May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. The recent surge of anti-Asian hate crimes and their increased visibility in the media highlights the importance and urgency of learning about history so it doesn’t repeat itself. At the same time, these acts of violence shouldn’t define or overshadow the rich diversity and joy of the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. Read on for ways you and your family and troop can come together to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
It’s important to remember that Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) are not a monolith. According to the Asian Pacific Institute, the term “AAPI” encompasses “all people of Asian, Asian American or Pacific Islander ancestry, who trace their origins to the countries, states, jurisdictions and/or the diasporic communities of these geographic regions.” There are more than fifty different ethnic groups who speak a hundred different languages represented in this umbrella term. Recognize the complexity of the AAPI communities and include a wide array of histories, stories, and voices. Here are a few literary places to start:
- Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center’s Book Dragon
- Chasing Faerytales’ 2021 South Asian Books Database
- We Need Diverse Books’ Resources for Pacific Islander Heritage Month
Attend an Event
There’s no shortage of events taking place during AAPI Heritage month—from the fun and arty to the insightful and awareness-raising. Plus, all of these events are virtual so you can explore far and wide without leaving home!
- Young Portrait Explorers: Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month: This series of virtual children’s workshops examine portraits of different Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
- Celebrate Asian Pacific Heritage Month with MāoriMo Ake Tonu: Māori Mo Ake Tonu or “Maori Forever” aims to preserve Māori performing arts through poi dances, story-telling action songs, and haka.
- Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month – Trailblazers in Communities: Hosted by the YMCA of Greater Seattle, this event highlights and celebrates the historical and ongoing contributions of the Asian Pacific Islander community.
- Youth in Action: Ecological Knowledge in Pacific Coastal Communities: Listen to a conversation with young Indigenous activists from across the Pacific who are using traditional ecological practices to combat threats to the ocean resources their communities have protected and thrived on for thousands of years.
- Hear Us Roar: Our Past, Present, & Future: Learn about the history, contributions, and challenges of Asian and Pacific Islander women in the United States.
Visit a Historical Site
It goes without saying that Asian American and Pacific Islander history is American history. Despite this, AAPI history often isn’t taught in the classroom. The Illinois lower house only recently passed the Teaching Equitable Asian American Community History (TEAACH) Act, legislation that will require Illinois public schools to teach a unit of Asian American history. If the bill passes in the State Senate, it will be the only state to have such a mandate. As state representative and bill co-sponsor Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz says, “Asian Americans are a part of the American fabric, but we are often invisible. Empathy comes from understanding. We cannot do better unless we know better.” Use the National Park Services’ website to explore the many ways that AAPIs have shaped and made an impact in America’s history.
Create Thriving Futures
Racism and xenophobia are not new, but it is incumbent on us to fight them in order to create a better world where everyone can thrive. Undoing unjust systems benefits us all, and as Girl Scouts, it’s one of the duties we pledge to uphold. There are many organizations that are already doing great work—find one that resonates with you and get involved:
- South Asian Americans Leading Together
- Asian American Racial Justice Toolkit
- The Center for Asian Pacific American Women
- QUIET BEFORE: Unearthing Anti-Asian Violence
- Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon’s Anti-Racism Workshops for API Month
Lily Yu – Lily is a Program Resource Specialist at River Valleys. She earned her BA in comparative literature and Japanese from Hamilton College and has a background in publishing and advertising. Though she wasn’t a Girl Scout growing up, Lily is making up for lost time as a volunteer and troop cookie manager for her daughter’s Brownie troop. In her free time, she enjoys going for long walks, reading, and spending time with her family (And rescue dog, Neil!).