WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 24, 2017) — The U.S. Senate today passed a bipartisan resolution lead by Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) to recognize May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. The resolution celebrates the contributions of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.
“We celebrate May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and reflect on the significant contributions the Asian American and Pacific Islander community has made to our country,” said Senator Hirono. “It’s also a reminder to us all that although the AAPI community has made tremendous progress, there is much work to do. Mahalo to Senators Duckworth, Harris and our colleagues from both sides of the aisle for celebrating pioneers like Hawaii’s own Daniel K. Inouye, Daniel K. Akaka, Patsy Mink, and Hiram Fong, and for recognizing the contributions that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders make to our country every day.”
“The month of May is a time to take pride in the numerous contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders throughout our nation’s history, and of the continued contributions of their children and their children’s children,”said Senator Duckworth. “I’m proud to work with Senators Hirono and Harris as we celebrate the rich history of the AAPI community today and for years to come.”
“I am proud to stand alongside my Senate colleagues to celebrate the strides that the Asian American and Pacific Islander community has made in public service, media, education, and beyond,” said Senator Harris. “I remain committed to representing and fighting for the 6.5 million Asian American and Pacific Islanders in California, and for those living across the country. During Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, let us recognize and celebrate the immense contributions of the AAPI community and remember the strength that comes from having such diversity in our country.”
“Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the history and achievements of our diverse communities,” said National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA) National Director Christopher Kang. “It is also a time to reflect on our communities’ resilience and the challenges we face as a nation today. We thank Senators Hirono, Duckworth, Harris and Senate leadership for this resolution recognizing the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and as the fastest-growing racial group in the United States, it is our opportunity to unite and mobilize more than ever before to advance our future.”
The legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-Ore.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Robert P. Casey, Jr (D-Pa.), and Dean Heller (R-Nev.).
2017 marks several significant milestones for the AAPI community, including the 115th anniversary of the date of enactment of the Act of July 1, 1862 which promoted the construction of the transcontinental railroad which was completed with substantial contributions from immigrants from China, the 75th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066 which authorized the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, and the 25th anniversary of the formal establishment of Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.
Ken Lee, CEO of the Organization of Chinese Americans, said that looking back on how May was designated to recognize Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, the idea was inspired by proclamations for Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Week. Ms. Jeannie Jew and Ms. Ruby Moy, two congressional staffers, sought to have similar legislation enacted for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and a nationwide effort was coordinated by the National Coalition for a Pacific/Asian American Heritage Proclamation, founded and chaired by Ms. Jew who served as an OCA National Board member and Organization of Chinese American Women.
In the persistence and hard work by the community and regular lay advocates, the following is a comprehensive timeline of events that took place to achieve such a victory, he said. The timeline:
• June 1977: Representative Frank Horton (R-NY) and Norman Y. Mineta (D-CA) introduce Pacific/Asian Heritage Week (House Resolution 540) in the House of Representatives, which calls upon the President to proclaim the first ten days of May as Pacific/Asian Heritage Week. The Resolution was passed July 10, 1978.
• July 19, 1977: Senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga introduce SJ Res. 72 into the Senate, similar to legislation introduced by Frank Horton and Norman Mineta in the House.
• Oct. 5, 1978: President Jimmy Carter signs the Joint Resolution.
• May 7, 1990: Asian Pacific American leaders around the country gathered at the White House to witness the signing of a proclamation by George Bush, declaring May to be Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
• May 6, 1991: President H.W. Bush signed a proclamation designating May 1991 and May 1992 as “Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.”
• Oct. 23, 1992: President Bush signed legislation into law to designate May of each year as “Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.” The law (HR 5572), introduced by Rep. Frank Horton (R-NY) and Norman Mineta (D-CA) was approved unanimously by the House of Representatives and the Senate during the 102nd Congress.
“Because of the support of OCA members, chapters, and advocates around the country, we now enjoy what is known as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month,” Lee said. “Such an accomplishment would not have been possible without advocates like you. Every day, you all move us forward on the path of justice. OCA’s work to empower and build a pipeline of leaders, strengthen our collective power, and defend our constitutional rights is driven by you and other AAPI advocates.
“We hope that you will join us in our work to create equal and equitable progress by helping support OCA’s work. Whether it be through participating in one of our many empowerment programs, getting involved in your local chapter, or making a donation when our voice is most needed, you have a place in our fight for civil rights,” Lee added.
U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (DFL-MN-4.) said Asian Pacific American Heritage Month honors the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, including the vibrant Asian American community that makes up 13 percent of Minnesota’s Fourth District. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have enriched our communities and our country through remarkable achievements in public service, business, science, the arts, and much more, she said.
“However, we know that disparities continue exist in health care and education for some Americans of Asian descent. We must strive to address these inequities and ensure that every American has the opportunity and the resources to achieve the American Dream,” McCollum said. “I am proud to represent the Fourth District’s vibrant and diverse AAPI community in Congress. In the year ahead, I look forward to working with my constituents and my colleagues to build a stronger America with opportunities for all our people.”