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Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month—History and events

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month—History and events
May marks the annual month where Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is celebrated. This is the month when the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities’ contributions to the country are honored and shared across the country.
It was just this year, 2022, when President Joe Biden announced a proclamation on Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Our great nation will recognize the countless contributions, beautiful cultures, and rich heritage of Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders—also known as AA and NHPIs—and Asian Americans.
Here is the history and events surrounding the celebrations in May:

A Brief History

The original celebration was referred to as Asian/Pacific Heritage Week and occurred on May 4, 1979. President Jimmy Carter signed the Proclamation 4650 which honors and recognizes the accomplishments and contributions of Asian/Pacific Americans.
By 1990, Congress had then expanded the honor from a weeklong celebration to a full month observance. President George H.W. Bush then passed the Public Law 102-540 law which assigned the month of May to be observed as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month in 1990. By 2005, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom expanded the idea of launching an official celebration proposed by President Claudine Cheng—which has been celebrated in San Francisco ever since.
The celebration is in May due to two occurrences:
  • First Japanese immigrants migrated to America on May 7, 1843, and
  • The transcontinental railroad was completed on May 10, 1869, due to the 20,000 Chinese immigrant workers who built it
The diverse members of the APA community put together the annual May celebration and all of the included activities that showcase the culture, art, foods, and more. The APA Heritage Foundation next became a nonprofit organization that assists with helpful sponsorship that supports the yearly celebrations. This organization is single-handedly responsible for the continuation of incredible festivities that honor a community that contributes much to America and cities across the country.
After President Joe Biden proclaimed May 2022 as Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, San Francisco changed the name to properly reflect the communities. The new name is now Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Events Near You

Many amazing events are available where you can celebrate AAPI Heritage Month in the Bay area. They include but are not limited to:
Asian Art Museum
The Asian Art Museum offers Virtual Lecture Series—where you can participate from home!—and is showing “The Language of Flowers in Art”. The hour-long discussion and Q&A section are happening at 10 a.m. on May 11. Flowers and their role that is interwoven throughout Asian art, lifestyle, and society will be intimately discussed with viewers.


The Center for Asian American Media Festival will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of being offered to the community. On May 15 at 6 p.m., live screenings will be shown to participants in the Great Star Theater. “Conversations in Chinatown” panels are hosted on May 21 at 3 p.m. at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art where guests can ask questions about the historic neighborhood and its influence throughout time.

Chinese Culture Center

The Chinese Culture Center will be hosting Cathy Liu, whose “Interior Garden” art exhibit will be displayed for guests. Holding a Master of Fine Arts from the San Francisco Arts Institute, Liu’s mesmerizing sculpture garden and ceramic installations will be presented to marvel at. The indoor installation will be featured through December.

Oakland Museum of California

Hung Liu was a groundbreaking artist who had resided in Oakland, California. Her “Remembering Artist Hung Liu” exhibit will be featured at the museum to honor their life and artistic contributions to the community and Asian American community after her untimely passing just this year. She has been featured numerous times which drew large crowds who were moved by her work.

San Francisco Public Library

AAPI Heritage Month celebrations begin at the library on the very first day of May from 2 – 5 p.m. Batik—or patterned dying artwork—will be offered as a workshop for teens to learn the intricate methods of this ancient art form. Virtual Sweet Stories for Family Series and taiko drumming concerts are presented to guests in multiple locations across the Bay area. Anti-Asian Hate in the Tie of COVID begins at 1 p.m. on May 7 where an intimate discussion will be held to discuss ongoing events to combat racism and violence against Asians.

Want to Participate from Home?

If you would like to participate in the AAPI Heritage Month but cannot make the live celebrations, you are in luck! Several virtual offerings are available for you.
Marvel’s Voices: Identity No. 1
Characters from around the world have been honored by Marvel Comics Marvel Voices. This year marks the second Asian American special that is available to watch from home. IT includes AAPI artists and writers who had the task of crafting their very own short stories with their favorite Marvel characters.


One of the mega-giants of streaming services, Hulu presents a specially curated page that spotlights Asian American stories, character representation, and Asian contributions. Several programs were chosen that include:
  • Chicago Med
  • The Next Thing You Eat
  • PEN15
  • Fresh Off the Boat
  • One-Punch Man
  • And more
For more information, visit Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month – San Francisco (apasf.org) to find more celebrations, history, and contributions of the AAPI community.

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