This May, we celebrate Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month! This month, we recognize and celebrate the contributions, achievements, and rich culture of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders.
The celebration was established by Congress in 1978 as a week-long observance and later expanded to a month-long celebration in 1992. May was chosen to commemorate the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States on May 7, 1843, and the completion of the transcontinental railroad, which was primarily built by Chinese immigrants, on May 10, 1869.
This May, we have the opportunity to join the AANHPI community to honor their culture and history and to recognize their significant contributions to the social, cultural, and economic multicultural tapestry of the United States. It is also an opportunity to raise awareness about the challenges and issues these communities face, such as discrimination and underrepresentation, and promote inclusivity and equity for everyone.
We should all explore Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander heritage for a few reasons.
- Learning about AANHPI heritage helps to promote cultural understanding and appreciation. It allows people to learn about these communities’ robust and diverse cultures, traditions, and stories and to gain a deeper understanding of their experiences and perspectives. This knowledge allows us to break down stereotypes and prejudices, promote inclusivity, respect, and empathy, and encourage community.
- It shines a much-needed light on the contributions and achievements of these communities. AANHPIs have significantly contributed to various fields, including science, technology, arts, politics, and more. By learning about their accomplishments, we can appreciate their impact, give thanks for their contributions, and support long-overdue representation.
- It advances movements for social justice and equity. Many AANHPI communities have faced discrimination, marginalization, and exclusion throughout history and continue to meet various forms of racism and oppression today. Once we are more aware of these issues, we can then promote efforts to address them and hopefully create solutions and effect substantial change.
“Our culture, language, history, and traditions are what make us who we are. We should take pride in them, share them with others, and preserve them for future generations.” – Mazie Hiron.
Proudly, Hiron is the first elected female senator from Hawaii, the first Asian-American woman elected to the Senate, the first U.S. senator born in Japan, and she is also known as the nation’s first Buddhist senator.
How the varying cultures overlap and intersect is truly spectacular. This May, explore for yourself and be amazed by what you find as you peel back the layers of such a dynamic treasure chest of culture!