May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, our chance to recognize the contributions of Asian and Pacific Americans and highlight the range of rich cultures that make up this diverse group.
Thriver is dedicated to helping organizations work toward an environment of inclusion and celebration of diversity. Read on as we showcase AAPI contributions and offer suggestions on how to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month at your workplace.
Who are Asian/Pacific Americans?
Asian and Pacific Island (AAPI) American is a broad term for recognizing people from one of several distinct cultures. This term not only refers to Americans descended from the main continent of Asia, but it also encompasses people with ancestry from the Pacific island groups of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia – including the Hawaiian Islands.
A diverse range of cultures, rich in history
With so many unique nationalities and heritages rolled into a single category of people, it’s important to remember that two Asian or Pacific Americans are likely to originate from uniquely different cultures and histories.
For example, Tonga has been under British protection since 1900 and has had an amicable relationship with Great Britain since long before then. Being left to rule itself, Tonga has been able to preserve much of its ancient culture.
On the other hand, Tahiti was under French rule from the mid-1800s to the late 20th century. Consequently, there is a strong European influence on the nation, and most Tahitians learn to speak French, English, and Tahitian as children. French cuisine is prevalent throughout Tahiti, and this European influence is likely to remain cemented in Tahitian culture for generations to come.
The nations of the central Asian continent likewise enjoy widely-diverse cultures and histories. It would be unfair to compare the cultural history of Korean Americans with that of Chinese or Vietnamese Americans. We could write entire volumes on each nation, its history, and its influence on today’s society.
What are the origins of Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month?
Congress passed a bill to declare May as Asian/Pacific American Month in 1977. In 1978, former President Jimmy Carter signed the bill into law. May was chosen as the month to celebrate the first Japanese immigrants that arrived in America on May 7, 1843. May 10, 1869, was also the date of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad, primarily built by Chinese immigrant workers.
AAPI month isn’t just a mark on our calendars. It’s a time to bring the achievements of Asian and Pacific Americans to the forefront and honor the work they do to contribute to our companies and organizations. As we move into May, let’s think of how to celebrate AAPI month at our workplaces.
Asian/Pacific American icons to celebrate in 2022
Asian and Pacific Americans have long impacted cultural and technological innovation in the U.S. Today, we have so many – each with a unique perspective born of their rich heritage – continuing to drive the nation forward.
Here are just a few Asian and Pacific Americans – past and present – who have made a difference in our country and our world:
- Kamala Harris – Vice President of the USA
- Kurt Chew-Een Lee – first Asian-American Marine Officer in the U.S. military
- Bruno Mars – famous musician/singer
- Jim Lee – comic book artist
- Jack Thompson – former NFL quarterback
- Vera Wang – world-famous fashion designer
- Erika Lee – famous author
- I.M. Pei – award-winning master architect
- Daniel Ken Inouye – late U.S. Senator
- Connie Chung – award-winning broadcast journalist
Why is it important to recognize Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month in the workplace?
A company culture of inclusivity and diversity strengthens teams. Everyone has a unique perspective to share, and a point of view shaped by unique cultures and traditions adds to the collective imagination – enriching the workplace community and fostering innovative thinking.
In this progressive age, it’s easy to forget that each person has their own origin story. As we include more people into our circle, we often think of ourselves as more alike than different, which is good. But it’s important to recognize and celebrate our differences, whether cultural, historical, or ethnic.
By celebrating Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month, we aren’t just acknowledging the diversity in our workplace, but – more importantly – we recognize the value of AAPI people and their history.
Some activities to support AAPI Month in your workplace
Perhaps your organization has historically celebrated AAPI Month, and you’ve come up with your own ways to celebrate Asian Pacific Heritage Month at work. There’s also a chance that 2022 will be the first year you explore this month for celebration, and you’d like some advice on activities that your team can appreciate while also educating yourselves on the importance of this time.
Here are some Asian Heritage Month celebration ideas for your company to consider.
Learn with your team
Getting educated is an ideal activity for Asian and Pacific Islander month. An excellent way to accomplish this is through guided lunchtime learning sessions with guest speakers knowledgeable about the topic. An AAPI trivia contest is a great tool for combining learning with fun competition.
On a more serious note, attending a seminar that immerses participants in the nuances of the AAPI community serves to increase awareness for everyone. The Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month & Allyship workshop, dives into the diversity within the Asian and Pacific American communities. Seminars like this allow your crew to better understand the history behind some of their coworkers and build team unity within the organization.
Attend an event
May is the perfect month for a cultural event. There are bound to be many public gatherings to celebrate Asian and Pacific Heritage Month, with craft fairs and a variety of activities. Cultural festivals often include speakers to enlighten others about their history and traditions.
By attending cultural festivals and similar activities during this month, your team can enjoy cuisine, art, and stories to give everyone a greater appreciation for their Asian and Pacific American coworkers.
Other ways to support Asian and Pacific American heritage this month
We have many opportunities this month – and every month – to give our support to the AAPI community – that doesn’t rely on a single activity or annual event. By acknowledging and celebrating the diversity that makes each of us unique, we strengthen our bonds with our coworkers and community.
Whether it’s your time, money, or other resources, dedicating yourself to something that benefits one section of your community helps your entire community. Many organizations exist – whole or in part – to serve and assist Asian and Pacific American citizens.
Here are some organizations to consider:
- Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund
- Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance
- National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum
Also, check out local organizations near you that work diligently to advance and support the Asian/Pacific Islander community.
Support AAPI art and literature
What better way to understand any group of people than by getting a glimpse into their minds? Literature and art are the best ways to sense how a person feels and the experiences that shape their thinking.
Many museums offer virtual tours, and there are a number hosting AAPI-themed exhibits this month. Search the web to find the virtual exhibition that interests you.
There are tons of books out there written by Asian or Pacific American authors – each sharing the perspective of an individual or group while also reflecting elements of their community and culture.
These books come highly recommended by readers, and a few even hit the New York Times Best Seller List:
- Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
- Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
- If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha
- The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
With these ideas for celebrating Asian and Pacific Heritage Month, you have the opportunity to show your support to one of the fastest-growing communities in the country. Thriver’s commitment to inclusivity in the workplace extends to all people of every background, and we want to extend that commitment to you.