Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: Stories of Impact

Khan Lab School
May 27, 2021 / 5 mins read

At KLS, we are focusing onAsian Pacific American Heritage Month throughout the month of May, a monthrecognized by theNational Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as a time to "pay tribute to the generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders who have enriched America's history" (via

We will be updating this post throughout the month with storytelling focused on AAPI experiences. Check back each weekend for new content!

Read: "How One Woman's Story Led to the Creation of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month"

Have you ever wondered how APAHM began? Time Magazineshared about the story of howJeanie Jew,a former Capitol Hill staffer, first proposed the idea of launchingAPAHM to a Congressman in the mid-1970s, which was put into action 15 years later with a 1992 Congressional bill.

An except from the article about Jeanie Jew and her story:

Photo of Jeanie Jew, the person behind the proposal for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in the United States.

"She had witnessed the U.S. Bicentennial celebrations of 1976 and was concerned about the lack of recognitiongiven to Asian Pacific Americans.'She thought, what are the different ways that we can promote public awareness of the contributions?'says Claudine Cheng, a former president ofOCA — Asian Pacific American Advocates.

At the time, celebrations for Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Week were already in place. While Black History Month wasdecreed by President Gerald Ford in 1976to become a national observance, Hispanic Heritage Weekwas designated as a national celebration by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968. “The right thing to do was to push for the Asians to also have a similar time during the year for commemoration and celebration,'Cheng says.

And for Jew, the lack of recognition was very personal: Her great-grandfather, M.Y. Lee, had come to the U.S. from China in the 1800s and had helped build the transcontinental railroad. He and his peers had played akey rolein American history but had suffered for it."

Read the full article from Time Magazine

Read: An APAHM Reading List

Thinking about your summer reading goals? Consider this reading listspanning genres and age groups recommended by Asian American authors Bich Minh NguyenandErin Entrada Kelly.

Bich Minh Nguyenis a professor of creative writing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, andErin Entrada Kellyis a novelist whowon the Newbery Award in 2018 for her novel “Hello, Universe.”

Erin Entrada Kelly, Bich Minh Nguyen: An APAHM reading list

Access the Full List from NBC News

Meet the Makers: AAPI Stories & Filmmakers

Filmmakers are some of the best storytellers. Learn more about AAPI stories and filmmakers with this video from WORD Channel on YouTube! More about the video:

Celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with WORLD Channel. Join filmmakers from our award-winning series, America ReFramed, for a discussion about their films and stories of the Asian American diaspora. In partnership with Pacific Islanders in Communications and the Center for Asian American Media. For more:

Reflections on AAPI Heritage Month

Author: Brandon Lee, Director of Experiential Learning

"Seven years before I was born, a Chinese man named Vincent Chin was beaten to death with a baseball bat during his bachelor party because two Detroit auto workers were upset at the Japanese after being laid off. The killers served no jail time because as the judge noted, “They aren't the kind of men you send to jail.”

When I was in second grade, my family went on a road trip and we stopped for dinner. A man came in, approached us, and yelled racial slurs as we ate. We received the verbal abuse until he decided to leave. No one in the restaurant, patron nor employee intervened. I have never seen my parents more helpless than in that moment. At the time, I wasn't even able to understand what the man had said, but I remember my parent's faces as they explained the hate he had in his heart.

In high school, my mom got surgery to remove the epicanthic folds from her eyes. I miss the crescent moons her eyes formed.

During my first year of college in Boston, my friend was called a “Chink”, told to “Go back to China,” and spat on while she practiced a dance number for her club. She's Korean-American. No administrative action was taken.

Four years ago, I went to Manzanar for the first time with my wife, whose relatives fought for America in WWII with the all-Japanese 442infantry, while her other relatives were kept in internment camps, stripped of their possessions, pride, and rights. We didn't speak as we stood in front of the Manzanar shrine, whose inscription reads ”慰霊塔” or “Monument to console the souls of the dead.”

One month ago, eightpeople were killed in Atlanta, sixof whom were Asian women, because a man had a “bad day.”

I write these stories down because May is Asian-American and Pacific Islander heritage month. And though Asian-American history is American history, we know that schools don't always remember that. In fact in my 13 years as a California public school student, I never learned once about AAPI impacts on our past. All California distinguished schools by the way. And how powerful that could have been too. To have been able to navigate all these situations while also learning about everything that has brought us to this point. Part of what we aim to do as an EIJ team is ensuring our students understand their own racial identity and have the tools to navigate it. Because we cannot separate the history of our country, where we are today, and the experiences that we each have.

It didn't feel right to kick off AAPI heritage month without acknowledging that this past year has been painful for the APPI community. We cannot ignore the rise of Anti-Asian-American hate crimes and normalization of anti-Asian rhetoric. We all need to confront these difficult topics. As a community, we need to do this by talking about these histories with our students and making sure they have the space to share about their own experiences. So implore you to take advantage of the resources we will be sharing in the insider this month. Learn about the badasses who have changed our country for the better, and also confront some of the darker times in our nation's history as well.

Knowing both are essential to building a better future."

Do you have stories you would like to share to honor this month with us via the Insider? Please send us your ideas at