May is recognized as Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, a time to celebrate the rich and diverse cultures, traditions and contributions of the AAPI community to the United States. It’s also about raising awareness, promoting diversity and fighting against discrimination and prejudice - the latter of which has seen a surge since COVID, as far-right legislators and pundits have propagated anti-Asian rhetoric.
To accomplish the mission of AAPI Heritage Month, it’s essential to understand its history, as well as to honor the many, incredible AAPI contributions to our country and the state of Colorado. Together, we can learn about ways to support AAPI efforts and to help debunk the hateful myths that only seek to sow division and marginalize this community. Read on to learn more.
AAPI Heritage Month History
The history of AAPI Heritage Month can be traced back to the 1970s when Congress passed a joint resolution to honor the contributions of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in the United States. The first AAPI Heritage Week was celebrated in 1978, and in 1990, President George H. W. Bush signed a bill that extended the week to an entire month.
Why AAPI Heritage Month is Important
AAPI Heritage Month is important because it provides a platform to raise awareness and promote diversity. The AAPI community is incredibly diverse, with over 50 ethnic groups and more than 100 languages spoken. AAPI Heritage Month helps to highlight this diversity and promote understanding and respect for different cultures and traditions.
AAPI Heritage Month also helps to fight against discrimination and prejudice. Unfortunately, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have faced discrimination and prejudice throughout their history in the United States. From the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II to the recent surge in hate crimes against Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic, the AAPI community has faced many challenges.
In addition to raising awareness and promoting diversity, AAPI Heritage Month is also an opportunity to celebrate the many contributions and achievements of the AAPI community to American culture and society. These range widely, from the arts, music and literature, to science, technology and business.
AAPI Community and Advocacy Efforts in Colorado
According to public use microdata sample (PUMS) from the Census Bureau, more than 250,000 people fall into one of the AAPI ethnic groups living in Colorado - and the growth rate is almost 100% since 2000. The AAPI community is a vital part of the fabric of Colorado, and it’s crucial we continue to advocate for legislation and initiatives that support it.
To that end, we’ve seen recent legislation introduced by Representative Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez and Senator Julie Gonzales to establish Lunar New Year as an observed holiday in Colorado (House Bill 1271).
AAPI Events in Colorado
May 13 | Lao New Year Celebration: Wat Lao Sidaounnaram 10685 Dover St. Westminster, CO 80021 from 11 a.m. - 8 p.m. Includes parade followed by cultural performances.
May 14, 15 | Asian American and Pacific Islander+ Festival
Local and National AAPI Resources
As we celebrate AAPI Heritage Month, let us remember the many challenges and struggles that the AAPI community has faced, and let us work together to promote a message of unity, respect and inclusion.