Celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Dear Eastern Community,

May 1 marked the first day of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. This month is an annual celebration that recognizes the historical and cultural contributions of individuals and groups of Asian and Pacific Islander descent to the United States. The term Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) includes cultures from the entire Asian continent, including East, Southeast and South Asia and the Pacific Islands of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. 

According to the Federal Asian Pacific American Council (FAPAC), the theme for AAPI Heritage Month 2023 is “Advancing Leaders through Opportunity”. This theme was chosen to help elevate more AAPI civil servants to find success and growth in their careers.

It is important to recognize that the term Asian American and Pacific Islander does not represent a monolithic group. Asian Americans in the United States are a diverse and growing population. According to the Pew Research Center, AAPI people make up about 7 percent of the total U.S. population. A record 22 million Asian Americans trace their roots to more than 20 countries in East and Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, each with unique histories, cultures, languages, and other characteristics.

A Brief History

In 1977, Rep. Frank Horton of NY introduced House Joint Resolution 540 to proclaim the first ten days in May as Pacific/Asian American Heritage Week. This resolution was passed and signed by President Jimmy Carter on October 5, 1978 to become Public Law 95-419. During the next decade, presidents passed annual proclamations for Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week until 1990 when Congress passed Public Law 101-283, which expanded the observance to a month for 1990. Then in 1992, Congress passed Public Law 102-450 which annually designated May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.

Encouragement and Exhortation

There is no doubt that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have contributed significantly to many facets of American culture and society. As a community, Eastern University will continue to condemn xenophobia, racism, injustice, and violence in support of our Asian American brothers and sisters and remain committed to addressing injustice in our work of Diversity, Equity, and Belonging in our community. We currently have 30 employees of Asian and Pacific heritage working at Eastern. Let’s celebrate them this month, praying that they find success and growth in their careers. As followers of Christ, we represent one Body.

Consider the Apostle Paul’s teaching and challenge to us about the Body of Christ in I Corinthians 12:14 - 26 (ESV):

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts,[e] yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”

Throughout the month of May, let us offer our prayer and attention to the concerns and needs of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Take some time to reflect on what it means to you as well!

View a helpful resource that shares some ways you can celebrate AAPI Heritage Month, continue to educate yourself, and get involved in AAPI communities.

Shalom! Shalom!

Randolph Walters, Psy.D, LPC, CCTP, CSAM
Special Assistant to the President for Diversity, Equity, and Belonging