I am not surprised when my friends tell me they do not know what APIA (Asian & Pacific Islander American) Heritage Month is. They always give me a blank stare and say, “What?” or some may even say, “APIA Month? We have the Asian Night planned by ACC (Asian Culture Club), isn’t that enough?” Sometimes, I become frustrated because they tell me I am being too “Asian” because I am involving myself in this “Asian Month”. First, I would tell them that there is a very big difference between Asian and Asian American. Secondly, I would explain to them the importance of APIA Month. But it always pains me to see that, not only my friends, but many others either do not know of APIA Heritage Month, or completely misunderstand it.
Sure, Asian Night is important in exploring Asian Culture, but is it relevant to Asian AMERICANS? Similar to Black History Month, APIA Heritage Month explores the importance and impact that Asian Americans had and have on American History. It also educates others about the current struggles Asian Americans have on certain issues.
So, I mentioned before that I was not surprised that my friends were not aware of this month. I mean, it’s not their fault that our schools do not announce it. Even on T.V. it is no where to be found, unlike other minority heritage months. When I was a child, every February, on Nickelodeon, there was always a segment on it between shows. When I watch Nickelodeon today, ten years later, where is our segment?
The first time I heard about this month was when I joined A-VOYCE. As embarrassing as it may sound, I never knew a month for Asian Americans even existed! Even when I finally discovered it, I asked myself, “What do we do? Why is it even important?” I quickly began to see the significance of it only when I began to SEARCH for them on Asian American blog sites, yahoo articles, and of course attending A-VOYCE.
Then, I started to formulate my opinion about APIA Month. I thought, perhaps we celebrate it to delve into our Asian American identity. Because after discovering such a month, I pondered on the Asian American identity. Who fits under this umbrella of “Asian American?” Those who associate with it must feel proud, such as me. Maybe it is to commemorate the impact Asian Americans had on American history. Or is it used as a tool to educate others about Asian American struggles today?
During the span of a month, I will be taking advantage of this month to educate others about APIA Month. I will be talking about the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, I will educating others about the Japanese American 442nd Infantry in World War II, I will be telling others about Chris Ijima, Nobuko Miyamoto, and other influential Asian American musicians, and I will be sharing with others my struggles with my identity as an Asian American. If our voices are heard, then perhaps there will be no need for an APIA Heritage Month.
–-Tai Tung Village Youth