By ena ganguly
May is the month for many causes, including Lupus and Mental Health Awareness. May is also the month to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage! When I think of AAPI communities, I often think of East Asian, like folks from China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam, when, in reality, the AAPI community is large and geographically diverse.
AAPI communities include people who are from or have descended from South Asia, East Asia, South East Asia, the Pacific Islands as well as West and South West Asia (known in America as the ‘Middle East’). Like most categories, the term ‘Asian’ has been created by white people in power through mediums like the census and through legislation, and have often separated people from different areas of Asia to create a very rigid definition of who can and cannot be considered ‘Asian’.
Though many folks in America have a narrow definition of who is ‘Asian’, I consider communities from Jordan to people from Polynesia to fit, comfortably, into the category ‘Asian’.
While doing research on AAPI Heritage Month, I learned that it is dedicated to AAPI communities because of the “achievements and contributions of people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent in the United States. In 1978, Congress passed a joint Congressional Resolution to celebrate Asian American Heritage Week during the first 10 days of May. This date was chosen because two important anniversaries fall during this time: the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants in the United States on May 7, 1843, and the completion of the transcontinental railroad by many Chinese laborers on May 10, 1869.” (Stanford)
I find this extremely problematic, considering that a) the U.S.A threw Chinese and Japanese laborers out of the country after they were done fulfilling their ‘purpose’, and b) because AAPI communities are so, so, so much more than what they have given to this country, and ought to be celebrated because they are who they are: people of rich culture and history that are intrinsically connected to one another and not because of how useful they have proved to be to this settler-colonial state.
As QPOC, we must celebrate one another, but learn how to do so in positive and healthy ways, which is directly antithetical to America, a country that often programs us to believe that we must earn our respect, our humanity, our basic necessities, rather than acknowledging our basic rights and humanity from the beginning.
AAPI queer communities have a lot to give, a lot to love, cherish and celebrate, so here are three ways you can celebrate being AAPI!
Read up on the history of AAPI communities, both within the states and in their home and/or surrounding countries. The best books are the one that are grounded in real history, folklore and cultural traditions that are true to the community/ies that are being discussed. Books offer insight, experiences and narratives to various communities that we may not have other wise been able to witness.
Starting a book club or reading a few chapters of a book or a short story with a loved one is a great way to celebrate this month.
Another way to celebrate AAPI cultures is to make and eat food from various countries. Invite people to come over with their own fillings to make momos or dumplings together. You can steam or fry them and eat them with your favorite sauce, like mint chutney or sambal!
If not a potluck, then perhaps try a new dish every week for the month of May, whether you make it or not, but, before or after trying the dish, research about its history. For example, my partner and I absolutely love Massaman Curry. It’s probably our favorite Thai dish. I used to wonder what are the origins of this dish, as it includes ingredients different than the other Thai curries. Well, when I looked into it, I found out that Massaman Curry may be influenced by Persian merchants as they traveled to Thailand for commerce and trade as well as Indian culture as there was much fusing between Thai and Indian communities in southern Thailand. Many historians believe that the word Massaman means Muslim.
If feasible, go to events, museums and/or exhibits that are by and/or for AAPI communities. In Austin, there are multiple spaces where one can seek that out, including the public libraries, parks and recreation centers, museums, art exhibits, and right here at allgo! Our in-house Health and Wellness Advocate, Jae Lin, a person of Chinese descent, will be leading the upcoming ‘Writing Love Letters To Ourselves’ on May 18th at allgo! Another great place to go to is the Asian American Resource Center. They host events that speak to a myriad of Asian communities, and do a great job of including those communities who are not often imagined to fall into the category of ‘Asian’, such as people from the Middle East and South/Southeast Asia.
These are the ways I love to indulge in the diverse cultures that compose the AAPI communities, but they are not the only ways. Find your unique paths to celebrate AAPI culture and communities, whether through art, culture, history or music, and rejoice in the diversity of our people and the world. Lastly, don’t forget, AAPI communities have a lot to offer the world, but we are not to be celebrated because of what we can provide, but because of who we are, what we have experienced, and how our existence, our mere realities, every day, is something worth rejoicing.
What are some ways you’re celebrating AAPI Month in May? Share with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!