By Lakshmi Gandi
An online database that hosts animated images is commemorating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with a collection of GIFs featuring Asian-American and Pacific Islander history makers, celebrities, and reactions.
GIPHY introduced the series of GIFs Monday to help diversify the kind of images it hosts — which its users often use to react to things on the internet or capture a pop culture moment — as well as to educate its user base.
“It was very important for us to showcase Asian Americans,” Yosub Kim, GIPHY’s content strategy director told NBC News. “We saw a lot of success with our Black History Month channel and our Women’s History Month channel, so we wanted to use our channel to work with our community of GIPHY artists to create custom artwork. We really wanted to showcase people who have made an impact.”
Part of the array of new GIFs is devoted to highlighting the lives and achievements of five notable Asian Americans: Ellison Onizuka, who was first astronaut of Asian descent; the first Asian-American congresswoman, Patsy Mink; the first Indian-American senator, Kamala Harris; Olympian Kristi Yamaguchi; and AIDS researcher David Ho.
Kim said researching and putting together the profiles was an educational experience for everyone on his team, noting that David Ho was someone he himself had not known much about before.
“I didn’t realize how extensive his AIDS research was,” Kim said. “Speaking as a gay Asian man, I think that’s an incredibly personal thing.”
The new GIFs also include a subsection of files known as the “I Am” project, in which GIPHY culture editor Jasmyn Lawson interviewed 25 Asian Americans in New York to get their reactions to a wide variety of topics and situations.
“They shared personal stories about their lives,” Lawson told NBC News, explaining that she had conversations with the group about everything from the first time they experienced racism to their hobbies.
“It was about making sure we have good representation [in our reaction GIFs], along with having original artwork,” Lawson said.
Lawson also noted that while the conversations around representation often center on television and film, diversifying the GIFs available for people to use can also play a critical role in diversifying media.
“A GIF is another part of media,” Lawson said. “And we are part of that conversation.”
Click here for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month GIFs.