Asian American Pacific Islander Month


Courtesy of AIGA HOU

May commemorates Asian American Pacific Islander month.

Anita Tun, Photojournalist

Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Month is celebrated throughout the nation during May, or Asian Pacific Islander (API) Month is commemorated globally. The month of May was chosen for AAPI month because it celebrates the arrival of the first known Japanese immigrant to the United States on May 7, 1843. Also, May commemorates the completion of the transcontinental railroad made by Chinese laborers on May 10, 1869 (Time).

New York Representative Frank Horton’s staffers, Jeanie Jew and Ruby May pushed for a proclamation to recognize Asian American history. Despite previous attempts from other individuals, Jew and May were successful. President Jimmy Carter in 1979 signed a proclamation that “Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week” will begin on May 4 (Time).

However, in 1990, President George Bush signed a bill that changed “Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week” to “Asian/Pacific American Month.” Although the bill was not passed immediately, the bill was eventually unanimously approved in 1992 (Time).

In 2009, President Barack Obama issued a proclamation that included Pacific Islanders in the month. The proclamation would refer to May as “Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month” (Asian Pacific American Heritage Month). Sarah Hunyh (10) appreciates that presidents have progressively “recognized the AAPI community and gave this community a month to commemorate.”

For 2021, the AAPI month’s theme is “Advancing Leaders Through Purpose-Driven Service,” and this will start the theme series for 2021-2024 of “Advancing Leaders” (FAPAC). 

To celebrate AAPI month, one can attend a virtual event. For instance, on May 19 is the virtual event “Culinasia: The Future of Asian Food in America: Southeast Asia Got Something to Say.” People can hear from celebrity Southeast Asian chefs because while East Asian, Indian, and other Asian cuisines have become more recognized towards the American palate, some Southeast Asian food lags in familiarity, so these chefs pursue to show appreciation towards Southeast Asian food. One can register for this free event through Smithsonian Associates using the link:

Some Asian figures that have made history for the community and world include Grace Lee Boggs. Lee Boggs is a Chinese-American activist and philosopher born in Rhode Island. She is considered to be one of the oldest human rights activists of our time. She has fought for labor rights, environmental justice, and Black power alongside Angela Davis and Malcolm X (HelloGiggles). 

Another rising figure is MLB Angels player Shohei Ohtani, nicknamed “Sho Time.” Ohtani came to the United States from Japan in 2018, but April 4, 2021, was the first game he has ever pitched and hit. His athleticism and versatility in the field shocked the world, becoming a sensation in the baseball world (Insider). He has become a role model for Asians across the globe in the realm of succeeding in American sports, a sector where the representation of Asians tends to lack.

AAPI month celebrates the accomplishments, culture, and history of this community, and this month should be a time to honor individuals and their achievements so they will not be forgotten.