3 Reasons Why We Should Celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Sometimes referred to as Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, APAH Month celebrates the many contributions and sacrifices of generations of Asian and Pacific Americans throughout the history of the United States. How did APAH Month come to be, and why should we celebrate it?
The initiative to establish an observance for Asian/Pacific American communities began in 1977. U.S. Rep Frank Horton and Senator Daniel Inouye both introduced resolutions to designate a week in early May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week. They chose the month of May because the first Japanese emigrated to the U.S. in May 1843. And May 1869 brought the completion of the transcontinental railroad—a major feat made possible by thousands of Chinese laborers.
Neither resolution passed, so a new, revised resolution was introduced the following year. That resolution did pass, and President Jimmy Carter signed it into law in October 1978.
In 1990, Congress passed a new law to expand the commemoration to a month for that year. Two years later, Congress passed another law to annually designate May as APAH Month, recognizing that “Asian and Pacific Americans have contributed significantly to the development of the arts, sciences, government, military, commerce, and education in the United States.”
The umbrella term “Asian/Pacific” is a broad one that includes the entire Asian continent as well as the Pacific Islands of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. APAH Month seeks to honor the stories, contributions, and experiences of Asian and Asian American individuals from these communities.
So why should we all celebrate APAH Month, regardless of our own heritage?
Here are three reasons:
1. It acknowledges the history that we share as a country.
The U.S. has been profoundly shaped—past and present—by diverse groups of cultures and communities. The history of those groups, including that of Asian/Pacific Americans, is an integral part of the history of our country.
To learn more, watch "Asian Americans", a five-part documentary on PBS.
2. It celebrates the beauty in diversity.
APAH moves beyond acknowledging differences in culture and traditions to celebrating them. The vibrant traditions and culture of Asian/Pacific Americans have enriched the cultural landscape in America in countless ways.
This month, explore Asian influences in music, art, and cuisine by trying a new Asian restaurant, visiting an Asian art museum or exhibit, or attending a live or virtual event. Find a great list of events in the DFW area, or plan a trip to the Asia Society Texas Center in Houston.
3. It honors the importance of our stories.
Stories of real people can challenge and inspire us, no matter what our age or background. As we learn about Asian/Pacific Americans who have faced hardship and adversity with courage, strength, and perseverance, we are encouraged to do the same. And as we honor the achievements of brave men and women, we see that we, too, can make a difference in our world.
Share some of these stories with the next generation through books like this one: "Asian-Americans Who Inspire Us" by Analiza Quiroz Wolf.
However you choose to observe APAH Month, you can use the ideas above as inspiration to honor and celebrate Asian Pacific American heritage throughout the year.