WASHINGTON — May 1 marked the beginning of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM). Since its establishment in 1992, this month has been a time for all Americans to pay tribute to the contributions of generations of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have enriched the nation’s history.
To commemorate the month, Rep. Judy Chu, chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), introduced H.Res. 621, a resolution co-sponsored by 50 additional members of Congress, including every House member of the CAPAC. Sen. Daniel Akaka plans to introduce a companion resolution in the U.S. Senate.
CAPAC members also released the following statements:
Rep. Judy Chu (D-El Monte), CAPAC chair: “The history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders is inextricably tied to the American story. Our nation is a nation of immigrants, and the contributions of each successive generation are woven into the fabric of our daily lives. As we celebrate the 20th APA Heritage Month this May, I urge all Americans to reflect on the milestones that have been part of the Asian American and Pacific Islander history in America.
“Moments like the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad to the tech and Internet boom at the end of the 20th century had profound impacts on our nation’s history. Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is a time to pay respect to the countless ways that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have contributed to the vibrancy of our nation.”
Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose), CAPAC chair emeritus: “As we recognize Asian Pacific American Heritage Month this May and reflect upon this year’s theme of ‘Striving for Excellence in Leadership, Diversity, and Inclusion,’ the Asian American and Pacific Islander community has many accomplishments to celebrate. We’ve seen this being demonstrated through the growing number of AAPI federal judges and elected officials at the local, state, and national level; the benefits of creating access to health care for millions of AAPIs; and even the rise of AAPI celebrities, entertainers, and artists in the mainstream media.
“Having served as CAPAC’s chair emeritus, Immigration Taskforce chair, and Appropriations Taskforce chair this year, I am honored to continue serving the AAPI community and to ensure that America as a whole sees first-hand our valuable contributions and legacy. As we celebrate APA Heritage Month this May, let us take this month — and every month for that matter — to celebrate the values of leadership, diversity, and inclusion exemplified by AAPIs throughout the nation.”
Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii): “I am so proud to recognize another Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have a rich cultural heritage and help shape our great country. This is a month when we should celebrate our roots and traditions, and share our cultures with all Americans. The United States is a great country, strengthened by our contributions.”
Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles), vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus: “Asian Pacific Americans have made indelible contributions to our nation’s history. By the sweat of their brow, they helped build the Transcontinental Railroad. They served honorably and sacrificed greatly in both world wars. And today, they are entrepreneurs creating over 1.5 million small businesses and millions of jobs with them. Without a doubt, Asian Pacific Americans have helped America achieve its greatness.
“And in the 31st district, Chinatown, Historic Filipinotown, Koreatown, Little Bangladesh and Thai Town are deeply woven into the cultural and economic fabric of Los Angeles. These are communities committed to building and empowering neighborhoods. This May I’m looking forward to celebrating Asian Pacific American heritage and a community whose hard work and sacrifice every day help strengthen our great nation.”
Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam), CAPAC vice chair: “This May, our nation recognizes the significant contributions and achievements of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Asian Pacific American Heritage month provides an opportunity to celebrate the rich and diverse cultures that make up our country, and highlights the unique challenges still facing the APA community.
“APAs are the fastest-growing minority population in the United States, and although our community has greater representation in government and various fields of business, there are still many obstacles that must be addressed. I will continue to work with my colleagues on CAPAC to address the disparities in education and healthcare services, to help build a better quality of life for the APA community.”
Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-Mich.): “As we celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I am proud to join my colleagues in paying tribute to the rich culture and great contributions of the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in the United States. I am committed to addressing the needs of the AAPI community and will continue to work with the other members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus to accomplish this goal.”
Rep. Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa): “No other community in the U.S. represents the diversity of our great nation more than the 18.5 million Americans who make up the Asian Pacific American community. An inherently diverse population, Asian Pacific Americans comprise over 45 distinct ethnicities and over 100 languages and dialects. Emerging from a history of severe discrimination, Asian-Pacific Americans have become increasingly represented in the arenas of civic engagement, business, media, arts, and academia, to name a few.
“As we pay tribute to the contributions of generations past and reflect on how far we have come, let us continue to raise awareness of our ongoing challenges and work towards keeping Asian Pacific Americans at the table when it comes to major policy decisions that shape the course of our nation. I thank my CAPAC colleagues for their diligent efforts on behalf of Asian Pacific Americans across the United States. Last but not least, I honor our Asian Pacific Americans who have dedicated their lives to serving our nation in the U.S. Armed Forces, including those from my district of American Samoa. Let us also pay tribute to their sacrifice as we celebrate our heritage and freedoms.”
Rep. Al Green (D-Texas), CAPAC Housing Taskforce chair: “Throughout our country’s history, the Asian and Pacific American community has made significant contributions to our nation’s achievements and has enhanced the distinctive diversity that makes America the land of opportunity. Given that this year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, our fellow citizens of Asian and Pacific American descent reach a new milestone, for which I congratulate them. I am proud to be a member of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, which is diligently and enthusiastically working to effectively represent our Asian and Pacific American constituents in the United States Congress.”
Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (C-Hawaii), CAPAC whip: “Growing up in one of our country’s most culturally diverse states, I learned first-hand how each culture’s traditions and values enrich and strengthen our communities. Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of Asians and Pacific Islanders to the rich fabric of American life. Our complex history has seen its share of challenges, but the strength and dignity of those who came before us have allowed us to assert our presence and count ourselves proudly among those who have built our nation. I am proud of the remarkable role we have played in the story of America. As a member of CAPAC, I am committed to ensuring that AAPIs will always have a voice in the national conversation.”
Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), CAPAC Education Taskforce chair: “Asian Pacific American Heritage Month recognizes that our country’s strength comes from the diverse talents, cultures, and ideas of its people. In Hawaii, it is this very diversity that helps drive our state forward and is the basis of our rich local culture. Hawaii’s leaders are prominent amongst the national AAPI community, whether it’s Sen. Daniel Inouye's chairmanship of the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations, Patsy Mink’s establishment of Title IX, or Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole, whose leadership opened the doors to the Hawaiian Home Lands. These distinguished leaders aren’t just a source of pride for the AAPI community, they also inspire a nation. I am proud to celebrate the accomplishments of all Asian and Pacific Islander Americans and look forward to seeing the trailblazers of the future.”
Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento): “America is strengthened by the diverse cultures, traditions, and perspectives of the variety of peoples that make up our society. Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is an opportunity for Americans of all backgrounds to reflect upon and appreciate the many contributions of Asian Pacific Americans to our nation. It is a celebration of our past, and our future, and it helps to highlight the uniqueness of our nation.”
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), CAPAC Civil Rights Taskforce chair: “As the first American of Filipino heritage to serve as a U.S. representative, I am honored to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage month. During the month of May, I encourage Americans of all backgrounds to educate themselves on the rich heritage of Asian Pacific Americans and their contributions to our great nation.”
Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles): “This May, as we recognize the 35th Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I am delighted to have the opportunity to celebrate diversity within our country as we honor the contributions, achievements and cultural traditions from the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities that have greatly enriched our country.”
Rep. Howard Berman (D-Van Nuys): “I’m proud to represent a region that is home to such a large and vibrant Asian American and Pacific Islander population. On this Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we honor the many contributions these communities have made to enrich the economic and cultural fabric of the San Fernando Valley. As educators, community leaders, veterans and business owners, the Asian American Pacific Islander community has left a distinct and meaningful mark on the San Fernando Valley.”
Rep. Raúl M. Griljalva (D-Ariz.): “I am honored to stand with my colleagues in Congress to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. The month of May offers us an opportunity to celebrate the economic and cultural contributions of the AAPI community, both in my district and across our country. May also offers us an opportunity to reflect on the challenges this growing and diverse community continues to face, including equal access to health care, education and affordable housing. I will continue to work with CAPAC to ensure the Asian Pacific American community not only has a seat at the table, but a strong voice to shape our national conversation.”
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Los Angeles): “The month of May is an opportunity for all Americans to observe and commemorate the important contributions Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have and continue to make to our country and communities. As the representative of a diverse Los Angeles district that includes Little Tokyo, Historic Filipinotown and Chinatown, I am honored to join with my colleagues in recognizing Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. I applaud the generations of Asian American and Pacific Islander men and women whose labor, leadership and courage, continue to enrich and strengthen our nation.”
Rep. Linda T. Sánchez (D-Cerritos): “I am incredibly proud to represent cities that are known throughout Southern California for their prominent Asian Pacific American communities. During Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I congratulate all Asian Pacific Americans for their past contributions and continued achievements. I hope we can all take some time this month to honor and recognize their contributions to the diverse cultural fabric of our country.”
Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove): “I am a proud co-sponsor of House Resolution 621, honoring the rich tradition and immense contributions that Asian and Pacific Islander Americans have made to our nation. My district is home to one of the most diverse Asian Pacific American communities and includes Little Saigon and the Korean Business District. As we recognize May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I look forward to continuing my work toward economic, educational and social equality for all Americans. I urge my colleagues to honor the significant contribution of the Asian and Pacific American community and celebrate their rich cultural heritage by supporting H.Res. 621.”
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks): “I am pleased to join my colleagues in introducing a new resolution recognizing May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. As an active member of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, I greatly appreciate the outstanding economic and cultural contributions that Asian American and Pacific Islanders make to this country. At least 17.3 million United States residents identify as Asian and at least 1.2 million United States residents identify as Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders — nearly 6 percent of the total population of this nation.
“In the San Fernando Valley, I am privileged to represent a very diverse population of Asian Americans and to work for their interests. As one of the most educated and professionally successful groups, Asian Americans have made remarkable contributions to our nation, its economic productivity, and rich cultural diversity. The respective histories of the many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in this country are likewise diverse and unique; we must work together for enhancing the political and civic involvement of all groups in our democratic process.”
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Pasadena): “May is Asian Pacific American Heritage month and I am honored to represent one of the most diverse congressional districts where one in four of my constituents is of Asian Pacific American heritage. I am proud to join millions across the nation as we recognize the extraordinary contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.”
Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.): “I’m honored to join my colleagues in celebrating this year’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. The generations of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have inspired innovation, held important leadership positions in business and government, and have added rich diversity to our nation’s vast melting pot. I hope we will all use this month to pay tribute to the lasting contributions individuals from the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities have made to our country.”
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo): “In May of each year, we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and the remarkable contributions of the AAPI community to our nation.As a member of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, I am proud to represent one of the largest Filipino and Chinese communities in the Bay Area. In fact, my district is home to the largest Filipino American community of any district in the continental United States, and fighting in Congress to solve the unique challenges the AAPI community faces is very important to me.
“I have personally seen the economic, cultural, and political contributions of immigrants from Asia, the Philippines, the Pacific Islands, and generations of their descendants. They represent a vital part of our nation and have distinguished themselves as outstanding entrepreneurs, members of our armed forces and community leaders. The heroes of the AAPI community represent the very best aspects of American life and have enhanced the moral fabric of my district, the state of California, and our country.”
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.): “I’m honored to join my fellow CAPAC members in celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. This is an opportunity to recognize the contributions and sacrifices that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have made for our country, as well as celebrate the diversity that makes our nation so great.”
BACKGROUND: May is officially designated as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month by Section 102 of Title 36, United States Code. The observance originally began as Asian Pacific American Heritage Week, which was established through a joint congressional resolution in 1978. The month of May was chosen due to two important milestones in Asian Pacific American history: May 7, 1843, when the first Japanese immigrants arrived in the United States, and May 10, 1869, when the Transcontinental Railroad was completed with substantial contributions from Chinese immigrant workers.
Photos by J.K. Yamamoto/Rafu Shimpo