People perform lion dance at the opening ceremony of the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month held in the Spring Court of Los Angeles City Hall in Los Angeles, the United States, on May 12, 2023. (Photo by Zeng Hui/Xinhua)
Surrounded by soaring stone pillars, sunny skies overhead and an expansive view of lush greenery beyond, attendees enjoyed a lively Chinese lion dance performance, heartfelt speeches by civic and community leaders, and a delicious Asian-fusion lunch at the opening ceremony of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month held in the Spring Court of Los Angeles City Hall on Friday.
In the United States, May was officially designated as the AAPI Heritage Month in 1992. This month-long observance provides an opportunity to celebrate and recognize the AAPI community’s contributions to American culture, society and history over centuries.
“Today we’re here to recognize Asian Pacific American Heritage Month,” California State Assemblyman Mike Fong told Xinhua during the ceremony. “And celebrate the contributions and inspiring stories of Asian Pacific Americans who have done so much to uplift our communities here in Los Angeles, throughout California and the nation.”
The AAPI community is one of the fastest-growing and most diverse groups in the United States, encompassing over 50 ethnic groups with unique cultural traditions and histories, including Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese and many others.
According to Los Angeles Almanac, Los Angeles County has, by far, the largest Asian population of any county in the United States, with an estimated 1.48 million people of Asian descent, representing over 15 percent of the population.
“I think that for so long Asian voices have kind of been in the background. So celebrations of this kind put them to the forefront and let people know that we are part of the fabric of this city and of this country,” John S. Lee, Councilmember of the City of Los Angeles, co-chair of the AAPI Heritage Month Committee, told Xinhua, noting that times are changing and the AAPI community is finding its voice.
Officials and community leaders emphasized that AAPI Heritage Month is an opportunity to raise awareness about public safety issues affecting the AAPI community, such as discrimination, racism and hate crimes.
California State Assemblyman Fong noted that the last few years have been a “particularly challenging time for the AAPI community” due to a sharp uptick in hate crimes and incidents.
Lee echoed the view, saying, “It’s a shame when some members of my community feel afraid to go out to the supermarket.”
“It’s important that we not be afraid to rock the boat and to speak up when something like that happens. That’s how we stop it from happening again,” he added.
According to a report released earlier this month by AAPI Hate, nearly half of AAPI individuals across the United States have experienced discrimination or unfair treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic that could be considered illegal.
Discrimination negatively affects the mental health and well-being of AAPI individuals. The report from AAPI Hate indicated that 50 percent of AAPI individuals who experienced discrimination reported feeling sad, stressed, anxious or depressed.
Officials expressed their hope that the planned events and activities will bring the theme of this year’s AAPI Heritage Month, “Unity is Strength,” to life.
“Our AAPI residents are an essential thread in the rich cultural tapestry of our city, making Los Angeles a more significant and vibrant place to live,” Karen Bass, mayor of Los Angeles, said in a written statement.
“Asian American and Pacific Islander Angelenos have shaped our city from its early years,” Bass said. “Today — whether in the arts or academia, in our businesses or our neighborhoods — our AAPI residents make invaluable contributions in every corner of our city.”