May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month–a celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the U.S. Our local community is invited to celebrate the occasion at two different events–the Asian American Resource Center’s fourth annual CelebrASIA Austin: Asian Pacific American Food and Heritage Festival and the Greater Austin Asian Chamber of Commerce’s Ovation gala.
Before diving into the details of Austin’s own celebrations, let’s explore some of the history behind this holiday.
The term “Asian Pacific” encompasses all of the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. Like most commemorative months, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month originated with Congress. In June 1978, Rep. Frank Horton introduced a resolution proposing that the President proclaim a week to include a seven-day period beginning on May 4, 1979 as Asian Pacific American Heritage Week. This resolution was passed by the House and then the Senate and was signed by President Jimmy Carter on October 5, 1978. During the next decade, presidents passed annual proclamations for Asian Pacific American Heritage Week until 1990 when Congress passed a law that expanded the observance to a month for 1990. It was finally in 1992 when Congress passed a new law which annually designated May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the U.S. on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.
CelebrASIA is a free community event celebrating its fourth anniversary on Sat., May 6 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. This year, CelebrASIA commemorates the “Year of the Mango.” You’re invited to learn how to cook with mango with Chefs Min and Jenna Choe of Jenna’s Asian Kitchen, Diana Nguyen of EM Gourmet and Fred Wu of Thai-Kun with culinary educator, chef and food writer Shefaly Ravula of Shef’s Kitchen leading live interviews throughout the day.
Attendees are invited to experience a range of Asian flavors with food and beverages available for sale from local Asian restaurants including Jenna’s Asian Kitchen (Pan Asian), Swad (Indian), Shahi Café (Middle Eastern, South Asian), Burma Bliss (Burmese-Thai), Tea Haus (Taiwanese) and Kona Ice.
The Asian Marketplace Street Bazaar at CelebrASIA will provide more opportunities for cultural exploration with arts, crafts and merchandise available for sale.
In addition, attendees will enjoy outdoor cultural performances throughout the day with Victoria Maranan of Spectrum News serving as emcee. Children will enjoy various crafts, face painting, moon bounce and other ongoing activities. Attendees will explore the world through indoor Interactive Heritage Showcases, presented by local cultural organizations, featuring activities, clothing, decor and artifacts from various regions of Asia. Learn more about area service organizations at the Community Outreach Fair.
CelebrASIA Austin highlights the growing Asian American population of Austin, which is the fastest growing demographic group in Central Texas and constitutes nearly seven percent of the Austin population. Please visit the AARC website at austintexas.gov/aarc for additional updates and program schedule or call the main line at 512-974-1700.
The Greater Austin Asian Chamber of Commerce turns five this year and the public is invited to celebrate with them during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month at the annual gala, Ovation, Friday, May 19, 6 – 11 p.m.
This year’s Lifetime Achievement Award winner is Sada Cumber, former special envoy to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. Mr. Cumber will be in Austin to accept his award in person, along with other honorees such as Journeyman Construction, SparkCognition and the Wong Family.
There will be a gala reception for mingling with civic, business and community leaders and award honorees, and music by the retro band The Barberettes all the way from Korea. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit austinasianchamber.org.