By Madeline Marriott ’24

This week, the Office of Intercultural Development (OID), Asian Cultural Association (ACA), Asian Studies Program, and Lafayette campus community will begin celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. The month, celebrated nationally throughout May, is meant to commemorate the struggles and achievements of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders in the United States.

The observance was first recognized in 1978 when then-President Jimmy Carter declared a weeklong celebration during the first week of May. In 1990, Congress passed a law expanding the week into a monthlong event, which officially became AAPI Heritage Month soon after in 1992.

Maroon graphic reads: Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month May 1-31The month of May marks the anniversary of both the first Japanese immigrant to arrive in the United States and the completion of the transcontinental railroad, which was mostly created by Chinese immigrants working in dangerous conditions. 

According to Emily Rotola ’24, ACA president, AAPI Month is a time to cultivate empathy. “As a country, we need to better understand each other and better realize the nuances in the community,” she says. “By having a month like this, it can be really helpful in increasing awareness for all aspects of the AAPI identity.”

Robert Young ’14, OID’s director of intercultural development, hopes the month can be a celebration of diverse identities. “I want people to know during AAPI Month to immerse themselves in the diaspora,” he says. “Nothing is monolithic. AAPI Month stretches around the globe. What I want people to take away from this month is understanding how vast the community is and how diverse the community is.”

OID will sponsor several book giveaways throughout the month in which they will raffle off a collection of books written by AAPI authors and about the AAPI experience including Disorientation by Elaine Hsieh Chou and The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein. Students also will be giving out goodie bags with Asian candy and facts about the diaspora throughout the month as well as hosting an Asian-themed dinner, in collaboration with Dining Services, prior to the film screening of Everything Everywhere All at Once on the Quad May 6.

The month’s programming will begin April 27 with an Artist Talk by Sun You, visiting assistant professor of art, in the Gendebien Room of Skillman Library, 12:15-1:15 p.m.

On April 30, Tanuja Dehne ’93, president and CEO of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, will return to campus to give the AAPI Month keynote address. “We knew we had an AAPI alum who was doing really exciting work and who would be such an inspiration to our students,” Seo-Hyun Park, chair of the Asian Studies Program, says of Dehne. The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation is a New Jersey-based nonprofit that looks to create racial equity across the state. The keynote will take place in Kirby 104, 5-6 p.m. 

On May 4, an AAPI faculty panel featuring Joe Woo, Lindsay Soh, Jun-Kyu Byun, and Stephanie Chan will take place at 12:15 p.m. in RISC 362.

“I’m really curious to see what our Asian faculty has to say about how their Asian identity has perhaps affected them in their career,” Rotola says. “I know they come from a lot of different backgrounds, whether it be culturally or the area they grew up in, and I think it would be really interesting to see the intersectionalities there.”

Students sit on the grass of the Quad, watching a movie on a large screen in front of Pardee Hall.The month’s activities will close with a dinner and screening of Oscar-winning film Everything Everywhere All at Once May 6.

“This is my favorite movie of all time, and I’m super excited to talk about it with people,” says Shirley Liu ’23, one of the month’s event organizers. “We’re really highlighting and platforming art by Asian artists this month.”

“Oftentimes the AAPI community suffers from a lack of visibility, and to have this film screening outdoors and right in the center of the College campus on the Quad, it brings together faculty, students, and staff in a really meaningful way,” Park says. 

Park has worked to coordinate the month’s events alongside a group of students, including Rotola, Liu, Anna Boggess ’23, Ella Dalgliesh ’25, and Eva Mei Vogt ’25, who come from a variety of on-campus organizations. “What I love about it is that it’s so organic, and it’s very grassroots,” Park says. “It’s a number of different students, faculty, and staff who care and want to bring this together. One of the best parts of my job in doing this is to really see students take initiative and be passionate about what they’re doing and also doing something that is really time-consuming and not always very noticeable, and they do it with such love.”

Want to learn more about the AAPI community? Young recommends these resources

Categorized in: Asian Studies, Diversity, Featured News, Intercultural Development, News and Features, Social Hub