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Celebrating Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Month

Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage (AANHPI) Month is celebrated annually in May to recognize the contributions and achievements of the community.

The month of May was selected to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869, which was built primarily by Chinese immigrants. About 15,000-20,000 Chinese immigrants were part of the major railroad construction that stretched from the West Coast to the East Coast.

The observance was initially a week-long period signed by President Jimmy Carter on October 5, 1978. This law proclaimed that Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week was to take place over a 7-day period beginning on May 4, 1979. The week-long observance expanded to a full month, when in 1992 Congress passed a law designating May Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.

The Federal Asian Pacific American Council (FAPAC) announced the national 2023 theme “Advancing Leaders Through Opportunity” as a continuation of the “Advancing Leaders” theme series that began in 2021. “Through providing advancement opportunities, organizations can reduce the barriers to professional progression and consequently reduce employee turnover and increase satisfaction. A successful organization invests in its employees’ professional development by providing opportunities that enable the employees to refine their skills and enhance their leadership abilities.”

California is home to more than 6 million Asian Americans. Our state has the second largest populations of AANHPI people, following only Hawaii. Some notable members of the community include:

  • Yo-Yo Ma – Artist A world-renowned cellist, Yo-Yo Ma was born in Paris to Chinese parents and moved to the United States at a young age.
  • Tammy Duckworth – Senator Tammy Duckworth is a Thai American politician and U.S. Senator from Illinois.
  • Dalip Singh Saund – Politician Dalip Singh Saund was an Indian American politician who was the first Asian American elected to the U.S House of Representatives.
  • Ellison Onizuka – Astronaut Ellison Onizuka was a Japanese American astronaut who died in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986.
  • Eric S. Yuan – founder of Zoom.
  • Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee – martial artists and film actors.
  • Kamala Harris – the first Asian American Vice President of the United States.
  • Kalpana Chawla – first woman of Asian origin to go to space.
  • Maya Lin – a Chinese American artist and designer known for her work on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C.

AAPI Heritage Month is similarly celebrated in Canada during the month of May.

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