May is Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) Heritage Month! And in a working world that centers around diversity and inclusion now more than ever, recognizing and celebrating holidays dedicated to marginalized communities is crucial.
AAPI heritage month honors the influence and contributions of Asian people and Pacific Islanders to American history. May, in particular, commemorates the first Japanese citizen to immigrate to the United States in 1843—Manjiro, a 14-year-old Japanese fisherman. It was also chosen to honor the work Chinese immigrants contributed to the transcontinental railroad, which was completed in 1869.
While supporting and celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islanders is important all year round, having a dedicated month to recognizing the history of Asian people and Pacific Islanders in America can help remind organizations to uplift these groups year after year.
But recognizing a singular day or month dedicated to underrepresented communities shouldn’t be the only step you take. Beyond raising awareness, it’s important to take action so you can better support, cherish, and uplift every group at your organization all year round.
Here’s more about the importance of AAPI Heritage Month and how your organization can take action any time of the year for long-term change.
Why Recognizing and Celebrating AAPI Month Matters
First and foremost, celebrating AAPI Heritage Month as an organization creates a more inclusive and welcoming work environment. This signals that your organization is committed to caring for and celebrating the unique members of its workplace. If you’re focused on increasing your DEI efforts, celebrating heritage months is a great place to start.
With anti-Asian hate on the rise in recent years, celebrating AAPI Heritage Month, in particular, is more important than ever in 2022. The start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 spurred worldwide racism and xenophobia against Chinese people, which has led to a significant rise in Anti-Asian hate crimes. Unfortunately, the NYPD reports that anti-Asian hate crimes have increased by 1,900% in the state of New York — and the FBI reports that hate crime rates in the United States are the highest they’ve been in over a decade. As anti-Asian rhetoric and hate crimes continue to take place in the U.S. and across the world, it’s critical to practice anti-racism in solidarity with Asian communities. When our Asian communities are being marginalized and harmed at such high rates, it’s important to stand with the API community and take direct action to support them not only in our in our workplaces, but also in our day-to-day lives.
The AAPI community is big, broad, and contributes immensely to our workforce. Over 24 million Americans, or 7.3% of the U.S. population, are in the AAPI community. Celebrating this month as an organization along with taking action to be more inclusive and equitable year-round signals to your AAPI employees, candidates, and customers that you care about their lived experiences and points of view.
8 Tips to Support the AAPI Community at Your Organization
- Talk about what you’ve done. It’s one thing to show up for your underrepresented employees during respective heritage months, but it’s much more impactful to show up for your underrepresented employees year-round. Be transparent about the steps that your organization has taken to support the AAPI community, and the steps your organization will take to continue this support. Make sure to be specific, as general statements of support with no actionable steps can be perceived as inauthentic.
- Support your AAPI employee resource group. Ask them what they need and how you can help them, and give them the resources they need. If your organization does not currently have an AAPI employee resource group, then this is an opportunity to reach out to employees and gauge their interest in creating one.
- Be specific and inclusive with your language. While the term “Asian” refers to people of many different countries and heritages across the globe, the term historically centers East Asian people. When your organization is hosting events and sharing AAPI Month resources, make sure you’re talking about and including Southeast Asians, South Asians, and Pacific Islanders, as well. The AAPI community is broad, and your AAPI Heritage Month celebrations should represent a full spectrum of AAPI people.
- Host an internal or external roundtable with AAPI speakers to discuss the history and impact of this month. Not only will this roundtable increase the cultural understanding of your attendees, but it will center AAPI voices in the conversation. Make sure you compensate your AAPI speakers for their time and work!
- Sponsor donations to AAPI organizations. If you have the budget, grant each employee a stipend to donate to an AAPI organization of their choice. You can also ask for your employees’ feedback on which AAPI organization to donate to, and make a donation on behalf of your organization as a whole.
- Sponsor trips to local AAPI museums. Consider granting employees a paid day off in the month of May, and give them a running list of local AAPI museums, monuments, and other locations to visit.
- Host a #StopAsianHate day. Host cultural panel discussions and talk about actionable ways to support the AAPI community amidst the current rise in hate crimes. Consider ending the day by doing something actionable as a team — donate to an organization, commit to a new DEI goal related to the AAPI community, or send out resources and educational materials on social media.
- Use newsletters to educate your customers and community. Your newsletters can focus on AAPI history, resources, current events, and ways people can support AAPI communities. You can also create blog posts or other content pieces to share more broadly.
- Focus on continuing education and efforts year-round. While it’s important to recognize and honor AAPI Heritage Month at your organization, it’s even more vital that you continue your support long-term. It should be an ongoing endeavor to better support and care for all underrepresented communities at your organization, no matter the month or day. Make sure you have recurring meetings or time set aside to revisit efforts to help ensure you create and sustain a more inclusive and equitable workplace for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Examples of AAPI Month Activities & Events
Below are three great examples of how other organizations have celebrated AAPI Heritage Month.
- Hershey: Hershey’s AAPI Business Resource Group hosted a series of career development and growth events for the company’s API employees.
- Relativity: Relativity’s AAPI community resource group, RelAsians, organized several activities for the month of May, including and a cultural literacy book club focused on AAPI stories, and weekly spotlights on AAPI employees.
- LogMeIn: LogMeIn’s Asian employee resource group hosted four different events: a discussion with “Dear Asian Americans” podcast host Jerry Won, a virtual cooking class led by Asian refugees, movie club meetings featuring Bollywood films, and a virtual career mentoring event for young women in Asia.
There are tons of ways you can recognize and celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander month. No matter what you choose to do, make sure you are going past recognition and into action. It’s one thing to recognize the contributions of the AAPI community — but it’s much more impactful to support, uplift, and learn from the community’s unique individuals and histories. Only with meaningful action can we elevate marginalized communities and become true leaders in the DEI space.