1869.
AAPI Heritage Month 2022 Theme
The 2022 theme for Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month is Advancing Leaders Through Collaboration. It is part of a theme series for 2021-2024 which highlights the Federal Asian Pacific American Council’s (FAPAC) efforts in “Advancing Leaders.”
Purpose-driven service empowers leaders who believe in leading with values, creating a positive culture, offering frequent encouragement and feedback, and putting employees first. When leaders understand they can make a difference by serving others more than themselves, the entire community benefits.
AAPI Heritage Month Facts
For Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, let’s look at some AAPI heritage facts:
- There are nearly 30 million Asian alone-or-in-combination residents in the United States.
- Of that 30 million, 5.2 million are of Chinese, except Taiwanese, descent; 4.6 million are Asian Indian; 4.2 million are Filipino; 2.2 million are Vietnamese; 1.9 million are Korean; and 1.5 million are Japanese.
- There were 1.6 million Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone-or-in-combination residents of the United States as of 2019.
- Of that 1.6 million, 607,010 are Native Hawaiian; 204,640 are Samoan; and 160,773 are Guamanian or Chamorro.
- The earliest known Asian immigrants to America sailed from the Philippines to the coast of California in 1587.
- In the 18th century, Filipino sailors settled just outside New Orleans and created what is thought to be the oldest Asian American settlement in the US.
- The first Japanese immigrant to America was a 14-year-old fisherman named Manjiro who arrived May 7, 1843. He had been picked up by a whaling ship after being stranded on an island for 5 months following a shipwreck.
- Somewhere between 10,000 to 20,000 Chinese immigrants helped build the western portion of the transcontinental railroad, with hundreds, if not thousands, dying in the process.
How to Celebrate AAPI Heritage Month
In general, the best way to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month is to learn more about Asian American and Pacific Islanders, their history, struggles, and successes. There are plenty of ways to do that, from reading books to watching documentaries to eating the foods and learning the history of each dish.
With that in mind, here are a few more specific ways you can celebrate AAPI Heritage Month in 2022:
- Participate in Asian & Pacific Islander American Book Month with the Asian Author Alliance through May 27.
- View the selected 2022 AAPI exhibits online.
- Watch Visions of Okinawa, shedding light on “issues of identity, race and borders by presenting diverse and complicated reflections on the prefecture from mainland filmmakers, native Okinawans and documentarians,” from May 13 – June 3.
- Cook along with Chef Ming Tsai as part of Asia Society’s Virtual Cooking Series on May 18.
- Tune into the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue meeting, “The Quad 2022: Dialogue and Disruption” on May 26.
How to Support Asian American and Pacific Islander Communities
If you would like to help support AAPI communities, here are some organizations you could consider contributing to:
- Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP) “expands and mobilizes resources for AAPI communities to build a more just and equitable society.”
- Asian American Psychological Association is focused on advancing “the mental health and well-being of Asian American communities through research, professional practice, education, and policy.”
- Asian Mental Health Project (AMHP) wants to dispel the belief “that struggling with mental health is a choice or a sign of weakness…and provide resources that are accessible to all.”
- Asian Mental Health Collective (AMHC) aims “to normalize and de-stigmatize mental health within the Asian community.”
- Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) “influences policy, mobilizes communities, and strengthens programs and organizations to improve the health of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders.”
- OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates “is dedicated to advancing the social, political, and economic well-being of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.”
- Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus (Advancing Justice – ALC) seeks to “promote, advance, and represent the legal and civil rights of Asian Pacific Islander communities.”
- Stop AAPI Hate “tracks and responds to incidents of hate, violence, harassment, discrimination, shunning, and child bullying against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States.”
- Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) is a national organization that “protects and promotes the civil rights of Asian Americans.”