Since the first Asian immigrants — Filipino sailors aboard a Spanish ship — arrived in the U.S. in the 16th century, Asian American/Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) have been an integral part of American society. Today, they make up the fastest-growing racial group in the country, and recognizing their struggles, achievements and contributions has only become increasingly more important.
Designated as an annual celebration in May, AAPI Heritage Month provides a unique opportunity to learn about, honor and celebrate the rich and diverse cultures of the groups that compose the community. Given the challenges they have faced in recent years, it is also a time to promote awareness, understanding and solidarity with other communities.
As we enter May, here are 10 fun ways to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month:
1. Learn about AAPI history.
Honoring AAPI heritage requires a foundation of learning about the community’s history. Since 2021, multiple states have begun to require AAPI studies in their schools’ curricula, ensuring that every child is equipped with adequate knowledge about a group that has always influenced the larger American society.
Textbooks, research articles, museums and the internet all provide access to information on AAPI history. If you’re AAPI, you can take it up a notch and reach out to your parents and/or grandparents and learn about your ancestry, which can also make for a good family bonding experience.
Also, don’t shy away from non-English works! As award-winning South Korean film director Bong Joon-ho famously said during his Golden Globes acceptance speech, “Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.
3. Savor AAPI cuisine.
Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month would not be complete without a gastronomic journey into the sumptuous flavors of Asian cuisine. There is so much to try beyond dim sum, ramen, lumpia, samosa, kimchi and the mighty boba, so be sure to scout your neighborhood or nearby Asian-towns for more options to expand your palate.
4. Read AAPI literature.
One underrated way to celebrate Heritage Month is to read books written by AAPI authors, whose works are as diverse as their talents. From poetry to memoirs to fiction novels, AAPI authors have certainly made an impact beyond American literature.
5. Study an Asian/Pacific Islander language (or more).
If you have more time in your hands, Heritage Month may be the best time to pick up a new Asian or Pacific Islander language. This is because the month offers many community events that bring together AAPI ethnic groups, and learning at least the basics of another language will help you communicate more closely with others.
In addition to expanding your knowledge and the number of people you can talk with, bilingualism may even act as a protective factor against dementia, according to a recent study.
6. Go camping.
Not a lot of people pay attention to this, but AAPI Heritage Month falls in the spring, which makes outdoor activities perfect. Camping is one option and there are plenty of parks across the country to make it happen.
For this reason, it comes as no surprise that some Asian Americans have chosen to arm themselves. But for those who want an alternative, enrolling in self-defense or martial arts classes is an option that could also afford them the benefit of exercising the mind and body.
9. Start a journal.
Another way for AAPIs to celebrate Heritage Month is by starting a journal, especially if you have long-term plans of writing a memoir. As an AAPI, one faces challenges and experiences unique to their identity.
Even if you do not see yourself writing a book, you can still try out journaling to improve mental health. If you did not know already, May is also Mental Health Awareness Month, and with many AAPIs still hesitant to seek help for mental issues, journaling may offer some relief by allowing one to express their emotions freely.
10. Connect, volunteer and share.
Finally, this month paves a myriad of opportunities for connecting with others and volunteering for AAPI causes. At NextShark, we believe that change starts with oneself and their immediate environment, so you may want to begin exploring your local community for AAPI-focused efforts and help out. If there is none, consider initiating yourself!
In line with raising awareness, Heritage Month is also the best time to share AAPI stories with non-AAPIs. Allies come from all communities, and nothing makes the world a better place than working with others for the common good of all.
Many people might not know this, but NextShark is a small media startup that runs on no outside funding or loans, and with no paywalls or subscription fees, we rely on help from our community and readers like you.
Everything you see today is built by Asians, for Asians to help amplify our voices globally and support each other. However, we still face many difficulties in our industry because of our commitment to accessible and informational Asian news coverage.
We hope you consider making a contribution to NextShark so we can continue to provide you quality journalism that informs, educates, and inspires the Asian community. Even a $1 contribution goes a long way. Thank you for supporting NextShark and our community.