May 4, 2021
Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month is celebrated annually in May in the United States to highlight the history, heritage and contributions of Asian Pacific American communities. Asian-Americans and Pacific Islander Americans (AAPI) play a large role in the history of the United States. Contributing to stronger societies as individuals and as a group, their ancestry tracks back to continental Asia (the Middle East, East Asia and Southeast Asia) and the Pacific Islands (Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia) in the United States. The contributions of the AAPI community are vast, from art to infrastructure to politics, and much more.
May is significant because the first Japanese immigrants arrived in the United States on May 7, 1843, and the Transcontinental Railroad was finished on May 10, 1869 by a majority of Chinese immigrant workers. After failed individual resolutions in the House and Senate in 1977, President Jimmy Carter signed a joint resolution the following year that proclaimed the “7-day period beginning on May 4, 1979 as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week.” In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed a bill expanding the week to the full month.
There are many ways you can learn more about and celebrate Asian/Pacific Heritage Month. Whether through art, culture, history or music, find your unique path and rejoice in the diversity of our people and the world.
The history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders is the core of this observance. PBS has a great documentary series about the history of identity, contributions and challenges experienced by Asian–Americans. “Asian–Americans“ is a five-hour film series that delivers a bold, fresh perspective on a history that matters today, more than ever. Told through intimate personal stories, the series casts a new lens on U.S. history and the ongoing role that Asian–Americans have played.
Read up on the history of AAPI communities, both within the states and in their home and/or surrounding countries. The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center has a great list of books to learn about the experiences of Asian Americans. Or check out Erika Lee’s “The Making of Asian America: A History.”
Watch this year’s Academy Award–winning film, “Nomadland,” directed by Chloe Zhao, the first Asian woman to win the top directing prize. Or enjoy “Minari,” a sweeping story that follows a Korean-American family that moves to an Arkansas farm in search of their own American dream features s South Korea’s Youn Yuh-jung in her Academy –Award–winning role for supporting actor.
Other great options include Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho’s Academy Award–winning movie “Parasite”. In addition to other recent amazing Korean movies like “Burning” and “Train to Busan,” there are Hollywood films directed by Asian filmmakers like “Crazy Rich Asians,” “The Farewell,” and “Searching“. To get your fill of Bollywood, Netflix has compiled a comprehensive list and to capture Hollywood’s take, watch “Viceroy House,” “Gandhi” and “Mississippi Masala.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused much fear, frustration, heartache and panic in our communities. Multiple news outlets have reported a rise in anti-Asian racism since last year. You can learn more and support our Asian-American neighbors through the Asian American Alliance an organization empowering Asian–Americans to lead in community and business in Central Indiana. Follow them on Facebook for more information on how to get involved.
The International School of Indiana is the only school in Indiana with full immersion in Mandarin. Each summer they host programs for children.
Consider the diverse cultures of the AAPI community by looking at Asian art. Check out the Smithsonian’s Museum of Asian Art online.
Appreciate a multitude of diverse ethnic backgrounds by exploring the Smithsonian photo gallery A Day in the Life of Asian Pacific America.
Try Origami. COVID-19 has caused the sale of jigsaw puzzles to surge, so why not try the calming Japanese art of paper folding? Visit Origami.me to learn about the history of the most famous paper model, the crane, and make your own.
Let the lights, performers, chorus and orchestra of Madame Butterfly come alive in a brand-new way as you experience the first ever Indianapolis Opera concert event at the Indianapolis Zoo under the covering of the grand Bicentennial Pavilion, celebrating our city’s 200th Birthday, May 14=16. Get your tickets today!
Learn more about how, in 1912, Japan gave several varieties of over 3,000 cherry trees to the U.S. as a symbol of friendship. These trees were planted in Washington, DC, and produce the well-known cherry blossom. According to the National Park Service, in 1965, Japan gave another 3,800 trees. In 2011, about 120 propagates from the surviving 1912 trees were sent back to Japan to retain the genetic lineage.
Research different countries in the Asian-Pacific region and learn about the region’s culinary culture. Many grocery stores carry ingredients common to Asian cuisine. Locally, visit Patel Brothers, “VietHua Food market,” “One World Market,” and Saraga International Grocery Store. Support local restaurants and buy some takeout. If you have been ordering from the same places, consider expanding and trying something new.
In 1978, Taipei, Taiwan became Indianapolis’ first sister city followed by Hangzhou, China in 2008 and Hyderabad, India in 2010. Visit here to learn more about our sister cities and watch this video United Way of Central Indiana put together for our recent travel-themed fundraiser ELEVATE and learn more about Taipei, Taiwan.