How to Celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the DC Area

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May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and in the DC area, there are many ways to celebrate and learn about your neighbors.

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and in the DC area, there are many ways to celebrate and learn about your neighbors.



Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders make up a large percentage of some counties in the region. More than 20% of the populations of Loudoun and Fairfax counties, Virginia, identified as Asian in the 2020 census; 6.5% in Alexandria; 11% in Arlington and 9.4% in Prince William County.

In Maryland, more than 19% of Howard County residents identified as Asian and 15% in Montgomery County.

the The US census defines Asian as a person “having origins in any of the native peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent, including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam A Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander is defined as a person with origins in one of the people of origin from Hawaii, Guam, Samoa or other Pacific islands.

It’s a lot of very different places, and Julie Park, director of the Asian American Studies program at the University of Maryland, said it’s really hard to pick just one Asian culture.

“Is there something uniquely Asian or more ethnically specific?” said Park. Other than very broad regional origins, she said, “There’s really nothing – there’s no language, there’s no religion – there’s really nothing that binds us together.”

“What excites me about the AAPI community is that we defy expectations. We’ve always been hard to define in general,” said DC Mayor’s Office Director for Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs Ben de Guzman.

That said, the term Asian American emerged in the 1960s as a means of organizing for economic and social justice, a means of “political mobilization” that was really helpful and useful for band members, Park said.

In May 2020, PBS broadcast “Asian Americans”, a series about how Asians shaped the United States and their current roles. It aired at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, when anti-Asian hate incidents began to spread across the United States.

Park said the documentary is a way to understand a little more of the national context or the historical context of how Asians have helped shape the United States.

Recently, there has been pressure in the Maryland legislature to Asian American history will be taught in public schools. It’s a start, Park said, to get a fuller picture of US history and develop an understanding that Asian American history is American history.

“I think it’s really important…that when we teach the history of the United States, we incorporate the stories of other groups a lot more, and we kind of expand the narrative that we have of our history, and that it involves more than the very narrow history that we learn,” Park said.

It also creates spaces for people to have dialogue – a way to move past the “destructive otherness” that can obscure the fact that “we are all Americans.”

“These stories of families and individuals trying to make a living. I think the exciting thing happens when people see humanity through the groups, to celebrate the differences but also to kind of celebrate the commonalities said Park.

How to Celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the DC Area

The DC Mayor’s Office of Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs will be celebrating AAPI Heritage Month with a variety of events.

Details are still being finalized, but de Guzman said the public face of the bureau’s campaign against anti-Asian violence will be launched this month.

The district’s AAPI Heritage Month celebration is set to return to the Lincoln Theater on May 10. And Chinatown Park will host a series of summer activities, including Tai Chi on Saturdays.

Finally, there will be a culinary event later this month called Foodelicious, “a kind of chef demo event,” de Guzman said.

Visit the Mayor’s Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs Social Media Pages for the latest updates.

Below are a few events in the DC area that celebrate AAPI Month.

Meditation and Mindfulness

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art is offering a free 30-minute online meditation session led by DC-based meditation teachers. register here.

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Festival

May 1, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Chrysalis, Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods, Columbia, Maryland. Free.

The festival will feature cultural performances, food vendors, activities, community organizations and more.

Memory, Experience, and Imagination in the Works of Lao and Hmong American Authors

May 2 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Online. Free.

Hosted by the Library of Congress, this event provides a unique forum for Lao and Hmong American authors to discuss their work and intellectual endeavours.

Lei Day and Native Hawaiian History

May 2 from 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Virtual. Free.

Learn about the lei and native Hawaiian history. Presented by the Prince George’s County Public Library.

Virtual Cherry Blossom Tour

May 3 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Free.

Celebrate hanami, the traditional Japanese custom of flower viewing. Take a virtual tour of the Japanese collections at the National Museum of Asian Art.

Film screening: The farewell

May 3, 7-8:40 p.m. George Mason Library, Fairfax, Virginia. Free.

Hosted by the Fairfax County Public Library, a screening of the film featuring Awkwafina.

The art of Buddhism

May 5 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Stream. $30/$35.

Examine how the differences in practice between different schools of Buddhism were expressed through art. Part of the Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.

Short stories full of fantasies and memories

May 7 from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Patrick Henry Library, Vienna, Virginia. Free.

Author Pu-Chin Waide, who moved to DC and raised a family there, shares her collection of short stories, which provide insight into places in Asia and elsewhere where she has lived.

The Indian Heritage Festival

May 7 from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. and May 8 from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Dulles Expo Center. $5.

Includes shopping, entertainment and cuisine from the South Asian continent.

Find KUKAN

May 9 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Virtual. Free.

Presented by the Prince George’s County Public Library, a filmmaker documents the journey to uncover an Oscar-winning color documentary about World War II in China that has been lost for decades. For adults.

“Dear Corky”

May 10 at 6:30 p.m., Martin Luther King Jr. Library, 901 G St. NW, Washington, DC In person and broadcast live.

The DC Public Library and the Foundation 1882 offer a screening and discussion of the short documentary “Dear Corky”, about photographer Corky Lee. register here.

Asian Americans and the Myth of the Model Minority

May 10 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Virtual. Free.

Dr. Julie Park, director of the Asian American Studies program at the University of Maryland, on the origins of the model minority myth and how it lives on today. From Prince George’s County Public Libraries.

Food for body and soul: Advocating for the community through culinary traditions

May 10 from 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. Stream. Free.

Chef Janet Yu talks about recipes, her work preserving Chinese culinary culture and mentorship. Part of the Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.

Family movie day: Moana

May 14, 1-3 p.m. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, Washington, DC Free.

The DC Public Library presents Disney’s “Moana” for children and their caregivers. Limited to 50 attendees. Registration required.

No-no boy

May 15 at 7 p.m. Songbyrd Cafe, Union Market, 540 Penn St. NE, Washington, DC $12.

A Smithsonian Folkways artist. No-No Boy is the musical project of Vietnamese American singer and scholar Julian Saporiti. Part of the Smithsonian’s Music America Asia-Pacific series.

Asian Festival on Main: Food and Arts in the City of Fairfax

May 15 12-6 p.m. 10417 Main St., Fairfax, Virginia

Outdoor event on Main Street in historic Old Town Fairfax City. Food, entertainment, arts and crafts, games and more.

A virtual tour with author Huda Fahmy

May 26, 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Virtual. Free.

From the Library of Alexandria, author Huda Fahmy talks about her graphic novels, including her latest book “Huda F Are You?” – a fictional memoir about how the main character feels about her family, her faith, and how she defines herself.

Ruth Asawa

May 31, 4-5 p.m. Arlington Public Library, Shirlington Branch

Learn about Japanese-American sculptor Ruth Asawa with a story about her and her wire sculptures and nature-inspired creations. For families with children from 5 to 12 years old.

AAPI months and beyond

There are many other places to learn about Asian American history. Sojin Kim, curator of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, shared some activities to experience any time of the year:

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