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Happy Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

By Kathy Liao

Hand illustration of blue bowls with patterns holding bok choy with bowls of vegetables including spices, carrots and tomatoes on the left and purple eggplant on the right.

This is the month to celebrate the history, culture, and impact of Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islanders here in the United States.

Liao with her grandmother in 2022.

I am an Asian American and I would not be here if not for my family, from my grandparents’ aspiration and hard work to my parents making the decision to uproot my family to bring my siblings and me to the United States, so we could have a better life.

My grandmother is funny, resilient, feisty, and absolutely adorable at age 98. She lost her mother at age 16, lived through WWII, raised my mother and my siblings and me, moved from Japan to China, then to Taiwan, and, very soon, she’ll be moving to the United States with my mom, to be with her grandkids. When she recognizes me, she still lovingly ask me “过得好不好?” Are you doing well?

National AAPI month is a space where we can amplify our stories and our journeys. Here are a few resources to help you learn more about and celebrate the AAPI community.

Celebrating AAPI with FOOD

Growing up, food was at the heart of how my family gathered and celebrated joy. I wanted to share this collaborative cookbook, Word of Mouth: Asian American Artists Sharing Recipes, edited and illustrated by artists Jave Yoshimoto (Artist INC Facilitator) and Laura Kina.Book cover with colorful illustrations of food and the title, Word of Mouth.

Word of Mouth: Asian American Artists Sharing Recipes features original recipes and stories from 23 Asian American and Asian diaspora artists from across the United States. Each recipe comes with a backstory from the artist reflecting how their Asian American cuisine has been impacted by histories of war, migration, relocation, labor, and mixing and how we have used food to care, connect, build, and sustain diverse communities in our personal lives and artistic practices.

Click here to learn more about Word of Mouth cookbook. Happy Cooking!

AAPI Heritage Month events

If you live in Kansas City (where M-AAA is headquartered), go see the Found in Translation Exhibition at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art. If you don’t live in Kansas City, you can follow along from wherever you are with this amazing interactive GoogleArts page for this exhibition

Last year, Cafe Cà Phê and owner Jackie Nyugen, put on the very first AAPI Heritage Month Festival in Kansas City, and it’s coming back this year! Join Cafe Cà Phê, Kansas City’s first Vietnamese coffee shop, at Columbus Square Park on May 20 for the second annual Kansas City AAPI Festival, presented by Fresh Karma Dispensaries. Register for the event here: AAPICONIC: 2023 Kansas City AAPI Festival.

Here is the statement from National Association of Asian American Professionals in Kansas City (NAAAP-KC):

May is a time to celebrate the diverse and rich histories, cultures, and achievements of Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander descent during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Spanning more than 50 countries and ethnic groups, with over 100 languages and dialects spoken, Asian-Pacific Americans have significantly contributed to every sphere of American society, including arts, technology, sports, and education.

This month also serves as a solemn reminder of the many struggles and injustices faced by Asian-Pacific American communities, historically and in the present. As we commemorate 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, primarily built by Chinese laborers who faced discrimination and adversity, we acknowledge the long and complex history of immigration, settlement, adaptation, and resistance of Asian Pacific Americans.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month provides an opportunity to honor the legacy of these pioneers and their descendants and celebrate the diversity and vitality of the current Asian Pacific American population. With more than 24 million Asian Americans and nearly 1.6 million Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders living in the United States, they represent many experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives that enrich our nation’s cultural mosaic.

As we celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we must recognize the importance of heritage and culture for these communities. They are sources of identity, pride, resilience, empowerment, and ways of honoring the past, celebrating the present, and envisioning the future. Heritage and culture serve as bridges that connect us with ourselves, each other, and the world.

Read the Full Statement Here.

AAPI Heritage Month National events

Also, I want to drop a plug for our ExhibitsUSA programming, Resilience: A Sansei Sense of Legacy is on view through July 7, 2023, at the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma. You can read about it here on the International Examiner.

Additionally, here are more national events and resources: 


Header image credit: Word of Mouth cookbook cover artwork (excerpt). Illustration by Jave Yoshimoto.