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May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May 23, 2023 12:00 AM
By: PDE Press and Communications, Kelly Choi Bazzo

​Dive into the rich history of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (APAHM) - an annual celebration honoring the remarkable contributions of these communities to American society and culture. The first week in May was first designated as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week by President Carter in 1978. 14 years later, President Bush designated the whole of May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.

AAPI is a broad term, and includes all of the Asian continent and 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).

APAHM is a month to learn about AAPI heritage, traditions, and customs, and celebrate the achievements of generations of individuals who have helped shape the United States into the country we know today. As we recognize this month's celebration, it is also important to acknowledge the discrimination and acts of hate that many in the AAPI community have experienced particularly following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Growing up, I always knew myself as hapa which is a term used to describe someone with one white parent and one Asian parent. My great grandparents on my father's side came to the United States from Korea to work on the pineapple plantations in Hawaii. It was only in recent years that I fully began appreciating the wonderful culture my family has to offer. In my own home, I do my best to cook the foods I remember eating as a child and try to make new Korean and Hawaiian dishes I'm not familiar with to carry on my family's traditions. In recent years, I've (slowly) started learning how to hand quilt with the goal of making a gorgeous Hawaiian quilt, similar to the heirloom pieces passed down through generations.

This month's celebration is meaningful to the AAPI community but everyone is invited to join in and learn more! The Library of Congress has compiled a wonderful resource of K-12 lessons and various artifacts around the achievements and perspectives of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders across U.S. History

While it's important to highlight the history and struggles of past generations, this month is also about inspiring all of us to look towards the future and recognize the amazing things Pennsylvania's AAPI population is accomplishing across the commonwealth. From lawmakers to small business owners, from medical professionals to entrepreneurs, the AAPI community is making a significant impact in shaping a better tomorrow for everyone. Let us embrace this month as an opportunity to learn and grow, celebrating the rich diversity that makes us all unique and united.

Some additional ideas of ways to celebrate:

  • Visit your local library and explore titles by AAPI authors.
  • Take a tour of a museum in person or virtually that features AAPI arts and history.
  • Try an easy to make Hawaiian snack! Spam musubi is a quick to assemble. These handheld wraps are made with nori seaweed, fried spam, and white rice. You can add additional fillings to match your tastes (I personally love egg and kewpie mayo mixed with gochujang added to mine!)
  • Check out videos to watch performances of ceremonial dances like the Haka, a Māori performance, or Tinikling, a Filipino folk dance.


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