Celebrate AANHPI Heritage Month

A note from Evelyn DeJesus, Executive Vice President of AFT

Nǐ hǎo, 你好!, Konnichiwa, 今日は, नमस्ते, Anyeonghaseyo, 안녕하세요 and happy Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month! Whether we’re saying hello in Chinese, Japanese, Hindi, Korean or one of the over 100 languages spoken in the AANHPI community, I want you to join me in celebrating AANHPI Heritage Month. AANHPI Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the histories, cultures and contributions of the more than 24 million AANHPI people in the United States. Their stories and contributions are part of American history.

There is no single story that defines the AANHPI experience. The AANHPI community is the fastest-growing and most diverse racial and ethnic group in the United States. It’s a mosaic of rich cultural identities that represents over 50 ethnic groups. AANHPIs have made significant social, economic, cultural, literary, culinary and political contributions to American life.

Asian American workers have also been integral to the U.S. labor movement since the 1800s, when plantation workers in the Hawaiian Islands began forming unions to protest working conditions, and continue to play critical roles to date. 

Over the past two years, we have seen a sharp increase in anti-Asian hate incidents and hate crimes spurred by racist rhetoric around the coronavirus pandemic. Many in our communities are still grieving loss, and some members of our AANHPI communities have been victims of discrimination, racial slurs, assault and even death. According to the Stop AAPI Hate Reporting Center, close to 3,800 racist incidents were reported last year, a significant increase from previous years. We must not only bear witness to but also be active participants in the calls for racial equality, justice and healing. This is the time to come together and stand united against all forms of hate. To learn more about the AFT’s Stop Asian Hate campaign, visit www.aft.org/stopasianhate.

Join me in honoring this important month by posting selfies with AFT #AAPIproud signs and call out the need to #StopAAPIHate. Let’s use this moment to celebrate AANHPI Heritage Month by reading books highlighting authors, actors, accomplishments and everyday experiences of individuals who are Asian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander. As a grandmother of two half-Asian grandchildren, I know how important it is for our students to read books that reflect their lived experience and culture and see themselves reflected by those they see on TV. We cried as Michelle Yeoh won the Oscar for best actress, making history as the first AANHPI to win in that category. 

One of the most important lessons to combat hate is to learn about appreciating a culture other than your own. Whether it is AANHPI culture or another culture, self-education should always be the first step. Take a moment to listen about the pain and hurt that our AANHPI community members are going through. Only through an understanding of others’ pain and struggle can we fully join in the celebration of the diversity of the AANHPI community.

Over the years, the AFT and First Book have distributed hundreds of thousands of books highlighting diverse authors, characters and cultures—including bilingual titles. Through our partnership, we have supported school libraries, back-to-school efforts, citizenship clinics and large-scale resource distributions across the country, including in Guam, California, New York, Washington and Florida, to provide high-quality books, school supplies and basic-needs items to predominately AANHPI communities.

We encourage you to share these important resources and stories with students, colleagues, family members and your community year-round, not just during the month of May!

Highlighted members

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highlighted member number for AAPI month
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AAHNPI Heritage Month

Related AFT initiatives

Colorín Colorado celebrates Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage and History all year round with dynamic booklists, multimedia resources, and classroom activities!
Our Asian & Pacific Islander Characters & Cultures section includes books that spotlight the diversity, histories, cultures, and experiences among those who identify as Asian, Asian American, and/or Pacific Islander.