It is the beginning of May and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month! May was chosen specifically to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. Chinese immigrants mainly worked on this railroad. This month also commemorates the first arrival of Japanese immigrants to the U.S., which began on May 7, 1843.
Initially, the month started off as a week. In 1978, the House and Senate passed a joint resolution. It was then signed by former President Jimmy Carter. This designated May 4-11 Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week in 1979. In 1990 for the first time, the federal government extended the week into a month. Shortly thereafter in 1992, a law was passed to make Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month annual.
Since then, the month has been designated to celebrate Asian cultures as well as the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands), Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia) and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Easter Island).
Here are a few ways you can celebrate the month:
1. Learn more about Asian/Pacific Islander culture.
You don’t have to write an entire essay on Asian or Pacific Islander culture, but doing a little research about it is a good way to show appreciation and curiosity for the culture. You can go online or speak with someone who is apart of the culture in a respectful way. Increasing your awareness about Asian and Pacific Islander culture can also help to increase inclusivity. Learning new information from trusted and authentic sources is also the best way to quell ignorance and stereotypes surrounding the culture.
2. Share what you learned about Asian or Pacific Islander culture.
Spreading the knowledge you’ve learned about Asian or Pacific Islander history is a great way to recognize the month. For example, surfing first originated in Polynesia and when it came to Hawaii it became popularized. In Hawaii the sport is also a major part of their religion. You can share interesting facts or history with a friend in person or post about it on social media. Getting the information out there to the masses is a perfect way to spread the word about and celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
3. Support Asian/Pacific Islander-owed businesses.
Go out to eat and try some authentic Asian or Pacific Islander cuisine. You can treat yourself to a sweet Indian treat like Balushahi or a savory South Asian snack like Samosa at the Asian food at South Asian Super Market in North Babylon. Or you can look to an Asian or Pacific Islander-owned architect the next time you want to complete a project. Putting your money towards an Asian or Pacific Islander-owned business not only puts money in the pocket of the business owner, but their families as well.
4. Attend Asian/Pacific Islanders events.
Events like this multicultural celebration in Roslyn are perfect for showing appreciation for the culture. Bring in the entire family and have fun at festivals like the Asian American Pacific Islander Festival. Across Long Island and New York State, there are plenty of organizations hosting events to celebrate the month. The Chinese Center on Long Island, Japanese Culture Center or Island Inspiration NY are good places to start. Also, supporting organizations such as these is another way to honor the month. You can support by giving a donation, attending their events or by sharing their information online.
These are just a few of the ways you can do your part in support of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Don’t forget not only to support during the month, but all-year-round. What are some ways you can think of to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander history?