Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is an annual month-long celebration that recognizes and honors the culture, history, and traditions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans. It is also an opportunity to acknowledge the significant influences and contributions that Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans have made to the United States. As a relatively broad term, the Census defines Asian Americans as "those with origins in the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian Subcontinent,” and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islanders as "those within the U.S. jurisdictions of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia."
Originally named Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month was first proclaimed on May 4, 1979, as a week-long celebration. The observance expanded to a month almost a decade later in 1990, and in 1992, May was officially designated as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. In 2009, it was then recognized as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. May was chosen for this celebration to honor two significant events in Asian American and Pacific Islander history: the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States on May 7, 1843, and the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869, which was built by a workforce consisting mainly of Chinese immigrants.
The theme for this year's Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is "Advancing Leaders Through Opportunity," continuing from the "Advancing Leaders" theme of 2021. The United States is often referred to as the "Land of Opportunity," as it rewards those who work hard and are dedicated to achieving their goals. By offering various advancement opportunities, our society fosters innovation, critical thinking, strategic leadership, communication, and the refinement of skills, ultimately resulting in systems that exceed expectations.
The celebration typically includes a range of events and activities throughout the country, such as cultural festivals and gatherings hosted by communities, educational events organized by schools, universities, and organizations, art exhibitions, culinary events, and more. It is an excellent opportunity to showcase the diverse cultures, traditions, and unique experiences of Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.
Lei Wang, Esq. is an associate in the firm’s Philadelphia office.