May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and one way Seattle is celebrating is with a free afternoon of family fun and cultural festivities from 11:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Seattle Center Armory on Sunday, May 4.
On tap are live performances, visual arts, hands-on activities, games, lion dances, drumming, martial arts, a marketplace, and a hum bow eating contest, featuring notables from around the city.
America’s Got Talent contestants Lions Ambition will be the headlining act. The Seattle-based, six-member team is known for captivating audiences with its blending of lyricism with soulful vocals. The band has garnered opening spots for such artists as Ludacris and Shwayze. Additional musical performances will include those by Rachel Wong, Natya, OKK Taiko, Au Lac Vovinam-Lion Dance, and others.
A highlight of the festival will be its first hom bow eating contest. Local dignitaries, including Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, community activist Bob (Uncle Bob) Santos, Tomio Moriguchi of Uwajimaya, King 5’s Lori Matsukawa, and Assunta Ng, publisher of the Northwest Asian Weekly and Seattle Chinese Post, will compete in what is sure to be an entertaining “who can eat hum bow the fastest” competition.
For more information about the Seattle festival, see www.apiheritage.com
A little history
Asian heritage celebrations started locally in 1972 and were put on primarily by various Asian student coalitions at colleges and high schools, according to Al Sugiyama, director of Executive Development Institute. “In 1973, the Asian Student Coalition at the University of Washington started taking the celebration off campus in order to get the API communities involved,” said Sugiyama. “In the 1980s and 1990s, very few celebrations were occurring and none for the greater community.”
In 2002, the Asian Pacific Director’s Coalition (APDC) negotiated with the Seattle Center to hold an API Heritage Month celebration in the Center House, said Sugiyama, so non-APIs would attend.
“The typical family/person that comes to the Center doesn’t like to just sit and watch performances,” Sugiyama said. “They drop in and out of the Center House. That is why our acts are 10 to 12 minutes long. Our first event in 2002 was a success, so we have been organizing the celebration ever since. APDC provided the seed money to start the event, but we have been self sustaining since, I believe, 2004.”
On the national scene, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) will kick off Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month at the U.S. Department of the Interior, celebrating the community’s contributions to the country. During the ceremony, members of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders will be ceremonially sworn in.
The theme for this year’s Heritage Month is “I Am Beyond,” according to the White House, signifying “a spirit of overcoming obstacles and achieving goals.
“With AAPIs on the rise across the country and emerging fast in an increasingly more diverse America, officials will announce their plans for AAPIs to ‘go beyond’ with the help of the new commissioners, said the White House. “The Commission is charged with working to improve the quality of life for AAPIs through increased participation in and access to federal programs. The members will advise the president on innovative ways to engage AAPIs across the country and to improve their health, education, environment, and wellbeing.”
The commissioners participating in the ceremony are Chris Lu, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Labor; Sri Srinivasan, United States Circuit Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit; Rhea Suh, Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management, and Budget, U.S. Department of the Interior; Kiran Ahuja, Executive Director, White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders; Konrad Ng, Director, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center; and Gautam Raghavan, Adviser, White House Office of Public Engagement. (end)