Each May, Asian American and Pacific Islander Month is celebrated in the U.S. Today, we’re going to review the history of the celebration, five fun facts, and ways to celebrate. Ready? Let’s begin!
The first documentation of either Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders dates to the mid-1500s. Still, it wasn’t until the late 1900s when a Congress member proposed the idea of celebrating these two cultures. On October 5, 1978, President Jimmy Carter made the celebration official when he signed a joint resolution. This resolution wasn't extended until George H.W. Bush signed a bill by Congress in 1992 dedicating the entire month of May as Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month.
The month in which we celebrate these cultures was chosen intentionally for two reasons. First, the month of May commemorates the first Asian immigration to the States. Second, May marks the transcontinental railroad completion, where Chinese immigrants were responsible for some of the more dangerous labor tasks associated with this project.
Until 2009, this celebratory month was named Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM). President Obama decided to change the celebration's official name to be more inclusive and observe both Asian American and Pacific Islander contributions to the United States.
Did you know that several Asian American and Pacific Islander women served in World War II? Many women were trained as translators and interpreters. Other women put their lives on the line through the underground resistance in the Philippines.
During the California Gold Rush, many gold-seekers immigrated from Asia. This group endured terrible racism, which led to acts such as the Chinese Exclusion Act and Foreign Miners Tax, trying to drive Asians away.
Did you know that 2017 marked the year three Asian American women represent seats on the U.S. Senate? Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) all currently serve. Until 2016 when Senator Duckworth and Senator Harris were elected, Senator Hirono was the only individual of Asian heritage to represent.
Whip out some fresh ingredients and prepare some of your favorite Asian or Islander dishes with your friends and family. Snap a photo of your favorite dish and add a hashtag on social media celebrating the day!
Any time is an excellent time to celebrate culture, even if it is not yours. Join in celebrating your friends and family that you may know who are of Asian or Islander descent by tagging them on social media posts relevant to the day.
Have you ever wondered where your roots take you? Take this time to connect with relatives and trace your own personal roots! Don’t forget to document your findings for future generations.
To learn more about the history of Asian American and Pacific Islander Month, please visit the United State Senate website here.