May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month! This annual month-long event is an opportunity to celebrate the many contributions and achievements of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.
Given the vast diversity of the AAPI community, it’s important to recognize that the AAPI umbrella is not a monolith.
During May, it’s important to give our attention to the concerns and needs of the AAPI community and find long term ways to support them.
Below, you can find resources and ways to uplift the AAPI community nationwide and in your own community!
5 Facts To Know About AAPI Heritage Month History
- Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month was originally a week; it was President Jimmy Carter who signed it into law in 1978 designating a week to celebrate the AAPI community.
- President George H. W. Bush signed a bill in 1990 that extended the week into the full month and President Barack Obama changed the name to Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in 2009.
- According to the 2020 Census, there are 24 million people in the United States who fall under the umbrella of AAPI, and the Pew Research Center has found that Asian Americans are the fastest-growing ethnic group in America.
- Lawmakers chose May because of its historical significance for the AAPI community. It commemorates the immigration of the first Japanese people to the United States, as well as Golden Spike Day (May 10, 1869), which marked the completion of the transcontinental railroad, largely built by Chinese laborers.
- Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month was able to exist due to the traction from the civil rights movement in the 70s; they were able to find momentum because of Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month.
While it’s important to learn more about and uplift the experiences of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders every single day, it’s helpful to have somewhere to start. We’ve created a guide on how to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month this year.
By the way, some of the links in this article (like books!) are affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you!
Activities & Ideas for Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month
Watch a documentary about Asian American history.
Asian American history is American history. And a great way to ensure you’re well-informed during May is by watching documentaries.
We recommend watching the documentary Asian Americans by PBS; it's a five-episode series on the fastest-growing ethnic group in American history.
Dive into research.
Read this comprehensive list of resources from Stop AAPI Hate. From educational materials to a template you can use to contact your local lawmakers, this list is a great asset for both members and allies of the AAPI community.
Visit an AAPI museum in your community.
Museums and cultural centers are a great starting point to learn more about AAPI history, especially the local impact and contributions they have made.
Check out this list for some iconic museums around the United States — and also consider searching Google Maps for smaller, local museums in your community.
Learn the difference between Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Understanding the difference between these two groups is essential when it comes to celebrating AAPIHM.
In the 1970s, with fewer immigrants from these regions, it was important to band together.
Recent years, however, have seen growing criticism of the usage of this umbrella term — and it’s valuable to learn about that conversation as well.
Listen to podcasts from the AAPI community.
Whether you want to be informed or entertained, there is a podcast out there that you can support. We enjoy and recommend Tim Chantarangsu and David So’s YouTube collaborations — and their podcast, Dudes Behind the Foods, doesn’t disappoint!
If you’re looking for more recommendations, this list is a great starting point.
Buy books from AAPI-owned bookstores.
By the way, some of the links below may be affiliate links — which means Good Good Good may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no cost to you!
You can support the AAPI community by shopping from local AAPI-owned bookstores. Check out this list of storefronts to support in California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New York, and Oregon.
You can also discover and easily support local AAPI-owned bookstores online via Libro.fm (via this curated list) or Bookshop.org (by selecting “Asian-American & Pacific Islander-owned Bookstores” from the Filters dropdown of their Store Locator).
Read books from AAPI authors.
While you’re shopping from AAPI-owned bookstores (or your wonderful local library), you should also support and learn from AAPI authors!
The publishing industry has a diversity problem — but change is possible.
It is important and valuable to boost stories written by AAPI authors, and what better way to demonstrate that you want to keep hearing from these voices and experiences than to financially support them?
Some recommendations include:
- Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong — a collection of essays
- Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner — a memoir
- Pachinko by Min Jin Lee — a novel
- Hawaii's Story by Queen Lili'uokalani — a novel
Follow AAPI activists, educators, and leaders on social media.
To support the ongoing efforts to advance AAPI rights, you can follow organizers on social media and bring their mission to your own community.
Some folks to follow include:
- Amanda Nguyen — founder of Rise, civil rights activist
- Jamaica Osorio — author
- Ai-jen Poo — domestic workers organizer
- Esmé Weijun Wang — author, previously a guest on Sounds Good
- Aditi Mayer — social justice digital creator
- And me: Sara Li — journalist, and former Good Good Good managing editor
Learn how to pronounce Asian names.
One of the easiest and most impactful actions you can take is learning how to properly pronounce Asian names.
Constantly mispronouncing an ethnic name can be considered a form of microaggression, especially when our society has no qualms about learning how to say other “difficult” names such as Tchaikovsky, Nietzsche, or Schopenhauer.
If you’re not sure, ask! As with most things, people feel valued when you make the effort.
Shop AAPI-owned businesses.
Just like supporting AAPI authors supports positive industry change, shopping AAPI businesses ensures that the money you are spending gets reinvested in these communities. If you’re not sure where to begin, Asian Founded is a fantastic starting point.
Help stop violence against AAPI communities.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen an alarming growth in anti-Asian sentiment. Taking a bystander awareness course will help you be prepared to assist in de-escalating those situations should you happen to witness them.
Donate to support Hawaiian families who have been displaced because of colonization.
One of the greatest issues Hawaii has struggled with over the years has been the displacement of its Indigenous communities to make room for both the military and the millions of tourists that visit the islands every year. Kahumana Organic Farms is a nonprofit that helps homeless families in Hawaii that have suffered the toll of these industries.
Donate to support Asian migrant sex workers.
Red Canary Song is a wonderful nonprofit that supports Asian and migrant sex workers. Your donations go a long way to help their efforts to decriminalize this line of work, a necessity when it comes to ensuring labor and anti-trafficking protections, and decreasing deportations.
Provide a meal for AAPI elders.
Heart of Dinner is a New York City-based nonprofit that provides meals to the most vulnerable of the AAPI community: the elders. You can see exactly where and who your support is going towards.
If you live in New York, you can volunteer to pack meals, deliver meals, write notes, or work behind-the-scenes on logistics. If you live anywhere else in the world, you can donate, host a fundraiser or find out if there are similar local efforts you can join.
Go to a rally, reading, or in-person event.
One way to show up for the AAPI community is to do exactly that: show up. You can search for local events in your town to see if there are any rallies, protests, or readings that aim to support the AAPI Rights movement. Facebook’s events tab and sites like Meetup or Eventbrite are easy ways to find out what is happening near you.
Fight for salary transparency to combat racial and gender pay gaps.
Culturally, we have been taught to not discuss how much we earn. This custom has been widely used as a tool of oppression and, specifically within the AAPI community, it has also contributed to further promoting the “model minority” myth.
It is also important to note that while generally AAPI women face the smallest pay gap, that difference highly varies within the communities covered under that umbrella.
Check your biases and commit to fighting racial discrimination in the workplace.
Though most studies on hiring discrimination focus on white vs. Black names, it is not hard to infer that this is something that also affects other people of non-white backgrounds.
This, the model minority myth, and other preconceptions still affect most workplaces, so it is important to self-reflect on how you can improve, as well as actively work to prevent those issues from being considered acceptable.
Create (or join) an Employee Resource Group.
Employee Resource Groups are employee-led volunteer groups created with the intent to foster safe and empowering spaces for employees to express themselves, build community, and seek support at work. Supporting these groups helps attract a more diverse workforce and reduces turnover in the long run.
Highlight AAPI Heritage Month in your company newsletter.
If your brand or company sends a newsletter to customers or team members, this is a great way to inform folks about AAPI Heritage Month in a thoughtful way.
Create a section where you highlight historical figures, give folks tips for how to celebrate, share ways to give back to AAPI folks in your community — and maybe even share this article as a resource! (If you use stock photos, check out our guide to diverse stock photos.)
For Kids & Students at School
Support AAPI curriculums in school.
Asian American Pacific Islander history is American history, though not every school district accurately reflects that. You can support the ongoing movement to teach our school children more about AAPI contributions to the country in their classrooms by contacting your local school district and asking them to implement more policies that support and protect these minorities, as well as requesting that more materials made by AAPI creators and educators be featured, taught and discussed.
Organize or request an AAPI creator speaking event.
Whether offering inviting an invitation to speak on social issues or perhaps to do a stand-up gig, if there is a creator you love, asking your school administrators to organize an event supports their platform, and is a great way to mobilize your community into active participation.
Teach children about racism and diversity.
If you have young children, it is particularly important to teach them from an early age about the importance of diversity and how racism still impacts us as a society. A great way to do that is by encouraging them to consume media that features characters of other races and ethnicities, especially as the leads, or by reading age-appropriate books on the subject.
Frequently Asked Questions
What month is AAPI Heritage Month?
May is AAPI Heritage Month — and was because it marks two important events in Asian American history: the arrival of the first known Japanese immigrants in 1843 and the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, which was built by Chinese immigrant workers.
Why is it especially important to support the AAPI community now?
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s been a rise in anti-Asian hate around the world. With the surge in violence against the AAPI community, now is especially important to invest in ways to make sure our AAPI communities feel safe.
What are some issues the AAPI community faces?
Xenophobia is an institutional barrier that makes it hard for the AAPI community to achieve equality in America. However, resources like language translation services, access to healthcare and education, and bystander awareness help make the lives of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the US easier.
What is the theme for 2023’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month?
The 2023 theme for AAPI Heritage Month has been dubbed “Advancing Leaders Through Opportunity” by the Federal Asian Pacific American Council. As an organization that works to support AAPI leaders in Federal and DC governments, the FAPAC chose this theme to help elevate more AAPI civil servants to find success and growth in their careers.
What was the theme for 2022’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month?
While rotating themes may be common for many holidays and heritage months all over the planet, in the United States there is not always an annual theme for AAPI Heritage Month. In Canada, 2022’s theme was “continuing a legacy of greatness”. Many organizations can individually pick their own themes.
What are some hashtags to use on social media for AAPI Heritage Month?
The most common social media hashtags used to promote AAPI Heritage Month currently include:
What ethnic groups are Pacific Islanders?
Pacific Islanders include a diverse range of ethnic groups native to the Pacific Islands region. Major groups are Polynesians (including Hawaiians, Samoans, Tongans), Melanesians (Fijians, Papua New Guineans, Solomon Islanders), and Micronesians (Chamorros, Palauans, Marshallese). These groups share common cultural traits and ancestry, but also have distinct identities