*Note about language: The White House has put out a statement that names May as AANHPI (Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander) Heritage month. Some simply use the term AAPI, which I have used in the past. This year, I am trying to be more intentional about naming the realities of the South Asian community, particularly in the context of my own space of leadership (the church I’m pastoring) so am using the term APIDA instead, while also recognizing the term “Desi” is also not fully inclusive and not accepted by all in the South Asian community.
In general, it is important to name the vast diversity of the Asian diasporic experience which includes people from East, Southeast, Central, and South Asia, as well as the range of Pacific Islands (Melanesia, Mirconesia, Polynesia) as well as Native Hawaiian communities.
A good friend and I have been talking about how we’re sort of dreading May this year.
In the past, there’s been a sense of relief and appreciation for APIDA Heritage month- a concerted time to feel seen and appreciated, to feel validated in our voices and gifts as Asian Americans. As part of a community that often feels invisible to others and overlooked in racial conversations, erased by the Black/White binary, May has been a time where I’ve felt more permission to center my own experiences without feeling a sense of shame or selfishness. It has always been a time for healing and for honor.
Yet in these past few months, with the Atlanta-area shootings and greater attention on anti-Asian hate crimes and violence, there has been a higher level of visibility on the experiences of Asian Americans. We are getting more attention in national conversations. We’ve experienced generous and public acts of solidarity and support from other communities of color. Our voices are being prioritized and even sought out in conversations about race.
This greater visibility has been a gift in some ways, but has also had some mixed consequences. I’ve personally realized how easy it has been for Asian Americans to coast by without reflecting more deeply on our own experiences, because nobody really asked us to or even seemed to care. I’ve seen greater levels of critique, conflict, and competition among different segments of the Asian American community, particularly when it comes addressing anti-Blackness and heteropatriarchy. I’ve even seen some people trying to exploit this hypervisibility for what often feels like personal gain- boosting their brand, gaining more “influence,” using this moment to sell books or promote their own name.
So I am filled with mixed feelings at the beginning of this month. I am hoping this month doesn’t feel like a time to pander to whiteness, to focus on self-promotion, or lead to grater marginalization for certain members of the greater Asian diasporic and Pacific Islander communities. Yet I am also sad that we also feel such anxiety about having to celebrate “perfectly” and that it’s so hard for many of us to simply love ourselves without always considering what others think or need.
The feelings are complex because our identities are so complex!
In the midst of these tensions, I am also stepping more into my authority and call as a local pastor, and I am seeing more churches choosing to intentionally engage APIDA Heritage month, including churches that have never done so before. While I don’t know if I’ll have energy to write more new things in this coming month, I wanted to collect some of these writings in one place and share, in case people are needing words or resources.
Here are some of the various resources I’ve written either for APIDA/AAPI month celebrations in the past years, as well as a few writings from recent months in response to anti-Asian violence.
- The Way You See: A Litany for APIDA Heritage Month (written in May 2021)
- Litany for APIDA Heritage Month 2020 (Written in May 2020)
- A Prayer for my AAPI Sisters: As We Face Unceasing Violence (written March 2021)
- A Prayer against anti-Asian violence: For the Protection of our Elders (written Feb 2021)
- Fearfully, Wonderfully: A Poem (Written May 2018)
General Resources for the Month
- 5 Reasons whey I’m Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month (written May 2018)
- 10 AAPI Women You Should Know (but have probably never heard of- (Written May 2018)
- 5 Times the AAPI Community Resisted Racism In Court (Written May 2019)
- Great Cloud of Witnesses: AAPI Women I’m Honoring this Month (Written May 2020)
- Asian Americans and Collective Memory (Written in November 2015)
- These resources are free to use and share publicly, but if you’re able, send me a message/email to let me know so I can know who is accessing this work.