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The Significance of AAPI Heritage Month

May is Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (often referred to as AAPI Appreciation Month), dedicated to honoring the rich cultures and significant contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. This celebration began in the late 1970s as Asian-Pacific Heritage Week to recognize the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants and the completion of the transcontinental railroad by Chinese laborers. Later, former President Obama expanded this to a month, with President Biden formally recognizing native Hawaiian peoples. Despite facing numerous challenges, the AAPI community has enriched American history with their resilience and achievements.

The AAPI community is incredibly diverse, encompassing a wide range of traditions, languages, and customs. From the colorful festivities of Lunar New Year to the vibrant lights of Diwali, AAPI cultures offer a wide variety of celebrations that vary from country to country. Students across the US learn about the wide variety of cultural festivals, cuisines, and traditions throughout the month of May in celebration of the achievements and contributions of AAPI peoples. Additionally, AAPI contributions to art, business and science are notable, with figures like Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian woman to go to space, making profound impacts in America. Large advancements in particle physics and in vitro fertilization (IVF) have been made by Asian-American scientists, while major entertainers like Bruce Lee and Yo-Yo Ma, 19-time Grammy award-winning cellist, were Asian-Americans. In addition, the founders and cofounders of internationally recognized companies such as Yahoo, Vera Wang, Bose, Youtube, Zoom, and more are all Asian-Americans.

However, the AAPI community continues to face issues such as discrimination, harmful stereotypes, and underrepresentation. COVID-19 exacerbated these issues, leading to a rise in anti-Asian sentiment around the world, but most notably in the US. Efforts towards social justice are ongoing, with organizations like Stop AAPI Hate and activists like Amanda Nguyen (an Asian Americans’ and sexual assault survivors’ rights activist who will soon be the first Vietnamese person to go to space) leading initiatives for change.

Attendees of a weekly AAPI Culture Club meeting pose in room D11.
Attendees of a weekly AAPI Culture Club meeting pose in room D11. The club played a key role in organizing WISH Academy’s AAPI Heritage Month celebrations.

Supporting the AAPI community involves learning about their history, appreciating their cultural contributions, and standing against racism. Our school’s AAPI club, which meets every Friday in room D11, plays a significant role in this effort. The club has hosted numerous events, such as the AAPI potluck, which beautifully showcased a variety of Asian cuisines. As well as a Jeopardy game to increase knowledge about major figures in the AAPI community and educate our school on issues, and cultural contributions. While May is dedicated to celebrating the AAPI community, let’s ensure we honor and support their voices and contributions throughout the year.

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