May is a month for celebrating the many cultural and societal contributions and achievements of overseas Asian communities in North America.  It marks the observance of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the United States, and Asian Heritage Month in Canada.

The commemorative month for Asian American and Pacific Islanders originated first as a Heritage Week with the US Congress in 1977, and was officially designated as Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month in 1992.  May was chosen to mark the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States in May, 1843, as well as to celebrate the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad in May 1869.  Most of the tracks were laid by young Asian men recruited as contract laborers from Southern China. 

Asian Heritage Month, as it is known in Canada, was officially declared in May 2002 to honor Asian Canadian’s contribution to Canadian culture and history.  Similarly, it was also the building of the railways, that first brought large numbers of young Asian men to Western Canada from 1880 from China and Taiwan. 

Asian Heritage month is about honoring past generations of Asian immigrants that came before us.  It is also about highlighting the richness of Asian cultures and traditions, but perhaps most importantly, it is about celebrating the Asian-American or Asian-Canadian experiences, and honoring the legacy and contributions of Americans and Canadians of Asian descend.

Here are some ways you can also celebrate Asian Heritage Month in your community:

  1. Read about famous Asian Americans here, including Amar Bose, chairman and founder of Bose Corporation; Perry Chen, founder and CEO of Kickstarter; and David Chang, founder of the Momofuku restaurant group, among others.  You can also learn more about  Noteworthy Historical Asian Canadians here, including the much love Sandra Oh.
  • Watch Crazy Rich Asians with an Asian friend and try to feel this experience through their eyes.
  • Catch couple episodes of ‘Fresh Off the Boat” a comedy series about a Taiwanese immigrant family in the 90’s, and “Kim’s Convenience” about a Korean Canadian family.  This is the first Canadian sitcom to feature Asian Canadian family members as lead characters.
  • Go to a local Asian Heritage Month event this May that celebrates a different Asian culture than one that you are familiar with.  Visit a Buddhist shrine, a Sikh temple, a mosque, or an ethnic church to learn about the diverse Asian communities and their values and believes.
  • Read a book by an Asian American author such as the ones listed here by Jarry Lee, Deputy Books Editor for BuzzFeed News.
  • Spend the 5 minutes watching this video produced by Asia Society that features prominent Asian Americans such as George Takei and Sandra Oh more than a decade ago.
  • And finally, we hope you’ll share your Asian Heritage story on a .Asia domain. .Asia is the designated web extension for Asia and Asian communities worldwide. Come hangout with us on Facebook and Twitter this May to celebrate the many traditions and legacies of Asian Americans and Asian Canadians culture.