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Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Not only does the spring season truly begin to bloom in May, but also does the celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI)! From May 1st to May 31st, those who are of Asian and Pacific Islander descent in the United States are recognized for their presence and contributions. (For clarification, those who are of Asian descent are comprised of citizens from all across the continent of Asia, and those who are Pacific Islanders are comprised of those from the island regions of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia.)


Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month has a fascinating history, which began all the way back in the late ‘70s (1977 – 1978). At this point in time, the recognition of Asian/Pacific Americans was cycled through a few different designations, including one that would only last a week (starting on May 4th) and another that ran through the first 10 days of May. Ultimately, on March 28, 1979, President Jimmy Carter signed into a law a proclamation that created an official Asian American Heritage Week.

This week lasted until May 1990, where President George H.W. Bush issued another proclamation that created the first Asian/Pacific Heritage Month (which itself was that May). The following year, Bush issued a law that designated both May 1991 and May 1992 as additional Asian/Pacific American Heritage Months. (1992 saw Congress permanently establish May as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, which has been acknowledged by each President in office since.)

The Importance of May

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month wasn’t placed in the month of May for no reason at all. There are actually two dates that are rather important to these communities: May 7th and May 10th. May 7th marked the arrival of the first Japanese immigrant in the United States back in 1843, and May 10th marked the completion of the transcontinental railroad, which was possible thanks to the work of Chinese immigrant workers.

Some notable figures of these communities

  • Jeanie Jew (Congressional staffer; Chinese-American)
  • George Takei (actor; Japanese-American)
  • Yuri Kochiyama (liberation activist and intersectionality pioneer; Japanese-American)
  • George Helm Jr. (musician, activist, and cultural expert; Native Hawaiian)
  • Benezir Bhutto (politician; Pakistani)
  • Eugene Cho (pastor, human rights advocate, and author; Korean-American)
  • Yuji Ichioka (civil rights activist and historian; Japanese-American)
  • Anna May Wong (first Asian-American actress in Hollywood; Chinese-American)

Events in Chicago

With AAPI in full swing, it’s important to be aware of some events that are being held in the city of Chicago. Here are some listed below:

Source list

Links for more

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