This month we recognize the cultures and histories of Asian and Pacific Americans, as well as the contributions they have made to American society. May was chosen as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in part because the Transcontinental Railroad, which was largely built by Asian immigrant laborers and had a huge impact on the American economy, was completed on May 10, 1869. While unfortunately most in-person events have been postponed to allow for safe social distancing practices, this year it is particularly important to recognize the importance of Asian, Pacific American, and Asian American communities to help combat the racist and xenophobic beliefs that have led to a rise in racist attacks on people of Asian descent since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are some useful resources for celebrating these unique cultures.
- The official Asian Pacific American Heritage Month website contains many useful resources for students and teachers, including a Pinterest board of artwork from the National Gallery of Art by Asian Americans. A collection of audio and video resources from the Library of Congress includes such gems as Sounds of Korea: Traditional Music and Dance from New York and a video celebrating a multicultural celebration of Philippine and Burmese songs as well as martial arts.
- The Library of Congress website also has a helpful explanation of the series of executive orders that led to the official designation of May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in 1991.
- The National Park Service gathered a collection of sites that are important to Asian, Asian American and Pacific American history. These sites include places of cultural and spiritual significance, like Mo’okini Heiau, a sacred site for Native Hawaiians, and the Isleton Chinese and Japanese Commercial Districts, an area in northern California developed by Chinese and Japanese immigrants throughout the 20th century to serve their dining and entertainment needs. There are also sites that remembered the pain inflicted on Asian immigrants through acts such as the internment of Japanese and Japanese American people during World War II and the overthrow of the independent Kingdom of Hawai’i by a group of Europeans and Americans in 1893.
- APALA (the Asian Pacific American Library Association) does not have any events planned for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month this year but has been very active in addressing the rise in racist and xenophobic attacks on Asians and Asian Americans since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Their Facebook page is regularly updated with information about how to get involved.
- For those in the UT community interested in researching Asian American history and culture, the UT Libraries’ liaison librarian to Asian American Studies, PG Moreno, has created a research guide about access to relevant academic resources.
- Though it is currently not possible to visit any museums in person, The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center has curated several collections that anyone can access from their home for free. One collection called Care Package even includes a recipe archive.
As the curators of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center’s Care Package write In the introduction to the collection:
While this body of work may not hold the solutions for everything, we hope that it helps you find some calm amidst the chaos.