Celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month

By Ray Hom

This year, the timing could not be better to celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage for the month of May.  With the rise in Anti-Asian hate crimes across the country, AAPI communities across the country are trying to find ways to create more awareness in order to combat anti-Asian racism and the racist attacks towards our community.

History of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage month

In 1992, Congressman Horton introduced legislation to designate May as Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage month.  This annual celebration of AAPI culture and heritage was selected for the month of May to commemorate the arrival of the first known Japanese immigrant to the United States on May 7, 1843 and to honor the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869 — the building of which up to 20,000 Chinese workers participated in.

Asian American Heritage month became a reality because of one woman, Jeanie Jew, a former Capitol Hill staffer. She was concerned about the lack of recognition given to Asian Americans and wanted to promote public awareness of their contributions. Eventually, legislation was passed unanimously by Congress.

The historic legislation had an Ohio connection when Former Ohio Rep. Thomas Sawyer spoke at the session by addressing its importance on a larger scale. “The subject matter of the bill is of extraordinary national significance in light of the substantial demographic change sweeping the country,” he said. “The United States truly continues to be a nation of immigrants, and the diversity of the population continues to contribute to the strength and progress of the Nation.”

Stop AAPI Hate

Racism against the Asian American community is not new. Matter of fact, it runs deep as it includes many historical events dating back to the 1800’s, many of which are not known by many today because they are not included in our education curriculum.

If history has taught us anything, it is to realize that if any community is discriminated against in today’s modern era, we will unite and become stronger. As evident by historical events, some situations sound eerily familiar during this pandemic.  As if some government leaders have taken a page out of the history and tried to reinvent the situation once again.

The racist attacks on the AAPI community have galvanized Asian Americans like never before.  The Stop AAPI Hate movement has sparked the community into activism. Rallies and marches have taken place across the country with thousands in attendance of all races to show solidarity in our efforts to combat racism altogether. The movement has inspired the AAPI community to raise their voices to be heard and no longer remain silent to ensure that anti-Asian history does not repeat itself. Now we must move past the rallies and marches by taking action to create change.

Asian American Education Project

Teaching others about the history of Asian Americans is one way of eliminating Anti-Asian racism while educating others on the history of Asian Americans. The Asian American Education Project is an example that consists of a series of virtual workshops funded by Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC). https://asianamericanedu.org/workshops.html

The Asian American Education Project showcases a curriculum centered on the AAPI experience. It is divided into themes to make it easier for educators to adapt the whole or part of the curriculum into their own practice. This workshop is aimed towards educating elementary teachers on the history of Asian Americans.

It is never too early to educate students about history and current events. This workshop is focused on delivering the curriculum to elementary school students. Attendees will be able to take advantage of the tools that will be provided as part of the workshops.

Celebrate in Solidarity

Throughout the month of May various virtual events around the country are organized to draw attention and awareness to AAPI culture through traditional and social media, in theatres, museums, and parks. You can learn more about upcoming events in Cleveland at https://www.asiatowncleveland.org.