Learn About APA Heritage Month

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Be Inspired by Asian Pacific American Achievements - Learn about APA Heritage Month

International Student Services - Office Coordinator Corrin Davis

The month of May is a great opportunity to find new inspiration and grow, especially for those in the fields of higher education and creative arts. This is because May is Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Month.

Together, “arts and culture help spark conversations, spur social change and make our community strong” (Regional Arts and Culture Council).

Engage with the history and resources below to support Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage and spark your own development.


Purpose of APA Heritage Month:

The purpose of APA Heritage Month is to honor Asian Pacific American history and culture thriving in today’s communities. As explained by asianpacificheritage.gov, “Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have a rich heritage thousands of years old and have both shaped the history of the United States and had their lives dramatically influenced by moments in its history.” Additionally, Asian and Pacific Americans deserve recognition for their significant contributions “to the development of the arts, sciences, government, military, commerce, and education in the United States” (Public Law 102-450). Observing the month with programs, ceremonies, and activities promotes awareness and action to support Asian Pacific American identities.


Who does this celebrate?

APA Heritage Month recognizes Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. This is a very diverse group that “encompasses 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)” (asianpacificheritage.gov/about/). Read more from census.gov


How did APA Heritage Month come to be?

Since 1992, May has been designated by US Congress as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. This is thanks to the effort of many people, including but not limited to Frank Horton, Daniel Inouye, and Jeanie Jew. Their work led to President Jimmy Carter signing Public Law 95-419 in 1978 establishing Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week. This week expanded into a month in 1990, and in 1992, Asian/Pacific Heritage Month was designated as annual occurrence through Public Law 102-450.

Read more here:

time.com - The Story Behind APA Heritage Month

asianpacificheritage.gov - About APA Heritage Month


Why May?

May was chosen because it is a history-rich and meaningful month for Asian Pacific Americans. Two key historical moments recognized in May are May 7th, 1843, when the first known Japanese immigrant arrived in the US, and May 10th, 1869, when the transcontinental railroad, which relied heavily on Chinese immigrant labor to build, was completed.

Read more about the Transcontinental Railroad and Chinese Workers - latimes.com


History and Today:

There are many notable achievements of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, some of which have been documented in history and others which have been discredited or lost. Thankfully some of these still survive and can be celebrated today. Unfortunately, many racial demographics within the US, including Asian Pacific Americans, have been opposed throughout US history and still face adversity today as a result. While celebrating the success and achievements of Asian Pacific Americans is easier, facing the many challenges and injustices of the past and present is necessary. Japanese internment camps during WWII, 19th and early 20th century Yellow Peril rhetoric, and the illegal overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi in 1893 are only some of the wrongdoings of the past. Modern issues include but are not limited to model minority stereotypes, racial melancholia, and most recently, COVID-19 fueled xenophobia.

The resources and details in this blog post provide a starting point for learning; however, this is an incomplete picture and the history and complexity of the Asian Pacific American experience should be understood as much larger and diverse, deserving of further study.

Read more here:

loc.gov - Experiencing War - Asian Pacific Americans

fdrlibrary.org - Images of Internment

digitalgallery.bgsu.edu - Asian Immigration and Yellow Fever

aaww.org - Yellow Peril Scapegoating

archives.gov - APA Heritage Month

nbcnews.com - APA Vocabulary FAQs

A Dialogue on Racial Melancholia + a 2019 continuation: dukeupress.edu - Racial Melancholia Racial Dissociation

keywords.nyupress.org - Asian American Diaspora

huffpost.com - In A Racism-Fueled Pandemic, Asian Americans Find Healing Through Art And Storytelling

pbs.org - APA Heritage Month

asian-nation.org - Celebrate APA Heritage Month

aaci.org - Growing Up Asian in America 2020

smithsonianapa.org - Standing Together Against Xenophobia


Asian Pacific Americans and the Creative Arts:

Many generations of Asian Pacific Americans have contributed and continue to contribute to the creative arts, yet remain underrepresented. They face many art-specific racial barriers such as colorblind casting and whitewashing. Listed below are some articles that discuss the challenges specific to Asian Pacific American artists. Please take this opportunity to browse the links below,

or research beyond this list, to recognize some of the amazing Asian Pacific American artists and their creations.


Read more about Asian Pacific American history and issues here:

nytimes.com - Asian Americans and Contemporary Art

nytimes.com - Why do Asian Americans Remain Largely Unseen in Film and Television?

info.limcollege.edu - Why Asians Are Under-Represented in Modern Media 2015


Learn about Asian Pacific American Artists here:

Kresge Arts in Detroit - 2020 Kresge Eminent Artist Marie Woo

asianpacificheritage.gov - Exhibits and Collections

vaaam.tome.press - Virtual Asian American Art Museum

smithsonianapa.org - Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center

en.wikipedia.org - Asian Americans in arts and entertainment

americanart.si.edu - Art by Asian Americans

si.edu - Asian American Artists


Events, Local News, and Local Resources:

mobilize.us - AANHPI Census Create-a-Thon!

detroitnews.com - Asian-American community sees signs of resurgence in Detroit 2019

dptv.org - Asian Americans – The Detroit Story

facebook.com - Stephanie Chang MI Senator on APA Heritage Month

dtw.naaap.org - National Association of Asian American Professionals, Detroit

[EXLINK '6551']facebook.com - Asian Pacific Islander American Vote MI

Please take time to appreciate the achievements and contributions of Asian Pacific Americans from the past and present by learning these links and doing research beyond these as well. I hope you will consider how your role within CCS’s community of higher education and creative arts can open conversations, promote social change, and strengthen our community.

Thank you for learning about Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with ISSO and DEI Advisory Group! We strive for an inclusive CCS community and encourage feedback:

We hope you will continue your research and learning beyond the links provided here, and will share what you find with others, as well!