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3 Ways to Recognize Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and Honor Contemporary Civil Rights

half of asian american woman face; "3 ways to recognize Asian Pacific American heritage month and honor contemporary civil rights" in blue text; "By Dr. Sierra Austin" in red text
What’s the Historical Context?
First introduced to Congress in 1977 as a weeklong national commemoration, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM) became a 31-day celebration in 1990. May was chosen to honor the first Japanese immigrant who came to the United States on May 7, 1843, as well as the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. During this month, we honor the influence, achievements, and contributions to history and culture made by those who identify as Asian and Pacific Islander. 

The Geography
Geographically, this includes the continent of Asia and the Pacific Islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji, and the Solomon Islands), Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, and Easter Island), and Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, and the Federated States of Micronesia).

>>Better understand the diversity of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders with these  powerful census mapping and visualization tools here.

How Can I Bring This to My Virtual Classroom?
  • Broaden Your Knowledge: Asian/Pacific Islander history, politics, and culture are not often part of standardized curricula or public dialogue. Dedicate some time to learning more. Start by checking out the Center for Asian American Media’s (CAAM) “20 Things to Watch and Listen To In Celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islanders.”
  • Diversify Lesson Plans: Offer your students the opportunity to take virtual tours of historic districts, monuments, and places in Washington D.C., New York, Oregon, California, and Hawaii via The National Park Service website. The National Park Service also offers a vast amount of distance learning resources, lesson plans, and learning tools by subject, grade level, and Common Core standards for educators.

How Can I Promote Equity and Social Change?
Say ‘No’ to Hate in the Wake of COVID-19: Racism and xenophobia are on the rise. Be thoughtful in your conversations about Coronavirus to students and loved ones. Avoid and discourage the use of popular monikers such as the “Chinese Flu,” which the World Health Organization (WHO) also advises against. 

Report instances of physical or verbal harassment to the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council using a quick form. As of April 24, 2020, nearly 1,500 incidents have been reported to the Council. In the aggregate, the information will be used for assistance, advocacy, and education. The form is available in multiple languages and can be submitted anonymously. Commit to doing your part to protect the civil rights of your students, colleagues, friends, family, and community! 

Dr. Sierra Austin is a graduate of the Department of Women's and Gender Studies at The Ohio State University, with a focus on race and social justice. Sierra's research (done in our member district Columbus City Schools), activism, work focused on education equity and prioritizes operationalizing intersectional approaches to social change. She offers professional development through the ESC focused on equity, consultation, and community workshops.