May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Published on April 29, 2022

a graphic promoting the event

In May, the City of Fort Worth will observe Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, an annual celebration that recognizes the historical and cultural contributions of individuals and groups of Asian and Pacific Islander descent to the United States.

The theme for AAPI Heritage Month 2022 is “Advancing Leaders Through Collaboration.” The campaign encourages local and national governments to prioritize collaboration, development, diversity, transparency and inclusion through leadership training of AAPI people.

Learn more about the observance in this information from The History Channel.

The AAPI umbrella term includes cultures from the entire Asian continent — including East, Southeast and South Asia — and the Pacific Islands of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. As of 2019, there were about 22.9 million people of Asian or Pacific Islander descent in the United States. According to the Pew Research Center, AAPI people are a diverse and growing population that make up about 7% of the total U.S. population.

AAPI Heritage Month 2022 will take place from Sunday, May 1, to Tuesday, May 31.

Origins of AAPI Heritage Month

The effort to officially recognize Asian American and Pacific Islander contributions to the United States began in the late 1970s, and took over 10 years to make it a permanent month-long celebration.

In 1977, New York representative Frank Horton introduced a resolution that proposed proclaiming the first 10 days of May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week. Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye introduced a similar joint resolution the same year. When the resolutions did not pass, Horton introduced a bill the following year, which requested the president to proclaim a week during the first 10 days of May starting in 1979, including May 7 and 10, as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week.

After the House and the Senate passed the Resolution, President Jimmy Carter signed it into law on Oct. 5, 1978. From 1980 to 1990, each president passed annual proclamations for Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week. In 1990, Congress expanded the observance from a week to a month. May was annually designated as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month in 1992 under the George H.W. Bush administration. Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month was renamed AAPI Heritage Month in 2009.

Why celebrate AAPI Heritage Month?

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have contributed significantly to many facets of American culture and society, including science and medicine, literature and art, sports and recreation, government and politics, and activism and law.

In 2021, Kamala Harris became the first Asian American vice president of the United States. In film history, AAPI people, stories, and traditions have become more visible with South Korean director Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite winning the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2019 and the release of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings in 2021, debuting Marvel’s first Asian superhero.

AAPI people have a long history in the United States, despite the stereotype that they are “perpetual foreigners,” the idea that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are inherently foreign, other and not truly American. According to the Bering Land Bridge Theory, Asians first migrated to what is now known as North America over 15,000 years ago through a land bridge between Asia and North America. In the 16th century, Filipinos who were escaping forced labor and enslavement during the Spanish galleon trade immigrated to North America, eventually establishing a settlement in St. Malo, La., in 1763. During the California Gold Rush of the 1850s, a wave of Asian immigrants came to the West Coast and provided labor for gold mines, factories and the transcontinental raidroad. In 1882, Congress enacted the Chinese Exclusion Act, which banned Chinese immigration for 20 years.

Japanese and Koreans began immigrating to the United States by 1885 to replace Chinese labor in railroad construction, farming and fishing. However, in 1907, Japanese immigration was restricted by a “Gentlemen’s Agreement” between the United States and Japan. The civil rights movement assisted the liberalization of immigration laws. The 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act changed restrictive national origin quotas and allowed for the large numbers of Asians and Pacific Islanders to come to the United States with their families. In the mid-1970s, refugees from Southeast Asia like Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos came to the United Sates to flee war, violence and hardship.

Today, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are the fastest growing racial group in the United States. AAPI Heritage Month celebrates the unique journey of all AAPI immigrants and citizens in the United States and their unique life experiences, traditions and cultures.



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