10 fun ways anyone can celebrate AAPI Heritage Month

10 fun ways anyone can celebrate AAPI Heritage Month10 fun ways anyone can celebrate AAPI Heritage Month
credit: Elvert Barnes (CC BY-SA 2.0), Ketut Subiyanto, Ketut Subiyanto
Carl Samson
May 1, 2023
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.

Images from a Harper’s Magazine article on the village of Saint Malo, Louisiana, where Filipino migrants settled in the 18th century.
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.

2. Binge-watch AAPI entertainment.

One of the most convenient means to celebrate AAPI culture in our time is to consume and support AAPI entertainment. Heritage Month is a good time to revisit classics like “The Joy Luck Club” or more recent favorites like “Crazy Rich Asians,” “The Farewell,” “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and “Everything Everywhere All At Once.”
If you’re more into series or TV shows, there’s “Fresh Off the Boat,” “Kim’s Convenience” (Canada), “Into the Badlands,” “Bling Empire” and “Never Have I Ever,” to name a few.
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.
Get started by checking out the works of Ha Jin, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Jhumpa Lahiri, Celeste Ng and Chang-rae Lee. As usual, don’t hesitate to explore more!

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.

Inyo National Forest in Bishop, Calif., is close to the Manzanar National Historic Site. credit: Wizz4prep (CC BY-SA 4.0)
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. 
Also consider that Yosemite National Park and the National Park Service may not even exist if it weren’t for Chinese immigrants’ contributions.
Aside from securing scenic spots, you may want to consider a park’s proximity to an AAPI museum or community center. For instance, the Angeles National Forest and the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in Los Angeles are both close to the Japanese American National Museum, while the Mount Rainier National Park and Olympic National Forest in Seattle are near the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience.

7. Support AAPI artists.

You can spend this month by supporting AAPI artists, especially those with ongoing concerts, exhibitions or events (whether physical or virtual).
We’re pretty sure you already have a favorite artist (or more) in mind, but if you don’t, discover at least one through social media.

8. Enroll in a self-defense class.

It is no news that the past few years have challenged AAPI communities on multiple fronts. Not only did we face deadly COVID-19 — and its debilitating economic impact — but a pandemic of hate and violence to go with it.
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.

credit: Elvert Barnes (CC BY-SA 2.0)
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.
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