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May 03, 2023

You’re Invited to Celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with HEPL!

By Laura Hoffman


WHAT: Let’s celebrate and lift up our Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community members!

In 1977, five joint resolutions were introduced to Congress. These resolutions proposed that one week of May should be set aside every year to celebrate AAPI communities. While Congress supported these, the first Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Week didn’t occur for another two years. For the next decade, AAPI Heritage Week continued to be proclaimed yearly by the President. Until 1992, it looked like it would continue to be a one-week-a-year celebration. But, in 1992, Congress passed Public Law 102-450 permanently making the month of May Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month!

WHEN: May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month!

Congress didn’t just pick May out of a hat; they had their reasons why May was the “best” month of the year for this celebration. That is because of two interesting facts: May 7th, 1843 was the first recorded arrival of Japanese immigrants to the United States, and May 10th, 1869 was the date the first US transcontinental railroad, built mostly by Chinese immigrants, was completed.

These early immigrants faced many challenges, hard labor, bigotry, and racism, to name a few. Fully diving into these challenges would require more time than in the one month of May. To explore and learn more about the challenges Asian immigrants faced in the mid-1800s, check out these articles from the Library of Congress: Immigration and Relocation in U.S History or the History Channel: Building the Transcontinental Railroad.

Information is sourced from the Federal Asian-Pacific American Council (FAPAC).

WHO: Everyone is welcome!

Anyone can celebrate either their own AAPI heritage or support their local AAPI community. But, what does it mean to identify as “Asian” or “Pacific Islander”?

Both Asian and Pacific Islander are broad terms encompassing a wide variety of nations and cultures. In a wide view, these identities can be broken down into geographical regions: Central Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, West Asia, Hawaii, and the Pacific Islands.

Image by Freepik

Each section is full of vibrant, unique cultural identities. In addition, the Asian Pacific Institute provides a comprehensive list of countries that fall under the Asia or Pacific Islands cultural umbrella. The list below demonstrates how varied the Asian and Pacific Island cultures are.

Image from API-GBV.org


WHY: Whom you identify as matters!

Location is only one tiny piece of the puzzle when talking about identity. Identifying as Asian, Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, American, or anything else is about much more than a geographical location or outward appearance. Although many times, that is all people think about when discussing identity. We discover our unique identities through our experiences with our families, friends, and the world around us.

Identifying as something is a complex web that each person develops on their own, so it is important to remember not to assume a person’s identity. It is also important to remind ourselves that as we get older, we learn and grow, so our identities will also evolve and change.

The YouTube channel, Participant, developed a beautiful video, called ASIAN | How You See Me, to help explain the challenges some Asian American and Pacific Islanders face due to their identities.

WHERE: How can we celebrate and support our Asian American and Pacific Islander community members this May?

There are lots of ways to celebrate within our community!

Register for the Hamilton East Public Library’s Ukelele Club, Virtual Tai Chi Flow, or Silkscreen Printing Workshop events happening in May. Be sure to make reservations online soon, as space fills up fast! Check out our event calendar here!

Participate in a few of the Asian American Alliance‘s celebratory events. On May 4th, they will screen the short documentary film “And Then They Came for Us”. It is a humbling reminder of how quickly communities can turn on each other, as it retells stories of Japanese internment camps during World War II. Additionally, the Asian American Alliance will be hosting its annual free Asian Fest on May 13th. There will be interactive activities and events throughout the entire festival!

Image from AAALLIANCE.org

For virtual celebrations and resources, check out the Smithsonian Institute’s Asian Pacific American Center online. They have videos and resources that are great for personal exploration or even ideas for teaching youth. The National Park Service also has excellent information and stories about the national parks and how Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islander community members have helped shape our natural landscapes in the United States.

Or, simply enjoy some free materials at the library! Check out these book recommendations for adults, all written by Asian or Asian American authors!