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The History of AAPI Heritage Month and Where to Celebrate in New York

Many groups across New York State are holding educational and cultural events or activities to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month. Here is a selection of what is available.

AAPI Heritage Month is a commemorative month to celebrate Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States and pay tribute to the generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders who have enriched America’s history and contributed to America’s growth and prosperity.

The definition of the “Asian/Pacific” region changes according to the context. In general, it includes all of the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji, and the Solomon Islands), Micronesia ( Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, and the Federated States of Micronesia) and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, and Easter Island).

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In 2020, about 24 million people identified as Asian alone or in combination in the United States, and about 1.6 million people identified as Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islanders alone or in combination.

Why does AAPI Heritage Month fall in May?

The month of May was chosen to commemorate two milestones in AAPI history: the first Japanese immigrant arrived in the United States on May 7, 1843, and the building of the transcontinental railroad was completed on May 10, 1869. The majority of the transcontinental railroad workers were Chinese immigrants.

However, establishing Asian American Heritage Month has not been smooth sailing. In 1977, Reps. Frank Horton from New York and Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii each introduced a resolution requesting the President to designate annually a week in the first ten days of May as “ Pacific/Asian American Heritage Week.” None of these resolutions passed. Rep. Horton then introduced another resolution in 1978 proposing the president proclaim a week “which is to include the seventh and tenth of the month during the first ten days in May of 1979 as ‘Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week.” The resolution was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Jimmy Carter on October 5, 1978. Congress passed a law expanding the observance to a month in 1990. In 1992, Congress passed a law designating Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month as an annual month long celebration in May.

AAPI Heritage Month events and activities in New York

Many groups across New York State are holding educational and cultural events or activities to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month. Here is a selection of what is available:

Isamu Noguchi & Kenzo Okada

Time: May 2, 2022 – May 27, 2022, Monday – Friday, 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Location: New York State Capitol, Governor’s Reception Room, 2nd Floor

This exhibit celebrates Isamu Noguchi and Kenzo Okada from the collection and highlights how their East Asian heritage helped shape postwar American art. Original artwork by both artists can be viewed on the Concourse Level of the Empire State Plaza.

New York Public Library AAPI Heritage Month events

Join the New York Public Library during Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month for events and programs including panels, book discussions, and more. View the full calendar of Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month events.

Celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with NYC Parks

Time: May 29, 2022, Sunday, 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Location: Fort Greene Park Visitor Center

Origami has great significance in Asian culture. Learn this creative and historical art form on folding paper while enjoying your time at the park.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month at Asia Society

Asia Society celebrates Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with online or in-person events, interviews, and a spotlight on the accomplishments of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs). For more details and the latest events, check its website at https://asiasociety.org/.

AAPISTRONG Heritage Month Summit (Virtual)

Time: May 12, 2022, Thursday, 1:00 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET


The summit is hosted by the National Asian American Chamber of Commerce. The guests and speakers include U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becarra, United States Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai, U.S. Department of Commerce Deputy Secretary Don Commerce, U.S. Department of Labor Deputy Secretary Julie Su and other representatives from AAPI communities.

AAWW AT 30 (Virtual)

Asian American Writers’ Workshop invites the public to think wildly with it this Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Its upcoming events include a poetry workshop with Mai Der Vang, and a special reading in collaboration with poet and visual artist Sham-e-Ali. For more information and reservations, please visit:https://aaww.org/events/

Beautiful Country: An Evening with Qian Julie Wang

Time: May 9, 2022, Monday, 6:30 p.m.

Location: Museum of the City of New York, 1220 5th Ave, New York, NY 10029

Price: $25 & up

This program is part of the Museum‘s celebration of AAPI Heritage Month. Author and litigator Qian Julie Wang reflects on her searing literary memoir, Beautiful Country, and considers her own childhood journey from China to Brooklyn in the wider context of New York City immigrant narratives, past and present. Following her talk, she will be joined in a conversation with poet and cultural critic Ken Chen. Light reception and book signing to follow; books available for purchase.

AAPI Care Fair

Time: May 15th, Sunday, from 1:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m. ET

Location: Columbus Park, Chinatown (Mulberry St. & Baxter St., New York, NY 10013)

To honor and celebrate the tremendous resiliency the AAPI community has demonstrated, Soar Over Hate is bringing back the annual AAPI Care Fair for AAPI Heritage Month. Prioritizing low-income, elderly, female, and LGBTQ+ of the community, this is an all-encompassing event to promote healing, safety, and joy. Highlights from the inaugural event hailing over 2,000 patrons, 130+ volunteers, and 11 partnerships can be found here

In addition to self-defense device distributions, the event will have:Hot Meals, Snacks and Refreshments From Local AAPI Businesses ; Self-Defense Course taught by women from Two Bridges Muay Thai; Chinese Yo-Yo Class by Diabolo Artist Linda Quach; Native Hawaiian Hula Class from Hula New York; Traditional Henna Art by Henna Queen NYC; Healing Circle by a licensed, culturally conscious therapist; Origami Workshop; Puppy Therapy

Community Healing: Womankind x AAPI Heritage Month

Time: May 19, 2022, 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. ET

Location: 32 Broadway, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10004

Price: $15, attendees who are not able to afford the ticket can contact Womankind.

Womankind is bringing together friends and supporters in a collective space to explore diverse and effective approaches to healing. Practices and activities include a discussion with Asian healers sharing their own experiences and specific healing practices; attendees will be placed randomly in one of three breakout groups led by a healer, where they can engage practically with one unique healing modality.

​​Up Next: A Celebration of AAPI Voices for Change

Time:May 23,2022, Monday, 6:00 p.m.

Location: Second Floor NYC, 849 Sixth Avenue, New York, NY, 10001

A special fundraising event supporting Coalition for Asian American Children and Families programs for change during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. The event features performances by two-time Tony-nominated and Grammy-winning actor and singer Eva Noblezada and prolific artist Brooklyn Raga Massive.

Join AAPI Victory Alliance in supporting efforts to create an AAPI museum

Now that the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3525 on April 26, 2022, it’s one step closer to getting a national museum dedicated to preserving and celebrating the rich history, culture, and accomplishments of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. AAPI Victory Alliance started a petition at the Action Network urging the senate to pass AAPI National Museum bill H.R. 3525.

Tune in to AA and NHPI Heritage Month Closing Ceremony

Time: May 26, 2022, Thursday, 2:00 p.m. ET

White House Initiative on AA and NHPIs welcome you to its AA and NHPI Heritage Month Closing Ceremony under the theme “Building Legacy Together: Our Communities’ Journey of Strength and Resilience.” This showcase aims to highlight the strength, resilience, and diverse talents of AA and NHPI communities. Biden-Harris Administration officials, artists, and trailblazers will be present, and the ceremony will be live-streamed for those who cannot join it in person. The link to stream the event will be shared closer to the event via our newsletter and social media. Please direct your questions to whiaanhpi@hhs.gov.

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