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Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month
Since 1980, May has been designated as Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month to celebrate the lives and contributions of AAPI members throughout history and today. Despite its long-standing existence, AAPI Heritage Month has gone overlooked in various regions or is limited to sharing redundant stories of AAPI hardships. In line with our continued efforts to highlight the communities we serve, we’ll be sharing the cultural perspectives of numerous leaders in the AAPI community of California.
What is AAPI Month?
This month is one of celebration and recognition, honoring the cultures of many. “AAPI” is an umbrella term suggesting these cultures are monolithic; however it encompasses Asia and the Pacific Islands of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. The vastness of the AAPI community is composed of distinct histories, languages, food, and lived experiences, and this diversity is reflected throughout the month’s various celebrations.
What started as a week expanded with the passage of Public Law 102-450 in 1980, in which Congress designated May as AAPI Heritage Month. Some regions of the country enthusiastically embraced this new chapter, while others were more hesitant. A study from the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism found that Anti-Asian hate crimes rose 164% in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020. This comes after a record 146% increase in 2020. These statistics are troubling, to say the least, and they show that Heritage Months are needed now more than ever--not only is education and public dialogue key to building a tolerant society, but marginalized groups deserve this time of celebration and spotlight.
Avenues to Educate and Celebrate
AAPI Heritage Month has been celebrated through festivals and educational activities, many of which are taking a different form this year. However, there’s still plenty of ways for us to celebrate our AAPI community members and learn how to support them. Here are four ways we’re celebrating this month:
Support AAPI-owned restaurants & small businesses
Small businesses have taken a devastating hit over the course of the pandemic. Dining at AAPI-owned restaurants benefits you and business owners, allowing you to expand your culinary palette and knowledge with new dishes while bringing awareness to their establishment!
Fight Anti-Asian bias
This effort is crucial as our AAPI community members need support and solidarity now more than ever. Engaging in activism may be intimidating, but simply learning small revolutionary efforts to incorporate into your everyday life makes a huge difference nonetheless. Great places to start include learning how to fight anti-Asian bias, understanding its history, and how this can be used to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month.
Discover current leaders in the community
Moving forward, we must learn to approach cultural heritage months with celebration and recognition, rather than regurgitating past traumas. There are numerous notable figures in the AAPI community making history each day. Vice President Kamala Harris made history as the first Black and Indian-American and woman to be elected to the position. The work of folks such as Gitanjali Rao, Charles Yu, and Carvey Ehren Maigue deserve to be amplified, demonstrating their stellar capabilities and ultimately providing representation for AAPI youth. Check out this list of revolutionary AAPI folks and their contributions to learn more.
Use your platform!
Our team at JCI is committed to learning from and highlighting the experiences of underrepresented groups with which we often work with. We have embraced this process by sharing our platform as a means to amplify lived experiences of many to our audiences. Identify opportunities to share the voices of others through your personal platform, whether on social media or in person!
Join us this month as we highlight several AAPI leaders in California who share their lived experiences as they relate to their cultural connection to food. Food serves as a gathering point in cultures filled with bonding and joy, all the reason why we chose to discuss their heritage in this form. Stay tuned for our special features starting this week!