Recognizing Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May 16, 2022
Martine Singer

Dear CII Family,

May is Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month! It is a time for honoring the generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders who have enriched American society and continue to break barriers for their communities. The month of May was chosen in 1977 to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese person to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of workers who laid those tracks were Chinese immigrants. However, AAPI is a broad term encompassing a rich diversity of countries, cultures, languages and religions, each with their own distinct history of how they came to be in the United States.

In the 1960’s, a pivotal time for advocacy and social change, the Asian American Political Alliance (AAPA) was formed at UC Berkeley to unite people of Asian American heritage under this umbrella term in order to form more cohesive coalitions and to push for political action. The AAPA played an incredibly influential role in encouraging other Asian Americans to get involved in the larger civil rights movement.

Today, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders continue to fight for their communities to be seen and respected, socially and politically. We have all witnessed how easily entire ethnicities can be not only disparaged but also put in harm’s way based on fear and inflammatory rhetoric, from Japanese internment during World War II to attacks on Sikh’s following 9/11 and most recently the rise of anti-Asian violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more than ever, the work that we do to is essential to addressing today’s trauma as well as the generational trauma stemming from histories of war and colonization in immigrant and refugee communities.

In addition to being AAPI month, May is also Mental Health Month. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Asian Americans have the lowest rate of seeking help for emotional wellness of any racial/ethnic group. This is due to the many systemic barriers to accessing mental health care and quality treatment, as well as stigma and lack of culturally or linguistically relevant care that addresses mental health in a more holistic way.

I thank our Asian American and Pacific Islander staff—representing 5% of team CII—for the work that they do, every day. Their visibility and expertise are paramount to communities getting the quality care that they deserve and working toward mental health equity.

With gratitude,

Martine Singer
President & CEO