5 Ways to Celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month at Work

Find a way to honor AAPI Americans during the month of May.

By Kim Kelly, CAE

Asian woman working on laptop. Businesswoman busy working on laptop computer at office with colleagues in the background.

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. In 1990, the U.S. government designated the month of May to celebrate contributions and achievements of Asian American and Pacific Islanders. May is significant because the first japanese immigrant arrived in the U.S. on May 7, 1843. The month also marks the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869.

If your organization celebrates other heritage months, such as black history month (February) and Women’s History Month (March), be sure to include AAPI Heritage Month as well. Here are a few ways you can recognize the month either as an organization or as individuals:

  1. Host a lunch-n-learn discussion to highlight AAPI contributions to your industry. Educating staff about the diverse contributions to your members’ field can broaden their understanding and strengthen connections with members. 
  2. Support AAPI charities or causes. This can be done through monetary donations, or by volunteering your time. Consider finding a local organization to coordinate a staff service trip. This is a great way to both honor AAPI Heritage Month and build staff morale.
  3. Attend a local event. This can be done as a group activity or as individuals. Chicago has a plethora of AAPI Heritage Month events happening. May 13-22 is AAPI Restaurant Week, with more than 30 restaurants participating. May 21-30 is the Chicago Japan Film Festival, featuring 14 films over the course of 10 days. On May 15, the Cook County Forest Preserve is hosting a free AAPI Heritage Month festival in Caldwell Woods to mark the beginning of spring.
  4. Support an AAPI business. Whether you take your staff to lunch at an AAPI owned restaurant, or you shop at a local business, this is a great way to celebrate the month. For a list of businesses, check out this blog post by Choose Chicago.
  5. Ask your employees how they’d like to celebrate. This is the best way to approach a heritage month! Your AAPI staff members may be eager to share their heritage with coworkers, but it shouldn’t be required. By asking your staff how they’d like to recognize this month, you’ll ensure everyone is comfortable with what you choose. 


Asian American and Pacific Islanders’ history in the United States is fraught with systemic racism and violence. But, there’s also a story of perseverance and resilience. In 1916, a Chinese-born engineer helped Boeing launch U.S. commercial aviation. In 1965, U.S. Representative Patsy T. Mink of Hawaii became the first Asian American woman, and the first woman of color, to serve in Congress. The Delano Grape strike of 1965 was spearheaded by mostly Filipino farmworkers who made up the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee. Later the group would be joined by Cesar Chavez and Latino workers and the two unions ultimately formed the United Farm Workers. Maya Lin, daughter of Chinese immigrants, designed the Vietnam War Memorial that was dedicated in 1982 in Washington, D.C. These are just a few of the contributions AAPI Americans have made. 

Do your own research and find a way to honor AAPI Americans this month. If your organization is doing something to celebrate, let us know on the MyForum community or connect with us on social!

About the Author

Kim Kelly is Association Forum's Editorial Consultant. She has more than 13 year's experience in association management and owns Kim Kelly Consulting.


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