What is AAPI Heritage Month and Why is it Important?

In the United States, the month of May is recognized as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, also known as AAPI Heritage Month. Here is how it came to be.

Originally, Rep. Frank Horton proclaimed that the first 10 days of May were to be recognized as “Pacific/Asian American Heritage Week” in 1977. This was introduced as House Joint Resolution 540 and Joint Resolution 72, a similar resolution made by Senator Daniel Inyoue. Both resolutions were not passed, but the following year Rep. Horton basically proposed the same resolution, House Joint Resolution 1007. This proclaimed “Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week” was to be celebrated starting May 4 to include May 7 and May 10 to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869.”

Fortunately, it passed through Congress and was signed by President Jimmy Carter on October 5, 1978; the week-long observation was officially known as Public Law 95-419. Asian/Pacific American Week was annually proclaimed till 1990 because Congress officially passed Public Law 102-450 on May 23, 1992. To simply put it, this extended the week-long recognition to a whole month!

The AAPI community is ethnically diverse and consists of these countries:
Eastern: China, Hong Kong, Japan, North and South Korea, Macau, Mongolia, Paracel Islands, and Taiwan
South Central: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan
Southeastern: Brunei, Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam
Western: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Bahrain, Cyprus, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen
Melanesia: New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji, and the Solomon Islands
Micronesia: the Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Naura, and the Federated States of Micronesia
Polynesia: New Zealand, the Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, the Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, the Cook Islands, French Polynesia, and Easter Island

With such a large community, it is important that AAPI Heritage Month is celebrated so the hardships and contributions of Asian American people don’t go unseen. We can take steps like implementing both small and significant AAPI victories and hardships into our textbooks and demanding representation in the media. Even having conversations and creating safe spaces about the AAPI diaspora is one of the many ways to uplift AAPI throughout May and beyond.