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Mark AAPI Heritage Month With the Arts, Food and Community

Celebrate with a youth symphony, Holi ceremony or martial arts demonstration

spinner image A man blowing bubbles for children at an AAPI festival in Cincinnati, Ohio
AAPI Heritage Month Cincinnati in 2021.
Courtesy JP Leong

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, a celebration of the group’s culture and contributions to American history. Official recognition began on May 7, 1990, when President George H.W. Bush signed Proclamation 6130. May is a significant time to commemorate Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders because the Transcontinental Railroad was completed on May 10, 1869. Many of the laborers were Chinese Americans, as well as others of Asian descent, who laid the tracks mostly by hand. Many workers lost their lives to injury and illness during the six years it took to complete the railroad because of the intense labor and harsh conditions. May also is significant because the first Japanese immigrant arrived in the U.S. on May 7, 1843. Known as Manjiro, the 14-year-old boy arrived on a whaling ship.

While there is much to celebrate, there are still concerns within the community.

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“Nationally, reported hate crime incidents rose 11.6 [percent],” according to the FBI’s 2022 hate crimes report. Of the 9,065 crimes recorded, anti-Asian sentiment accounted for 7.1 percent. According to the Census Bureau in 2020, 20.6 million people identify as Asian, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander (AAPI) as their primary race.

Attacks against the Asian American community still persist. In January, a lone gunman opened fire in a dance studio in Monterey Park, California, during a Lunar New Year celebration. The gunman killed 11 people and injured nine more. Many others were devastated and are working to heal.

Torrance, California, about 20 miles southwest of Monterey Park, plans several events to celebrate heritage month. When asked how the events of AAPI Heritage Month might help communities affected by violence, Christian Wolf, the executive and artistic director of the Torrance Cultural Arts Foundation, said he sees it as a chance for understanding. “The beauty of the performing arts is that it is a catalyst for healing as well as understanding. Offering a safe space to experience cultural events allows everyone to enrich their lives and gain a better understanding of cultures and people.”

In recognition, AARP will be holding its own events. Daphne Kwok, AARP’s vice president of Asian American & Pacific Islander audience strategy, a Chinese American, believes these events help to educate and foster community. “We constantly need to educate about diversity so that we can become united.”

To commemorate AAPI Heritage Month, here is a collection of events to educate, connect, and bring communities together. Whether through cultural music and dance, or food and movies, find an event near you or online.


You don’t have to miss out on the festivities if you’re homebound or unable to attend an event. There are virtual events in which to participate.

Asian Americans, a five-part documentary from PBS currently streaming on the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) website, showcases the history and plight of Asian Americans over the past 150 years. Topics include immigration, racism and empowerment, as well as current narratives.

AARP New York will host a five-part series called “Tai Chi 2.0.” The free sessions, held each Tuesday of the month, starting May 2 at 10 a.m. ET, will focus on different areas of the body. Registration is required.

AARP California will host a discussion May 9 with the director, producer and actors of Dealing with Dad, a movie about adult children returning home to deal with their father’s depression. The discussion will focus on the story of a family reconnecting at home as well as the AAPI experience in the film industry. The event is free and open to the public. Registration is required.

On May 10, AARP California will have a conversation called “The WWII Incarceration of Japanese Americans in U.S. Concentration Camps” with archivist Julie Thomas of Sacramento State University. The conversation will examine the U.S. treatment of Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor. Registration is required for the free event, which is open to the public.


What better way to bring people together to feel a sense of community than through music? The Pacific Vision Youth Symphony is performing in Torrance on May 14 at 7 p.m. PT. Under the direction of David Benoit, the Pacific Vision Youth Symphony, which includes many Asian American students, will feature pieces from legendary composers such as Ludwig van Beethoven and Leonard Bernstein. The event will take place at the Torrance Cultural Arts Foundation. Tickets start at $25.

The Chinese Historical Society of America and Cut Fruit Collective will cohost the Joy on Joice Street Fair and Festival in San Francisco’s Chinatown on May 6 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. PT. The free event will feature Asian American and Pacific Islanders selling handmade arts and crafts. Performers will also be on hand to perform traditional and contemporary dances and music.

CAAMFest , presented by the Center for Asian American Media, a nonprofit organization that supports Asian Americans in filmmaking, television and digital media, will run May 11 through May 21 in San Francisco.

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The Ichimura-Miami Japanese Garden will have a Japanese Festival on May 7 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET in Miami. The event will celebrate Japanese culture and heritage with traditional dance, food vendors and more. This family-friendly event is free.


The city of Suwanee will hold its AAPI Heritage Month Celebration, a family-friendly event, May 19 from noon to 8 p.m. ET, with cultural performances, traditional dress and Asian food vendors, among other activities. It will be held at Town Center Park.


AAPI Fest at Anne Arundel Fairgrounds will take place May 7 from noon to 6 p.m. ET. Food vendors, artists and cultural performers will be on hand to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month. Tickets start at $7.77 and can be purchased online in advance.


The Las Vegas Okinawan Club will hold a picnic at Craig Ranch Regional Park on May 13 from noon to 3 p.m. PT. The event will feature food, performances and music, along with a food drive. Admission is free; the barbecue costs $5 for club members with dish for potluck, $10 for nonmembers and members with no potluck dish; it’s free for children under 5.

New Jersey

Summit is holding its second annual Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month event on May 20 from 3 to 7 p.m. ET. The free event will take place on Summit’s village green. There will be art displays, food and a Holi ceremony — a traditional Hindu festival embracing the eternal and divine love of Radha and the god Krishna.

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New Mexico

The Chinese Culture Center in Albuquerque, a martial arts academy, will perform at the Museum of Nuclear Science and History on May 6 at 10:15 a.m. MT. The lively event will showcase a traditional dragon dance, followed by demonstrations of qigong exercises and martial arts.

New York

The New York Public Library is hosting a free online and in-person screening of Who Killed Vincent Chin? at 2 p.m. ET on May 6 at the Pelham Parkway-Van Nest Library in the Bronx. Chin, a Chinese American, was beaten to death in Detroit in 1982. His death sparked a call in the Asian American community for civil rights. Registration is required for the virtual viewing. The Asian Creative Festival 2023’s theme is Be Colorful, and it will be held at Industry City in Brooklyn. This free two-day event takes place May 20 and 21 from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. ET. The mission is to celebrate diversity and build bonds through creativity.

spinner image Dancers at an AAPI history month festival in Cincinnati, Ohio
AAPI Heritage Month Cincinnati in 2022.
Courtesy JP Leong


Monthlong events sponsored by AAPI Heritage Month Cincinnati include the Asian Food Fest and Trivia Night at Esoteric Brewing Company. There will be a screening of Yellow Rose at the Woodward Theater on May 15 at 7 p.m. ET. It is the story of a Filipino American adolescent whose dream is to be a country music star. Caitlin Jee Hae Behle, cofounder of AAPI Heritage Month Cincinnati and a board member of the Asian American Cultural Association of Cincinnati, believes “these events can create spaces where we feel seen and visible. They remind us that our histories, legacies and cultures are intertwined with American history and culture — they are American.”


Food often brings memories of childhood and offers connection with others. This is the first year of the Oregon AAPI Food & Wine Fest, a two-day event May 20 and 21 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT at the Stoller Family Estate Experience Center in Dayton. Lois Cho, CEO and cofounder of Cho Wines and Oregon AAPI Food & Wine Fest executive director, notes that more than 700 wineries call the Willamette Valley home. “Less than 10 of them (known to us) are owned by Asian American Pacific Islanders. The successes of these wineries/winemakers are against many odds. Forging their path in a historically Eurocentric industry requires grit, determination and passion.” Tickets are $65.


Wing Luke Museum in Seattle will host Spring Market 2023, which will highlight local Asian American and Pacific Islander small businesses, on May 27 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. PT in Community Hall. Vendors will include Noodle & Co.; handmade cards from Yardia, whose creator is of Mariana Islands’ Chamorro descent; and handmade jewelry from Element by Artchestra. The event is free to the public.

Seattle’s Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month Celebration is scheduled for May 6 at the Armory Food & Event Hall. Part of Seattle Center’s year-round Festál Series, it offers free cultural events from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT with Asian food, vendors and live performances.

Washington, D.C.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art is hosting a variety of events, including culinary experiences, performances and art projects. Test your dance moves at a K-Pop masterclass at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. Participants will learn the choreography featured in the latest K-Pop hits on May 4 at 7 p.m. ET. K-Pop star Eric Nam and Indian American singer Raveena will headline the museum’s Centennial Celebration May 13 starting at noon ET. The free events take place at the Freer Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.

A two-night culinary event at The Wharf called “Everything, Everyone, All the Food at Once Fest” will feature chefs from around the country at Dinner on the Dock on District Pier May 19 from 6:30 p.m. ET. Tickets start at $350. The following day’s Night Market is sold out.

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