Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
The current curriculum at Boston College and many other colleges and universities do not offer enough opportunities for students to learn about the Asian Pacific Islanders (API) in the history of the United States. When we do read or hear about the APIs, we are often given information about how they were victims to discriminatory acts and torture. On occasion, we learn about how some persevered. More commonly, we hear about these “aliens” or “foreigners” who have “acclimated” and learned to “fit in.” The implicit and maybe even explicit message is that the APIs are “outsiders” trying to “fit in” to the “American” way despite the fact that Asian Pacific Islanders have lived in the United States for well over a century and have contributed significantly to its economy, culture, and history.
For this reason and more, the APAHM celebration at Boston College is an attempt to teach (or remind) every one of us that the APIs are not outsiders or “sojourners.” Further, their history in America should not be read as an “add-on” to American history. Instead, it is a large piece of American history. Without the APIs in United States, the America as we know it today will not be the same.
A Brief History
The idea of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM) was introduced to the House of Representatives in June 1977 by Frank Horton of NY and Norman Mineta of CA. The resolution called for the president to establish the first ten days of May as Asian/Pacific Heritage Week.
A month later, it was introduced in a similar bill to the senate by Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a resolution designating that time period as an annual celebration. In 1990, President George Bush designated the whole month of May to be Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. May was chosen in order to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States in 1843.
The APAHM Committee Initiative
Prior to 2003, Boston College Asian student culture clubs have hosted various events to commemorate Asian Americans. The students have not, however, collectively sponsored the celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM), which takes place annually in May.
Realizing that the university does not celebrate this month, representatives from the Office of AHANA Student Programs, Center for International Partnerships and Programs, and the Career Center began to organize an event in honor of APAHM. At the same time, several Asian student clubs were making a similar effort. In collaboration with Asian student clubs, the three offices worked to coordinate the First Celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month at Boston College in April 2003.
Too often, the memories of and efforts made by Asian Pacific Americans (APA's) are forgotten or even unknown. Below is a very short list of such contributions.
APA's have an incredible record in the US military. The Japanese Americans, in particular, played a great part during World War II in the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
APA's have been instrumental in the construction of the western half of the transcontinental railroad.
APA's were vital in turning the western deserts into fertile farmlands.
In addition to their efforts, the suffering and struggles of Asian Pacific Americans have also been disregarded. Here are some examples:
The Japanese Americans were placed in what we now call Internment Camps during World War II because both countries were at war. Innocent law-abiding Japanese American citizens were unjustly subjugated.
During the construction of the railroad system, the Chinese Americans were paid the lowest wages to do the most dangerous parts of the work, i.e., detonate explosives. Those who died from the explosives were simply forgotten. Their families back in China did not receive any compensation for their loss.
The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was enacted because the "Government of the United States felt the coming of Chinese laborers to this country endangers the good order of certain localities within the territory." This was the first and only legal regulation that the US has ratified to preclude an ethnic group from entering this country.
For centuries, APA's were discriminated against in this country because of the color of their skin.
Reality is that all people of all races and ethnic backgrounds have endured pain and triumphs. But, humans often focus on the differences instead of the commonalities due to a lack of knowledge, understanding, and sometimes respect. This is why it is crucial to educate to foster that mutual understanding and respect for one another.
In honor of the Asian Pacific Americans who have made contributions and sacrifices for the betterment of the United States and their citizens, and in an effort to educate each other, the APAHM Committee proudly organizes the celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
It is the mission of the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Committee to promote awareness, appreciation and understanding of Asian Pacific American culture and experience. Implicit in the mission is the Committee's commitment to encourage mutual respect for cultural diversity of all racial and ethnic groups. It is also in the interest of the Committee to foster the positive growth of APA youth in developing and establishing their identity.
Check out information from previous APAHM celebrations.