This month, the penultimate in the OIEJB History and Heritage Month series, celebrates people who share heritage from a number of countries and honors their contributions to American life and culture. The U.S. Census Bureau classifies people of Asian descent as “having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent,” including, but not limited to China, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Korea, India, Cambodia, Vietnam or the Philippines. Pacific Islanders are people who descended from the islands of Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia. This classification includes, but is not limited to people from Native Hawaii, Samoa, Tahiti, Guam, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea.
Filipino people first began migrating to California in 1587, and waves of immigrants from Japan, China, and other countries followed in 1843. Commemorating that immigration and recognizing the completion of the transcontinental railroad–which would not have been possible without the labor of over 15,000 Asian workers, many of then Chinese–was the goal of “AAPI Heritage Week,” a ten-day celebration signed into law by President Jimmy Carter on October 5, 1978. As with other heritage and history months, the week was later expanded to a full month, when President George H.W. Bush signed a bill on May 14, 1991, leading to the official designation of the full month in 1992.
Nevertheless, it is impossible to acknowledge the presence in this country of people with Asian and Pacific Islander heritage without noting both the government-sanctioned exclusion and isolation of those people and more recent examples of racism. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and the Japanese Internment Camps that were established in 1942 are just two examples; more recently, people with Asian heritage have been centered in negative reactions to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, with hate crimes against Asian people rising 167% in 2021, according to The Marshall Project. Resources for getting involved in countering that negative energy can be found here and here.
In addition to creating displays in all three academic divisions and other campus buildings, engaging in activities with advisories, and curating reading lists, SSFS will mark this year's iteration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month by welcoming poet and performance artist Regie Cabico, who will visit with all three academic divisions on Thursday, May 11. Regie is a former Nuyorican Poets Cafe Grand Slam Champion and has received top prizes in several National Poetry Slams; he has also served as the Youth Program Coordinator for the Split this Rock Poetry Festival, and has visited numerous schools to talk to students about poetry. In addition to Regie’s visit, the OIEJB Ambassadors–Upper School students who help the office with community engagement and outreach–will be visiting both MS and LS during the month.