Each May, we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. These 31 days acknowledge the accomplishments and contributions of the the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities to the United States — and the world! — be it through their voices, skills, activism, food, fashion or music.
The month of May marks two particularly significant events for AAPI community in the United States. On May 7, 1843, the first Japanese immigrant — a 14-year-old boy named Manjiro — arrived in America, and on May 10, 1869, the transcontinental railroad, which roughly 20,000 Chinese immigrants worked on, was completed.
More than 100 hundred years later in 1979, President Jimmy Carter signed the first presidential proclamation for Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week. In 1992, Congress passed an amendment that called on the people of the U.S. to observe Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month with “appropriate ceremonies, programs and activities.”
Since then, those who have origins in Asia and the Pacific Islands — specially the East, Southeast, the Indian subcontinent, Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia — have used the month to amplify their voices and their pride.
But AAPI Heritage Month is not just for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders — it's a celebration that every American can partake in. Since many AAPI individuals have been taught to assimilate, it can be difficult for some to take pride in their cultures and truly embrace their identities. But when they know that allies are willing to uplift AAPI stories, that makes it easier for everyone to understand that our differences are what makes us all beautiful and unique.
The recent rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans is just another reason why we all need to show extra support to the community at this time, and continue to do so every day by showing up for our AAPI neighbors, colleagues and friends.
Join us in celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Month by exploring AAPI history, culture and accomplishments.