Asian American + Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May 19, 2021


May is Asian + Pacific American Heritage Month!
This means that the entire month is dedicated to celebrating Americans with Asian and Pacific Islander descent. This encompasses the entire Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia.
Why May, you might ask? This month was primarily chosen as it commemorates the immigration of the first Japanese citizens to the United States on May 7, 1843.
Now that we have a little background on the holiday and its origins, we would love to share some of our favorite notable AAPI figures, inventions and contributions you may not know originated from Asian cultures, and children's books to help celebrate the diversity of these cultures and the revolutionary contributions AAPI people have had in the United States!

AAPI Notable Figures:

Ellison Onizuka, Astronaut
Onizuka was the very first Asian American in Space! He was a member of NASA's "Thirty-Five New Guys" which was also the first class to allow women. He successfully flew into space on the Space Shuttle Discovery and died in the destruction of the vessel. 
Naomi Uemura, Explorer
Naomi Uemura the first person to reach the North Pole on their own. Not only did he make the arduous trek completely alone, he collected scientific data along the way about air pollution and weather patterns. Uemura was also the first Japanese man to climb Mount Everest and the first man to climb Mount McKinley alone.
Chien-Shiug Wu, The First Lady of Physics
Chien-Shiug Wu made major contributions in detecting radiation poisoning and decay. She was the only known Chinese person to work on the Manhattan Project in 1944 and was later named the first woman president of the American Physical Society.
I.M Pei, Architect
Leoh Ming Pei moved to the United States from Guangzhou, China and went on to design some of our most iconic buildings today. These include the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, and many more. In 1983, he won the Pritzker Prize (also known as the Nobel Prize of architecture.)

Yuri Kockiyama, Political Activist
Yuri Kockiyama is a political activist who, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, suffered extreme racism in the U.S. She spent two years in a concentration camp and escaped with the invigoration to fight for the Asian American movement.  She was part of several movements including the Young Lords and the Harlem Community for Self Defense, and founded Asian Americans for Action. She joined forces with Malcom X working toward justice and human rights.



David Ho is a Taiwanese American who has made countless scientific contributions in furthering the understanding of HIV and AIDS that we have today. His research team transformed both diseases which at one time were considered a death sentence into manageable diseases. Today, he continues to work in virology by working on the COVID-19 vaccine and possible treatments.

AAPI Books to Share with your Children


A Life Made by Hand - Andrea D'Aquino
The story of Ruth Asawa, an award winning Japanese-American artist and sculptor. This book also includes activities to get your little's creativity flowing.


AAPI Notable Contributions:

Birthright Citizenship
Birthright citizenship means that if you are born in America, you are a U.S. citizen regardless of your parent's citizenship status. This landmark decision was thanks to Wong Kim Ark, a San Francisco-born son of two Chinese immigrants. He fought to defend his right to citizenship and the rights of all American-born children of immigrants. 

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