By Jennie L. Ilustre

Asian Fortune, April 25, 2018 —

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, a time for celebration! Across the country, festivals will showcase a rich, diverse culture. Programs will honor Asian American achievers who contribute to the nation’s progress. This year is different, however.  Advocacy organizations are sounding an urgent call to show a united front on Asian American concerns. They have also formed coalitions to face new challenges on Census, voting rights and immigration issues.

Universities and educational associations are performing a laudable public awareness service. Indeed, what better time to engage the public and young minds about Americans of Asian heritage? Every year, Columbia University observes the Heritage Month by celebrating the culture, as well as delving on Asian American issues.


The National Education Association (NEA) offers lessons on Teaching Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage in its website. NEA is the nation’s largest professional employee organization.

NEA’s “May Is Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month,” by Phil Nast, a retired middle school teacher and freelance writer, notes: “Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have contributed to politics, military, medicine, aviation, entertainment, and sports in the United States. Celebrate their heritage and contributions with these lessons and activities.


There are two reasons the celebration is held in May. First, it commemorates the immigration of the first Japanese to the U.S. on May 7, 1843. Second, the month also marks the anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad on May 10, 1869.  Most of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.

In June 1977, U.S. Congressmen Frank Horton (NY) and Norman Y. Mineta (CA) introduced a House resolution to proclaim the first ten days of May as Asian Pacific Heritage Week. The following month, U.S. Senators Daniel K. Inouye and Spark Matsunaga of Hawaii filed a sister bill in the Senate. The U.S. Congress approved the legislation. On October 5, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a Joint Resolution designating the annual celebration.

In 1990, President George H. W. Bush signed legislation extending the celebration into a month. Two years later, the official designation of May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month was signed into law.


Mainstream Media

As news and public service, the Mainstream Media include the celebration in their programming. NBC was the first major network to hold an essay contest during the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. During the month of May, it airs short segments showcasing achievers. It also includes coverage of festivals and other activities. Other TV networks also report on the month’s events in their newscasts.

WETA celebrates the month in its programming. PBS broadcasts programs, documentaries and films on relevant topics. PBS, with the slogan, To know a people, know their stories, has a special PBS collection of stories “that explores the history, traditions and culture of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States.”

PBS Video on Demand showcases Spotlight, Pass or Fail in Cambodia Town, about the untold story of Southeast Asian dropouts. PBS Indies (independent films) include “Employed Identity,” about Jenni Trang Le, a producer who discovers her stride in Vietnam through film, food, and love and “Duong Khach Linh,” who proves that music truly is a universal language. PBS Socal/Laart features Ukulele wizard Jake Shimabukuro, who opens up about “his love of the humble instrument.”


Schedule of Events

Below are the Asian Pacific American celebration schedules which were available at press time.


May 2, 2018/Wednesday

APA Heritage Awards Ceremony & Reception in San Francisco, California

Time: 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm

Event highlights: Signing of the APA Heritage Month Proclamation by Mayor Mark E. Farrell; Presentation of the First Annual Edwin Mah Lee Public Service Award In Memory of Mayor Edwin Mah Lee (the APA Heritage Celebration Committee is launching the annual Edwin Mah Lee Public Service Award.)

In celebration of the 40th Anniversary of APA Heritage Month (1978-2018), events take place throughout San Francisco in May. The Master Calendar of events ( is compiled by the APA Heritage Foundation, in partnership with the Mayor’s APA Heritage Celebration Committee and the Official Celebration Partners of the 40th Anniversary.


May 3, 2018/Thursday

Baltimore’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Celebration, organized by Baltimore Sister Cities, Inc.

Time: 6 pm – 9 pm

Where: Baltimore City Hall, 100 N. Holliday Street, Baltimore, MD 21202

All are invited to this free celebration. Hosted by the Baltimore Sister Cities, Inc. and the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs, the event features cultural performances, cuisine samples from local restaurants, and other activities.

Advance registration through Eventbrite is required and the names of any guests must be included in the registration in order to allow City Hall access. Organizers extend Special Thanks to MECU, the Department of Housing and Community Development, and the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts.

Baltimore Sister Cities, Inc. (BSC, is a non-profit, volunteer organization “that aims to promote mutual economic development, educational, cultural, health/environmental and other cooperation and exchanges between Baltimore City and its international Sister Cities. BSC activities are designed to benefit the City, its residents and the business community by supporting the Mayoral Initiatives of the City and the goals of the Sister Cities International organization.”


May 4, 2018/Friday

Smithsonian, Washington, D.C.: Celebrate the nation’s rich cultural heritage and history “through a series of vibrant performances, lectures, and family activities.”


Cooking Up History

Time: 1 pm – 2 pm

Where: American History Museum, Coulter Performance Plaza, 1 West

Cost: FREE; Accessibility: Wheelchair accessible

Sponsor: American History Museum, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center

Cooking Up History “showcases a guest chef and a Smithsonian host preparing a recipe and talking about the history and traditions behind its ingredients, culinary techniques, and enjoyment.”

The event is a free cooking demonstration by chef and cookbook author Patricia Tanumihardja. Born in Indonesia, raised in Singapore, and now living on the East Coast of the U.S., Chef Tanumihardja’s cooking marries regional Southeast Asian cuisine with local ingredients and a farm-to-table ethos. After the demo, Chef Tanumihardja will sign copies of her book, Farm to Table Asian Secrets.


May 5, 2018/Saturday

Asian American Center of Frederick FESTIVAL

Time: 11am – 4pm; Where: FSK Mall, Frederick, Maryland

Info:  Visit

Contact: (301) 694-3355

The Asian American Center of Frederick (AACF) has been hosting the festival each year offering an exciting array of performances, foods, and fun activities for the whole family!  This annual festival brings culture centers, local businesses, organizations, and the people of the community together for a day of free cultural entertainment and hands-on activities!

The Asian American Center of Frederick provides vital services to assist lower income, minority, or immigrant groups reach their full potential through access to health insurance enrollment, interpreter/translation services, ESL and Citizenship classes, mentoring, housing, education, employment and business development services.


May 6, 2018/Sunday

API Heritage Month Celebration at Seattle Center

Time: 11:45 am – 5 pm

Where: Seattle Center, 305 Harrison St, Seattle, Washington 98109

Cost: Free admission


Sponsor: Asian Pacific Directors Coalition

Event features top local performing groups, food trucks, children’s activities, a hum bow eating contest, and a cultural display of nations. Follow and tag the event on social media: #apifestal #apiseattle, Instagram & Twitter: @apiheritage


11:45am – Seattle Chinese Community Girls Drill Team

12:00pm – Opening Remarks by John Chen & Tammy Le, Co-Emcees / Welcoming Remarks by Janice Deguchi, Asian Pacific Directors Coalition Chairperson & Tam Dinh, 2nd Vice Chair, CAPAA

12:15pm – FYA Drill Team

12:30pm – Kinnaly Lao Traditional Music & Dance Troupe


May 7, 2018Monday

D.C. Mayor’s Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs

Time: 7 pm–8:30 pm

Where: The Lincoln Theatre, 1215 U Street NW

FREE but RSVP required at:

Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.

The Mayor’s Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs invites you to Mayor Bowser’s annual Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month celebration to celebrate the culture and contributions of AAPIs.  The evening features an awards ceremony and a cultural show. Performances: Okinawa Kai of Washington D.C., Indian Dance Educators Association (IDEA), Meki’s Tamure Polynesian Dance Group, and Alain Nu “The Man Who Knows.”


May 12, 2018/ Saturday

Smithsonian, Washington, D.C.: Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Family Day

Time: 11:30 am – 3 pm

Where: American Art Museum, Kogod Courtyard; Smithsonian, Washington, D.C.

Cost: FREE

Categories: Kids & Families

Sponsor: American Art Museum

Bring the whole family “for a day filled with art, performances from different regions, and a variety of crafting activities. Make a parol (Christmas lantern) from the Philippines, or a rubbing inspired by Korean artist Do Ho Suh’s work. Explore the galleries using a scavenger hunt to guide you to works by Asian American and Pacific Islander artists in SAAM’s collection.”


May 14-17, 2018

The Federal Asian Pacific American Council (FAPAC), the premier organization representing Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) employees in the Federal and D.C. governments, is proud to announce the theme for the observance of 2018 Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month: “Unite Our Vision by Working Together.”

2018 FAPAC Civilian Awards Presentation, at the 33rd National Leadership Training Program

Where: Sheraton Pentagon City, 900 South Orme Street, Arlington, VA.

The 2018 theme “Unite Our Vision by Working Together” builds on last year’s diversity theme and focuses on unity and inclusion. “America was founded on the ideal that from many, we are one, a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. That is the rationale for inclusion.” (

FAPAC is “a non-profit, non-partisan organization representing the interests of over 181,000 AAPI employees in the Federal and District of Columbia governments.  Since 1985, FAPAC has been committed to its mission of serving as a conduit through which the interests, issues and representation of Asian American and Pacific Islanders in the Federal and District of Columbia governments are addressed and promoting local partnerships within the public and private sectors.”


May 15, 2018/Tuesday

The Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS)

Annual Awards Gala Dinner

Time: Reception – 6 PM; Dinner – 7 PM

Where: Washington Hilton, 1919 Connecticut Ave NW Washington, DC



Sunday      May 13      National Leadership Academy Reception

Monday     May 14      National Leadership Academy

Tuesday    May 15      National Leadership Academy

Tuesday    May 15      Gala Reception

Tuesday    May 15      Annual Awards Gala Dinner

Tuesday    May 15      Toyota Camry Raffle

Thursday   May 17      Military Leadership Luncheon

The Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS) is a national non-partisan, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to “promoting Asian Pacific American participation and representation at all levels of the political process, from community service to elected office.”


May 26, 2018/Saturday

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month – San Francisco

Sushi without a Mat

Time: 2 pm – 3 pm


Sushi Without a Mat: Roll your own sushi using simple ingredients and techniques. All materials supplied.


May 31, 2018/Thursday

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month – San Francisco

Finding Your Asian American Roots

Transcribing Herstory: Contemporary Filipinx Voices



Early Celebration

Some organizations and universities celebrated the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM) earlier. The Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Multicultural Education (ODIME, the George Mason University in Virginia kicked off its celebration on April 2.

Its theme for APAHM 2018 was “Remember. Represent. Reignite.” This theme “symbolizes our desire to remember Asian American and Pacific Islander history, consider how history impacts the community’s representation in the present, and focus on ways to reignite a voice for advocacy to create a better future for all.”

The Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Multicultural Education (ODIME) leads the university “in creating and sustaining inclusive learning environments where all members of the Mason community are welcomed, valued, and supported.”

Every year, Columbia University celebrates APIA Heritage Month during April. Its focus is on programming that celebrates the culture, delves on the issues, and showcases the talents of Asian Pacific Islander Americans within the community and beyond.

 In its website,,it elaborates on its theme this year: “Our 2018 theme is: In(di)visible. The Asian American identity is one that often goes unnoticed or unrecognized, falling into gray areas and between blurred lines. This invisibility stretches across media and politics, as Asians are often homogenized or overlooked. But by taking ownership of Asian-ness, originally just a category of otherness, this identity can be transformed into a source of unity and strength.”