Since 1977, the month of May recognizes the achievements and contributions of Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and Native Hawaiians to the American story. The legislation honoring the significance of our Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) heritage was introduced by some of the finest Asian Americans in U.S. history: Congressman Norman Mineta, Senator Spark Matsunaga, and Senator Daniel Inouye.
This May, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center theme for AAPI Heritage Month is “I Am Beyond.” The phrase captures the aspirations of the American spirit, how Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander descent have always sought to excel beyond the challenges that have limited equal opportunity in America. “I Am Beyond” recognizes Dalip Singh Saund’s election as the first Asian American Congressman in 1957 after campaigning for the rights of all Asian immigrants to become naturalized U.S. citizens. “I Am Beyond” recognizes the civil rights work of Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz in championing for the rights of American workers across communities. “I Am Beyond” recognizes the achievements of Patsy Mink, the first woman of color and first Asian American woman elected to Congress, a woman whose legacy includes the promotion of equal opportunity in education. “I Am Beyond” recognizes the legacy of Chinese American Grace Lee Boggs, a major figure in the civil rights movement who continues to work on empowering communities in Detroit, MI at nearly 100 years old. “I Am Beyond” recognizes the passionate service of Daniel K. Inouye, decorated World War II veteran and long-time Senator, whom President Barack Obama has called “a true American hero” and “my earliest political inspiration.” “I Am Beyond” is the theme of the new Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center exhibition Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation, a look at the history, art and culture of Indian immigrants and Indian Americans in the U.S. beyond stereotypes.
The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center invites agencies, cities, communities, individuals, organizations, and states across the country to join the commemoration of AAPI Heritage Month. Please join us in recognizing the rich and complex past, present, and future of AAPI communities, our organizations, our leaders and innovators, our artists and musicians, our organizers and activists, our teachers and students, our youth and elders—AAPIs from all walks of life. Create and share your interpretation of the theme through art, music, performance and literature or through an event, video, film or documentary. More details coming soon: www.apa.si.edu. For those on social media, please use the #IAMBEYOND hashtag.
Konrad Ng is the Director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center.