Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI Heritage Month) is 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 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.
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. According to the Federal Asian Pacific American Council (FAPAC), the theme for AAPI Heritage Month 2022 is “Advancing Leaders Through Collaboration.” The FAPAC encourages local and national governments to prioritize collaboration, development, diversity, transparency, and inclusion through leadership training of AAPI people.
The month of May was chosen for AAPI Heritage Month because it commemorates the immigration of the first Japanese people to the United States on May 7, 1843. May is also a significant month because it recognizes Golden Spike Day, May 10, 1869, which marks the completion of the transcontinental railroad that was built with significant contributions from Chinese workers.
Asian Pacific History and Culture:
The Struggles of Being An Asian American
Watch a short video on special stories of woman and their struggles growing up Asian American.
Asian Pacific Islander Trailblazers
Victoria Manalo Draves
Draves was a competitive diver who became the first Asian American Olympic champion. She won gold metals in both springboard diving and platform diving in the 1948 Summer Olympics in London. She was also named one of the two best athletes at the Games for that year as well.
Yuji Ichioka was a civil rights activist who founded the Asian American Political Alliance in 1968, which aimed to unite university students across the country to come together to help better the lives of Chinese, Filipino, and Japanese students. He is said to be the person who advocated to use the term “Asian American” which is noted as being instrumental to band the communities together.
Shyamal Gopalan Harris
Shyamala Gopalan Harris was a civil rights activist but was also a scientist who was known for her breast cancer research that sparked “many advances regarding the role of progesterone and its cellular receptor in breast biology and cancer,” the Breast Cancer Action’s obituary of her reads. “The world of women affected by breast cancer changed for the better because of Harris’s presence in it.” She was also the mom of Vice President Kamala Harris, another trailblazer!
Bobby Balcena was a professional athlete and he became the first Filipino to play in a Major League Baseball game when he stepped up to the plate for the Cincinnati Reds in 1956. While he didn’t play in the big leagues for too long, he opened the door for many others to come after him in the sport.
Yuri Kochiyama’s journey as a civil rights activist was impacted by her relocation to a Japanese internment camp during World War II as well as her friendship with Malcolm X. She helped define American activism in the 20th century. Kochiyama began her advocacy in her 30s by organizing school boycotts to demand desegregated education for inner-city children in Harlem in New York City. She spent the rest of her life advocating for Black, Latino, Native American and Asian-American communities.