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What is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month?

18 Apr 2022 - Category: Blog /
asian heritage month

In this blog we’ll be exploring everything you need to know about Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, including:

  • What is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month?
  • Why is there an Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month?
  • How is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month celebrated?
  • How to send money to the US

What is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month?

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is a celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander history in the United States. It takes place every year during the month of May and aims to recognize the contribution and influences of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans to the culture, history and achievements of the US.

Asian and Pacific Americans are people who have ethic ties to countries in Asia and the Pacific Islands of Melanesia (Fiji, New Guinea, New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu), Micronesia (Nauru, the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, the Mariana Islands, the Marshall Islands, Guam, Palau, and Wake Island), and Polynesia (the Cook Islands, American Samoa, Easter Island, Midway Islands, French Polynesia, the Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma Island, Samoa, New Zealand, Tonga, and Tuvalu).

Today over 20 million people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent live in the US. This amounts to around 6% of the total U.S. population. As you can imagine, within this 20 million there is a vast array of diversity and a complex variety of cultures that are drawn from the many island nations of the Pacific and the countries in Asia.

Why is there an Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month?

Americans with ancestral roots in Asia and the Pacific Islands have been vital to the story and progress of the United States. Since the first Asians arrived in the Americas in 1587, they have been contributing to the growth of the nation.

In 1977, U.S. Representative Frank Horton of New York and Norman Y. Mineta of California had an idea. They wanted to establish a period during the year to celebrate and recognize the culture and contributions of Asian American and Pacific Islander people. That same year they introduced House Joint Resolution 540 to try to establish the first 10 days of May as Asian-Pacific Heritage Week. Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga also introduced a similar bill, in the U.S. Senate a month later. Neither bill passed.

However, not long after President Jimmy Carter signed a law that established the first seven days of May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week. After Carter, successive Presidents continued to pass annual proclamations for the week-long celebration until 1990, when Congress officially passed a law which extended the celebration to the entire month of May.

The Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week became the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in 2009 when President Barack Obama signed Proclamation 8369.

How is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month celebrated?

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is observed across the United States by families, communities, organizations, businesses, government offices throughout meals, festivals, parties, educational activities and government-sponsored events.

You can celebrate and mark this special month in a number of ways which include:

  • Supporting Asian and Pacific communities in the US. A number of news outlets have reported a rise in anti-Asian racism since the pandemic began. You can combat ignorance and support AAPI communities through the Asian American Alliance and by raising awareness of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in your personal and professional groups.

  • Visit Asian American and Pacific Islander restaurants. The cuisine can different greatly from one island to the next or from region to the next so there is plenty for you to discover. Moreover, during the month of May many restaurants will be hosting special occasions to celebrate the heritage month. So try and get yourself down to one of those too!

  • Attend one of the festivals. There are a number of festivals taking place during May and throughout the US.

One of the largest and longest-running is the Asian Pacific American Heritage Festival, hosted by the Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans in New York City, is definitely one you should check out. There you can enjoy music, performances, arts, food, history and outreach that celebrates the diverse cultures of Asian and Pacific Americans and their contribution to American society.

Learn more

As we’ve mentioned, one of the best ways to celebrate and mark Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is to learn as much as you can about the Asian Pacific American culture and history. To do this there are a number of key resources you can turn to, including:

These online resources will hopefully help to uplift Asian and Asian American voices and encourage self-education. It has been difficult for the traditional celebrations and events to take place during the pandemic but Theodore S. Gonzalves, Interim Director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, is hopeful for AAPI Heritage Months in the future:

“These month-long events in May have been wonderful ways to gather up our voices to celebrate achievements [and] share songs, food, ritual, and stories. And while this year we grieve, let us also strive to find the humanity in each other… Our Asian American and Pacific Islander traditions demonstrate unity and care for each other. On behalf of everyone at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, I invite you to live out these ideals with us not only in May, but throughout the year.” - Theodore S. Gonzalves, Smithsonian APA

How to send money to the US

Learning about Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is a fantastic way to support your family and friends based in the US. If you want your loved ones to make the most of this month then you may want to send money to them. If so, you need look no further than Small World.

Small World is an international money transfer service that helps millions around the world send money to their loved ones. There are a variety of transfer services you can make use of if you want to support your family and friends in the United States. Small World always means you have one less thing to worry about!

Your first digital transaction is always free of transfer fees!



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