AAPI Heritage Month – A Month to Commemorate and Celebrate

From the time that Filipino sailors, also known as Manila galleons, first settled in the bayous of Louisiana and became the first Asians in the Americas, Asian communities have become an inseparable part to the diverse fabric of American society. 

The AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) community includes all people of Asian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander ancestry. (Image Source: Diyou Wu)

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI Heritage Month), is an annual celebration in May that acknowledges the cultural and historical influences of AAPI communities in the United States. 

As of the 2020 U.S. Census, approximately 20.6 million people in the United States identify as Asian or Pacific Islander descent, constituting about 7 percent of the total U.S. population. 

In recent years, there has been a considerable rise in the celebrations of AAPI Heritage Month across the United States.

Here’s an overview of AAPI Heritage Month:

Where did it come from?

The origins of AAPI Heritage Month go back to the late 1970s when governmental efforts began to officially recognize Asian American and Pacific Islander contributions. Starting as a week-long observation, in 1990, Congress expanded from a week to a month, choosing May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. In 2009, it was renamed AAPI Heritage Month for wider inclusion.

Why was May chosen to be the celebration month?

The choice of May has historical significance, which is to commemorate two important dates: May 7 and May 10. On May 7, 1843, the first Japanese immigrants arrived in the United States. Additionally, May 10, 1869 marks the completion of the transcontinental railroad, a significant achievement in which many Asian immigrants greatly contributed to. This month serves as an opportunity to celebrate the rich histories, cultures, and contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to the nation.

The 1869 completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad reduced cross-country travel to under a week. Over 10,000 Chinese laborers helped build the western portion for the Central Pacific Railroad. (Image Source: Rose Wong/ NBC News)

Why do we celebrate AAPI Heritage Month? 

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have made significant contributions across various sectors of American culture and society. AAPI Heritage Month serves as a platform to honor these achievements, celebrate diversity, and raise awareness about the challenges faced by Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.

AAPI Heritage serves the purpose of recognizing Asian American and Pacific Islander contributions (Image Source: Loelee/ Google Arts and Culture)

Asian Heritage Week (AHW) is an annual occasion in which AHN, along with other leaders and organizations, hosts a collective of Asian cultural events to celebrate and honor the cultural heritage of the Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities. In 2024, Asian Heritage Week will visit seven major cities across the globe, with the detailed timeline as follows:  

  • New York City  | April 28 – May 5
  • Toronto | May 6 – May 12
  • Los Angeles | May 13 – May 19
  • Vancouver  | May 13 – May 20
  • San Francisco | May 20 – May 26
  • Sydney  | May 27 – June 2
  • Melbourne  | June 3 – June 9

Follow our official Instagram @asianheritageweek for the latest updates on the upcoming events!