May is Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Month. So what, you say?
I know, many APAs simply do nothing to celebrate their heritage.
Just because there is no designated holiday doesn’t mean we should not educate our youth and ourselves to bring joy and meaning into our lives. May should be a time to remind everyone to celebrate and learn something about our own heritage, as well as other cultures. Here are suggestions to get you started.
1. Organize a cultural potluck. Invite diverse friends to join. Each person can bring a Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Cambodian, Laotian, Hawaiian, or other ethnic dish to share. Remember, you don’t have to be Japanese to bring a sushi plate for the party. Don’t forget to share your recipes afterward.
2. Learn to cook a new Asian dish with your kids. Write down your recipe for them, so they can make it for themselves in the future.
3. Grow an Asian veggie garden with items like bok choy or string beans and gather your neighbors to reap the fruits of the later harvest. Ideally, your neighbors can grow other Asian veggies, so you’ll have fresh food all year round. Sharing food is a great way to cultivate relationships.
4. Grow Asian plants like bamboo, Japanese maples, and cherry blossom trees. Though orchids aren’t technically Asian, my friends have given me orchid plants off and on over the years. I noticed they are often grown by Asian gardeners. Five years ago, all my orchid plants died. However, my luck has changed over the past three years. I am elated when one blooms three years in a row.
Sharing your culture
5. Throw a cultural party and showcase your culture to your friends. Each person can “show and tell” something to promote understanding among diverse friends. This would be especially powerful in your workplace — organize such a party to get to know your colleagues better.
6. Whenever your share your culture’s history or stories with kids, write them down, so that your kids’ kids can benefit from them in the future. Create picture books for your kids to keep and read to future generations.
7. Find out about your family. Interview your parents and learn about how they grew up, including their struggles, challenges, and survival skills.
8. Make a family tree on paper and create a website. Invite your relatives to participate and contribute. Tell them to write comments on the site to preserve for future generations to read and learn from. You can also arrange family reunions this way, and you can invite people to send in comments afterward.
9. Make Asian artwork yourself and with kids. Teach yourself ikebana, how to quilt with Asian cultural symbols, and to paint. You can also make sculptures, clothing, furniture, pillows, wall murals, anything you can think of. You can offer the pieces to schools and to other public places. It’s your way of giving back to the community.
10. Create a community event with your heritage in mind. One example is the successful Celebrate Asia!, a musical performance showcasing Asian American talents. It was the brainchild of Yoshi Minegishi and other Asian leaders. It is now part of the Seattle Symphony program.
You can organize a heritage assembly at a school. Most high schools and colleges have Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations, so why not hold an APA assembly too? I attended Seattle City Light’s Asian employees’ API celebration and DSHS’s luncheon years ago. It was terrific to see Asian employees invite non-Asian colleagues to enjoy Asian food, shows, and speeches. Many Asian employees dressed in festive native costumes.
Also, Al Sugiyama organizes the API festival at the Seattle Center every year.
11. Sing karaoke in Asian languages. Radio Hankook organized a singing contest for non-Koreans to sing Korean songs. It was an instant hit among Koreans and non-Koreans alike.
12. May is an appropriate time to visit the Wing Museum, the Tacoma Chinese Reconciliation Park, the Seattle Chinese Garden, the International District, the Seattle Asian Art Museum, Jose Rizal Park, or community centers, temples, or restaurants.
I encourage you to develop your own cultural tour. And send us your list! ♦