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Where to Celebrate AANHPI Heritage Month 2024

There is a plethora of events throughout the U.S. to observe the impact of the fastest growing racial and ethnic group


spinner image Hawaiian hula dancers, astronaut Ellison Onizuka, origami and a Gujarati folk dancer
More than 50 ethnic groups fall under the AANHPI umbrella. That diversity is on display with a Chinese dragon dance performance, left, Hawaiian hula dancers, astronaut Ellison Onizuka — the first Asian American to fly in space, origami, and a Gujarati folk dancer.
Paul Spella

May marks Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month, an opportune time to celebrate the cultural contributions of immigrants of Asian descent, natives of Hawai‘i and Pacific Islanders.

People who identify under the AANHPI banner encompass a wide range of countries, ethnicities, nationalities and identities, making up 6.2 percent of the U.S. population – that’s 20.6 million people, according to 2020 census data. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that Asians made up 24.7 million of the population while Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders made up 1.8 million in 2022, the most recent data available.

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“Often when we talk about Asian Americans that rich diversity is lost. The term ‘Asian American’ is sometimes used to just refer to East Asians, or just to larger groups like Chinese and Indian Americans, but that leaves out millions who are very much part of the Asian American story,” says Aalok Kanani, chief digital and communications officer at Asia Society.

In fact, there are more than 50 ethnic groups and over 100 languages that fall into the AANHPI umbrella, says Leanne Day, assistant professor of English at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo.

Congress established the heritage month in 1992 (first as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month) to honor the arrival of Japanese immigrants in May 1843 and Chinese workers’ role in building the transcontinental railroad, which was completed in May 1869. In 2021, the White House expanded the commemorative month to include Native Hawaiians.

Day hopes that through the heritage month’s various events, people will dive further into critical conversations about AANHPI diversity, history, exclusion within the larger demographic and the various groups’ relationships to the U.S.

“AANHPI is a chance for us at Asia Society, and broadly in the Asian American community, to help Americans understand and celebrate the diversity of our communities,” adds Kanani.

Here’s how you can celebrate AANHPI Heritage Month through enriching events and learning opportunities around the country.

Museum events

 The Heritage Museum of Asian Art in Chicago showcases different art forms, including pottery, calligraphy, snuff bottles and more, all spanning many time periods in Asia. While there’s typically an admission fee, the museum is free all month long. Those who want to have a more hands-on experience can sign up for a Chinese paper-cutting workshop on May 18 for $15 ($10 for members). If you want to take part in the drop-in sketch day on May 19, make sure to register in advance. Can’t make it in-person? You can go on a virtual tour to see all three galleries filled with arts and artifacts.

The National Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is hosting an Asian American Pacific Islander heritage festival May 4 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For the price of admission ($17 for adults 18-59; $15 for people 60-plus and 6 to 17; $11 for veterans and active military; free for children under 5), attendees can take advantage of a full day of traditional Asian dances, origami, Japanese floral arrangements, Chinese art activities and food samples.

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The Smithsonian Institution has a wide array of events, both in person and online. Some highlights: The Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., is hosting an “Asia After Dark” program May 10, full of meditative and wellness activities including origami, coloring and journaling. It’s a free event from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., but attendees should register. Take a free virtual tour of the National Museum of Asian Art to explore many of the collections from different parts of the Asian continent and the U.S. There are multiple program dates; registration is required.

Festivals, food, fun

Bainbridge Island in Washington state will host its first Asian Arts and Heritage Festival throughout May. Some events include the Moonlight Market (May 3 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.), an author discussion where attendees will hear about the Japanese American internment during World War II (May 18 at 6:30 p.m., free, but RSVP required) and a Japanese Heritage night (May 29 at 6 p.m., $40). At each event, raffle tickets for a trip to Manila and Cebu Province, Philippines, will be available for purchase to raise money for future festivals. Celebrations culminate with a free festival on June 1 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Attendees should expect food, arts, vendors, performances and the announcement of raffle ticket winners.

Austin, Texas, is going all out for its 10th annual CelebrASIA Austin event on May 18 at the Asian American Resource Center. The free and family-friendly festival is from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will include performances by the Heavenly Dragon Lion Dance Association, Senior Bollywood Dance Group and other performing arts groups. The indoor-outdoor event will have several different cultural experience rooms where visitors can take part in hands-on activities such as origami, classical South Asian dances and augmented reality depictions of Hong Kong, to name a few. Note: The AARC parking lot is only for those needing accessible parking spaces.

The American Indian Museum in New York is sponsoring the Aloha Days family festival on May 18 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visitors can immerse themselves in Hawaiian culture through hula dances, coconut-leaf weaving, and making bracelets, leis and kapa bookmarks. Visitors also can learn about several different Hawaiian instruments and how to use them. The event is free and no registration is needed.

Fairfax, Virginia, is hosting the Asian Festival on Main – a family friendly event in historic Old Town Fairfax City on May 19. For those who love to dress up, there will be a cosplay costume contest. Expect food, educational opportunities, arts, crafts and performances from noon to 6 p.m. If it rains, the festival will be held June 2.

Join Arbeiter Brewing in Minneapolis for its inaugural Asian Phoenix Festival on May 26 at 1 p.m. The Asian-owned brewery will have food from Amazing Momo – a local Asian restaurant specializing in dumplings – and James Beard Award-nominated Union Hmong Kitchen. There also will be a craft market and performances by a local lion dancing team and a local Korean dance group.

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AARP Idaho: Virtual tour of Minidoka, an American concentration site

May 2, 12 p.m. EST, virtual

In 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt authorized the relocation and incarceration of people of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast. Around 13,000 people who lived in Oregon, Washington and Alaska were held in Minidoka despite many of them being U.S. citizens. Take a virtual visit to the Idaho site and learn about the treatment of Japanese Americans before, during and after WWII. Sign into your AARP.org account (membership not required) to register for the virtual event.

Join AARP NY for virtual cooking classes of various Asian cuisines

If you experience culture best through food, there are several free online cooking presentations to join this month. Learn to make Indonesian peanut satay lo mein, Indian palak paneer and matar paneer pulao, as well as Thai curries. AARP membership is not required, but log on to AARP.org to register.

  • May 16 at 5 p.m. ET: Make Indonesian peanut satay lo mein with a sweet and savory peanut butter sauce. Register here.
  • May 21 at 5 p.m. ET: Make Indian palak paneer (spinach and Indian cottage cheese) and matar paneer pulao (rice with peas and paneer). Register here.
  • May 23 at 5 p.m. ET: Learn about Thai curries and make a yellow Thai curry. Register here

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