Kamala Harris. Anna May Wong. Dr. Peter Tsai. Jackie Chan. Tiger Woods. Margaret Cho.
What do all of those individuals listed have in common? A hint: it’s where they come from.
That’s right. All of those people are among the over 24 million Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders that are celebrated each year in May during Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month. In 1992, then-President George H.W. Bush designed the month of May to honoring the AAPI individuals in our country and celebrating their contributions to our lives.
Without members of the AANHPI community, we would not have…
- N95 respirator masks to keep particles out of our airways
- The star compass to help navigators visualize the horizon in their travels
- Our current Vice President of the United States
- Oral contraception
- Current understanding of how HIV travels to inform our input into COVID19
- USB technology to keep our electronics connected
- YouTube to keep us full of information and cat videos
- Zoom to keep us connected to each other when distances are too great
- The Joy Luck Club to remind us of the importance of tradition and heritage
Though this is far from an exhaustive list and is quite literally a fraction of the impact of the brilliance of the AANHPI population, it bears noting how many things exist simply thanks to our fellow AANHPI Americans that we take for granted every day.
It is important to celebrate AANHPI Heritage Month for many reasons, and chiefly among them is the reminder that their history and heritage tells a similar story. American Asian Pacific Islanders are among the Native population here in this country – in fact, according to “the Bering Land Bridge Theory, Asians first migrated to what is now known as North America over 15,000 years ago through a land bride between Asia and North America.” This makes their roots here deeper than many consider, and the migration of AANHPI people to this country continues today, making them the fastest growing racial group in the United States.
Because their existence in this country has been fraught with xenophobia, racism, and violence – especially in the current COVID-19 pandemic over the origins of the virus – it is incredibly important to recognize and honor the AANHPI community. This year especially, AANHPI Heritage Month also commemorates the victims of the 2021 spa shootings, as well as other AANHPI individuals who have lost their lives to anti-Asian violence both during the pandemic and throughout history. This has led the Federal Asian Pacific American Council (FAPAC) to give this year’s celebration the theme of “Advancing Leaders Through Collaboration.” This measure seeks to encourage all governments – local, state, and federal – to “prioritize collaboration, development, diversity, transparency, and inclusion through the leadership training of AANHPI people.” By doing this, leaders can shine a light on the importance and contributions of AANHPI leaders across the country and help to elevate the AANHPI community through collaboration with others. This is key to combat hate and racism and showcase AANHPI leaders, innovators, and changemakers – past, present, and future.
How can you celebrate and honor Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders this month and beyond? We have some ideas!
- Watch a documentary about AANHPI history. Many exist on streaming services across the board, but a good one to start with is Asian Americans on PBS.
- Visit an AANHPI museum in your area. May we recommend the National Museum of Asian Art, which includes various online galleries, videos, and other interactive ways to experience the beauty of Asian contributions to the world of art.
- Listen to podcasts featuring AANHPI creators, like Dudes Behind the Foods.
- Shop AANHPI-owned stores, such as Femme Fire Books, Pink Moon, A Good Used Book, Paper Project, Bean and Bean, Tea Drops, and BlueLand among others.
- Dine at your favorite local AANHPI restaurants. The pandemic has disproportionately affected Asian restaurants, so what better way to celebrate the heritage that has brought us such amazing dishes like traditional dumplings, Kung Pao chicken, and Stir Fry (in all of its glorious iterations) than by ordering up some takeout from your local faves?
- Learn local AANHPI history. Every city in this country has some form of AANHPI history, and you can find out more through your local library.
- Read a book from this list: https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/aapi/
- Reach out to AANHPI leaders in your community and learn how you can support them.
This is, by far, not a complete list of all of the ways you can choose to honor and celebrate Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders Month both this month and beyond. VANTAGE Aging is honored to serve local aging AANHPI community members, and we value our partnership with ASIA, Inc – the largest health and human services agency serving the AAPI community in Northeast Ohio.