Written by: Lili Minato | Freelancer

The month of May celebrates Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander heritage. The celebratory month began its process of becoming federally recognized in 1977, when two members of the House of Representatives — Frank Horton and Norman Mineta — declared to the President that the first 10 days of May should be Asian-Pacific Heritage Week. 

The following year, President Jimmy Carter called for Heritage Week to be annually celebrated. Then, 12 years later, President George H.W. Bush extended the week to be an entire month. 

In 1992, it was signed into law that May would be AANHPI month. The first Japanese immigrants came to the country in May of 1843, which makes the month significant to AANHPI history. 

The Filipino American Association at Western shared what AANHPI Heritage Month means to them: “Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month taught me how to embrace my heritage and has allowed me to be more comfortable with representing my cultural identity. This month is a reminder of the rich diversity of the country and that it is important to celebrate that,” said Carl Garon, a graduate student at Western. 

Briar Durias, a senior at Western said, “This month, for me, is not only honoring my identity but also honoring, remembering, and being thankful for those who have given me the opportunity for the life I have now.” 

The theme of AANHPI Heritage Month this year is Bridging Histories, Shaping Our Future. “This year’s theme means enrichment and inclusivity to me,” said Garon. 

“The theme of this year is a reminder to everyone that history is there to help us understand the hardships many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders faced and currently face. Most importantly, it speaks to the importance of understanding where we come from and recognizing the legacies and impacts of history on our present realities — this theme encourages reflection on how our ancestor’s actions shaped the world and how our actions, as a collective community, can help shape the world for the next generations to come.” 

When asked about how one can support the AANHPI community, Marione Corpus — a Western senior — explained, “It’s also important to continue educating yourself on what’s happening around the world. It’s important to stay educated and to find ways you can help whether it be through educating yourself, donating, supporting and advocating.” 

“Understanding the experiences and backgrounds of AAPI members is a big step in fostering a stronger bond between us and those who are not AAPI,” said Western junior, Micah Larioza.

In celebration of the month, Western is hosting events and exhibits to share the culture and heritage of our AANHPI community.

Hamersly Library houses a book and film display filled with culturally significant media to celebrate the month. There is a range of educational to recreational materials for all ages. Some noteworthy titles include the following: “The Magic Fish” by Trung Le Nguyen, “To Paradise” by Hanya Yanagihara and “In the Mood for Love” directed by Wong Kar-wai. 

On May 31, the Hawai’i Club is hosting Ho’ike, a celebration of Hawaiian culture through food, music and dance. 

Ho’ike is taking place in the Pacific Room of the Werner University Center with tickets selling for $12 for Western students and $15 for the community. Doors open at 5 p.m. to a beautiful display of celebration and admiration through cultural performances, a Hawaiian dinner, games and more. 

A very special thanks to the Filipino American Association here at Western. 

Contact the author at lminato22@mail.wou.edu