May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, meaning the entire month is dedicated to recognizing AAPI people’s influence on the U.S. It’s a fairly new celebration, and it was created in 2009 when former President Barack Obama signed Proclamation 8369, acknowledging May as AAPI Heritage Month.
Although it’s been only about 13 years since the proclamation, the history of bringing the idea to fruition dates back to the 1970s. Jeanie Jew, a former Capitol Hill staffer, met with New York Rep. Frank Horton to discuss the thought of a dedicated amount of time to recognize AAPI people. Horton introduced a resolution to dedicate the first 10 days of May to Asian and Pacific American heritage week. Eventually, more people in Congress would try to pass laws to allow for a more permanent time to celebrate AAPI people in America.
The month of May was specifically chosen as it honored the immigration of the first Japanese people to the U.S. on May 7, 1869. The transcontinental railroad was also completed in May, to which many Chinese people contributed.
But that is only the tip of the iceberg. AAPI Heritage Month has a much larger history, and its origins should be explored on one’s own time. It’s something a person could do as their duty to help honor AAPI people during the celebration and there are several ways to become further educated.
The first initiative can be to read up on the history of AAPI Heritage Month and AAPI history as a whole. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have a long past in the U.S. despite the negative stereotypes and harmful label of “perpetual foreigners,” suggesting that AAPI will never be truly American.
Events such as the Gold Rush, Spanish galleon trade and even policies such as the Chinese Exclusion Act are just a few examples of the things in America that AAPI people have been involved in— in both positive and negative ways.
Another way to participate in AAPI Heritage Month is to support the AAPI community around you. Go out to AAPI eateries, support local businesses or take the time to converse with the AAPI people in your life; everyone has a different narrative that’s unique to them.
So during this month, take the time to acknowledge the hardships and hard work of AAPI people in the U.S. Whether it be AAPI activists, artists, celebrities or the AAPI people you see every day, educate yourself and recognize their experiences. Something as simple as showing some appreciation can go a long way.
Mimi Calhoun is a freshman studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Have something to say? Email Mimi at email@example.com or tweet her @mimi_calhoun.