Celebrating Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month
May is a month where flowers bloom and the temperatures begin to rise. In lieu of all of this, many people do not realize the importance the month of May holds for those with Pacific Islander and Asian ancestry and heritage. May signifies Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month or AAPIHM for short.
In 1977, congressional lawmakers proposed bills for the creation of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. After passing a law for a seven-day commemoration in 1978, Congress passed Public Law 102-450 in 1992, which annually designated May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, according to the Asian Culture Center at Indiana University.
The month itself recognizes the influence and contributions of the AAPI, Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities. The reason it falls in May is due to significant historical events such as the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to America in 1843 and the building of the transcontinental railroad, finished in May 1869, which would not have been possible without the strength and perseverance of Chinese laborers.
The U.S Census Bureau states that, “a person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, Vietnam, Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, and/or other Pacific Islands.”
Many people celebrate their heritage and this holiday by learning about AAPI culture. Easy ways to achieve this are visiting local restaurants, researching, supporting AAPI artists, donating to causes, and education. Movies and books that can be involved in the process of celebrating the month are Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zeuner, Minari (a film by Lee Isaac Chung), Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng and so many more.
It is important to celebrate and educate during this month, especially with the rise in AAPI hate crimes. In 2020, the U.S saw a steep rise in AAPI hate crimes dealing with COVID-19. According the NBC, AAPI hate crimes rose 79% in the last year. The best way to combat this is to ally and to continue to educate others.
AAPIHM is important to me because growing up Indian-Malwaian American, I have identified more with my Indian heritage at home. It surrounded me culturally through food and stories my mom had told me about her mother, who is from Bangladesh, which was formerly a part of India. This month, I hope to learn more about myself and to continue to educate myself. I believe it is important to celebrate our heritage no matter where we are from and experience other cultures and become better allies to these communities.