May 1st marked the beginning of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month to celebrate the contributions that generations of AAPIs have made to American history, society, and culture in the United States. Asian/Pacific encompasses all of the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia.
If we take a brief dive in history, it has been more than 100 years since Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage week was first declared and became a significant time for the AAPI community in the US. On May 7, 1843, the first Japanese immigrants arrived in the US, and a few decades later the transcontinental railroad, which was worked on by roughly 20,000 Chinese immigrants, was completed.
It wasn’t until 1979, when President Jimmy Carter signed a presidential proclamation, that AAPI Heritage Week was first celebrated. Congress then passed an amendment in 1992 which called on the people of the U.S. to observe the entire month of May for AAPI Heritage with “appropriate ceremonies, programs and activities”. It is unquestioned that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have had a tremendous impact on American history.
This year’s AAPI Heritage Month brings heightened awareness and significance, given the recent violence directed against Asian Americans. AAPI Heritage Month is not only a time to celebrate and honor AAPI cultures across the U.S., but advocate for their equity and safety.
One of the most important actions to take away from this month is appreciating a culture that’s not your own, self-education and embracing and recognizing the history of Asian Americans in the US. Check your local resources such as libraries, restaurants, or local parks to see what’s happening in your area.
Josh Asiedu, CSP, CIT
Assistant Manager Global Health, Safety & Environmental Services
Diversity & Inclusion Strategist