Reflecting on Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
“This month commemorates Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI), which acknowledges and celebrates the diversity of Asian American and Pacific Islanders communities across our country.
It’s observed during this month because on May 7, 1843, the first Japanese immigrant arrived in the United States. And more than 20 years later, on May 10, 1869, the golden spike was driven into the First Transcontinental Railroad, which was completed using Chinese labor.
My own family arrived on our country’s shores by boat, coming from China by way of Hong Kong in 1956. The diversity of this community includes families like mine, families who have come since, and families who have been here for many generations.
The first known public use of the term “Asian American” happened in 1968, when students of Black, Latin, and Asian descent in California’s Bay Area advocated for ethnic studies courses. The University of California, Berkeley graduate students, Emma Gee and Yuji Ichioka saw students of Asian descent advocating individually and invited other minority groups to form the Asian American Political Alliance. By uniting the different ethnicities, students could achieve greater equality.
The inception of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month goes back to the mid-1970s. What was initially introduced as a resolution to proclaim the first 10 days of May as Asian Pacific Heritage Week eventually expanded to a month. Through recognition by both houses of the Legislative Branch in June 1977 and later by former President Jimmy Carter in 1978, it was expanded to a full month.
The District of Columbia has such a rich history of AAPI residents, educators, and students. I recognize the unique power that education wields in helping people achieve their dreams. I’m no exception! As the first-generation daughter born here from a Chinese immigrant mother, I am proud to be part of this community.”