May marks Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. Asian/Pacific encompasses all of the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji, and the Solomon Islands), Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, and the Federated States of Micronesia) and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, and Easter Island).
The observance was initially established in 1978 as a 10-day heritage week and was expanded to a monthlong observance in 1990 that was solidified as an annual monthlong event in 1992. The month of May was chosen based on two historical dates
- May 7, 1843: The immigration of the first Japanese to the United States
- May 10, 1869: Completion of the transcontinental railroad, which was largely achieved through the work of Chinese immigrants
According to Federal Asian Pacific American Council (FAPAC), the 2021 theme for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is “Advancing Leaders Through Purpose-Driven Service.”
“Purpose-driven service creates a positive culture of intimacy, empowers leaders who believe in leading with values, offers frequent encouragement and feedback, and puts employees first,” the organization stated
2021 spotlighted such leadership and advancement as Vice President Kamala Harris was inaugurated as the first person of South Asian descent to hold the office of vice president.
“Vice President Harris has blazed a trail and set an example for young people across the country to aspire to follow, including members of [Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI)] communities and AANHPI women in particular,” noted the White House in its official proclamation
recognizing Asian/Pacific Heritage Month.
AJLI celebrated a historic leadership announcement of its own in 2018 as Laurel Lee-Alexander
from the Junior League of Monterey County took the helm as its first Asian-American president.
Such milestones are to be celebrated; however, as the White House noted in its proclamation, there are still barriers to overcome:
“AANHPI communities face systemic barriers to economic justice, health equity, educational attainment, and personal safety. These challenges are compounded by stark gaps in Federal data, which too often fails to reflect the diversity of AANHPI communities and the particular barriers that Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, Southeast Asian, and South Asian communities in the United States continue to face.”
The barriers include “the heightened fear felt by many Asian American communities in the wake of increasing rates of anti-Asian harassment and violence during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the increasingly observable layers of hate now directed toward women and elders of Asian descent in particular.”
The Junior League of Northern Virginia stands behind AJLI’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion
, and condemnation of discrimination, racism, and racial injustice in our communities and in our Junior Leagues. For more on AJLI’s efforts to #StopAsianHate, see AJLI Executive Director Patsy Doerr’s comments
during the Courageous Conversation series on the rise in anti-Asian sentiment.