Celebrating Asian American & Pacific Islander Month

May 15, 2023

Celebrating Asian American & Pacific Islander Month

May 15, 2023
Ally Soriano

MeaningfulWork wishes everyone a Happy Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) Month! May marks an important time of the year to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity, contributions, accomplishments, rich heritage, and resilience of AAPI communities. Continue reading to learn more about the history and significance of this month, as well as a few themed events happening across Canada to look out for! 

A Brief History and Background

According to Dr. Kevin Nadal (Filipino Professor, Author, Psychologist and Activist), AAPI is an inclusive umbrella term for those with ancestral ties to Asia and the islands forming the region of Oceania.  

AAPI heritage is celebrated in the United States throughout the month of May to shed light on the incredible diversity of languages, religions, traditions, and artistic expressions that have long existed within these communities. Originally, this was a ten-day-long celebration proposed by House Representatives Frank Horton (and Norman Y. Mineta (Japanese American) to commemorate the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants in the United States in 1843, and to honour the contributions of Chinese immigrants in building the Transcontinental Railroad. This idea hails from Jeanie Jew, a Chinese American who recognized the exclusion of AAPI as a former Capitol Hill staffer.

In Canada, Asian Heritage Month is observed during the month of May, though this does not include Pacific Islander communities. Canada does not currently observe any kind of annual celebration for Pacific Islander heritage. Pacific Islanders and darker-skinned Asian Americans alike are often forgotten in these celebrations despite their tremendous historic and contemporary contributions. With this reality in mind, MeaningfulWork embraces the inclusivity of the term AAPI as we celebrate this important month. 

Challenges and Ongoing Efforts

AAPI Month is a reminder of the collective and individual struggles faced by AAPI communities. Discrimination, racism, and hate crimes against AAPI individuals have unfortunately persisted throughout history. In addition to both Canada and the United States’ legacy of racist and exclusionary laws, recent events such as the rise of anti-Asian violence during the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted an urgent need to address these issues. Thus, it is also important to recognize the ways AAPI individuals and allies continually mobilize to raise awareness, demand justice, and promote inclusivity. This month is as much a cause for celebration as it is a platform to elevate the voices and stories of AAPI trailblazers and members of these communities more broadly.

AAPI Month Events in Canada

Here is a list of free, ticketed, virtual and in-person events to celebrate AAPI Month happening across Canada!

1. Making Space: Asian Heritage Month

Image Source: Museum of Vancouver

Hosted by: Museum of Vancouver

What: Learn how local activists Wendy Au Yeung, Anne Claire Baguio, Jag Nagra, and Miki Konishi- of all of whom come from varying AAPI backgrounds - are working for their communities in mindful and intersectional ways through cultural food justice. This event brings about important conversations about how cultural institutions can make space for meaningful representation of folks who have been historically denied these platforms.

When: May 18, 6:30PM-8:30PM PST (doors at 6:00)

Where: Museum of Vancouver - 110 Chestnut St., Vancouver

Admission: Sliding scale $10-30 plus fees, register here 

2. Asian Heritage: Henna Art Workshop

Image Source: Toronto Public Library

Hosted by: Hina Yasir, Toronto Public Library

What: Learn the fascinating decorative body art of henna in this workshop led by Hina Yasir about its history, recipe, and applications!

When: May 23, 5:00PM-7:00PM EST

Where: Toronto Public Library - Lillian H. Smith Branch 239 College Street, Toronto

Admission: Free, register by calling (416) 393-7746.

3. Our Stories: Asian Heritage Month

Image Source: Curiocity

Hosted by: University of Toronto, UTSC International Student Centre, St. George Centre for International Experience

What: Three students from the University of Toronto will be sharing their unique stories as self-identifying Asians.

When: May 24, 12:00PM - 1:30PM ET

Where: Virtual, over Zoom

Admission: Free, register here.

4. Places, Histories, Communities: Exploring Queer Asian Identities through Zine-Making Workshop 

Image Source: UBC Hong Kong Studies Initiative

Hosted by: SFU Gender, Sexuality, & Women’s Studies, SFU Institute for TransPacific Cultural Research, UBC Hong Kong Studies Initiative, Queer Reads Library

What: Facilitated by artist-writer Rachel Lau, this workshop is a guide to rewriting Queer Asian narratives and places through zine-making. No skills or experience required!

*This event is featured on exploreASIAN’s 2023 program guide for Asian Heritage Month, Click here to see other featured events.

When: May 27, 2:30PM-4:30PM PST

Where: SFU Harbour Centre, Room 1510

Admission: Free, register here.

5. Asian Health & Harmony in the Park 

Image Source: @afhcalgary on Instagram

Hosted by: Asian Heritage Foundation Calgary

What: Pan-Asian wellness and relaxation activities and demonstrations, including tea-sampling and snacks, yoga, and more! The event also features a fashion show put on by Asian seniors as the theme is also around senior health inclusivity.

When: May 31, 2023, 10:00AM-2:00PM PST

Where: Harmony Park 115 4 Ave, SW, Calgary

Admission: Free, no registration required.