In the month of May, we honor Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, celebrating the history, culture, and contributions of the diverse Americans who belong to communities with ancestry in Asia, Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and the Pacific Islands. That’s a lot of different countries, cultures, and languages!
It’s important for kids to see themselves and their community reflected in the world around them, as well as learning about their history. It is equally important, particularly at a time of rising intolerance, for children and teens to learn across cultures, to broaden their historical knowledge, and to develop empathy for those from cultures different than their own.
The month of May was chosen to commemorate two events: the first Japanese immigrants to the United States arrived in May of 1843 and the Transcontinental Railroad, built mainly by Chinese immigrants in forced labor conditions, was completed in May of 1869. Though, as you might guess, the history of AAPI people in the U.S. is much longer than that.
The national holiday was first proposed in 1976 by former Congressional staffer Jeanie Jew. Jew’s great-grandfather had immigrated from China in the 1800s, worked building the transcontinental railroad at a time of intense anti-Asian hate, and then lost his life to violence. She believed that the historical contributions of Asian Americans deserved recognition, within their own communities and beyond. In 1992, the week-long observance became a full month.
Celebrate from Home
Whether AAPI Heritage Month is a time that you celebrate your own family traditions and culture or learn about another culture’s history, books are a great place to start. Check out some of these titles from our catalog.
For more ideas, explore these resources for teachers, visit The Smithsonian, or try some of these family-friendly activities or movie recommendations.
Connect with and support local communities and organizations here in Philadelphia.
- Asian Americans United (AAU) works to challenge oppression, and foster community, youth leadership and creative cultural exchange.
- Asian Arts Initiative offers art exhibitions, opportunities for artists, and classes for community members.
- PCDC works to protect and grow Philadelphia’s Chinatown neighborhood with development and outreach, including a community scavenger hunt, running now through July 3.
- SEAMAAC supports immigrant and refugee families, community development, and provides youth afterschool programming.
- Stop AAPI Hate is a national organization that tracks and responds to incidents of violence, harassment, discrimination, and child bullying against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States.
- Twelve Gates Arts showcases the work of artists from South and West Asia and the diaspora.
- VietLead is a social justice organization that supports community self-determination and cultural resilience through intergenerational farming, youth organizing, health navigation and healing, civic engagement, and community defense.
Do you know of another local organization dedicated to AAPI communities? Share in the comments below!