APA Heritage


Origin of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

In the United States, the month of May each year is celebrated as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. This annual celebration came about in 1978 when President Jimmy Carter signed into law a Joint Resolution of the Congress of the United States designating the month of May for the celebration of Asian and Pacific Islanders culture and heritage.

In 2005, a new community tradition was born in San Francisco when Mayor Gavin Newsom embraced the proposal by former OCA National President Claudine Cheng, to launch an annual official celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in San Francisco. The Mayor’s APA Heritage Celebration Committee, comprising of a diverse group of APA community representatives, was established to coordinate this community celebration. In 2010, the APA Heritage Foundation was incorporated as a nonprofit organization to help secure sponsorships and resources needed to carry on the annual festivities.

Over the years, this annual community celebration has been made possible through the generous support of businesses and community sponsors as well as professional services.

Congressman Norman Mineta (CA)

In the mid 1970s, a nationwide advocacy campaign was launched to obtain Congressional Resolution to designate one week in May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Week. This concept originated from Jeanie F. Jew, a staff person on Capital Hill at the time and a board member of the Organization of Chinese Americans.

Ms. Jew was frustrated that Asian Pacific Americans were not included as a recognized community in the celebration of the United States Bicentennial and she would like to see the United States government acknowledge Asian Pacific Americans as part of the country. In addition, she also wanted to commemorate her great grand father who had worked as a labor in the building of the Transcontinental Railroad.

In June 1977, a bill (HJRes.540) was introduced by Congressman Horton, co-sponsored by Congressman Norman Mineta (CA), to call upon the President of the United States to proclaim the seven day period beginning May 4, 1979 as “Pacific/Asian American Heritage Week.”

Congressman Frank Horton (NY)

Consequently, Jeanie Jew enlisted the support of Ruby Moy, then an administrative assistant to Congressman Frank Horton (NY). In June 1977, a bill (HJRes.540) was introduced by Congressman Horton, co-sponsored by Congressman Norman Mineta (CA) to call upon the President of the United States to proclaim the seven day period beginning May 4, 1979 as “Pacific/Asian American Heritage Week.”

United States to proclaimed May 4, 1979 as “Pacific/Asian American Heritage Week.”

A few weeks later, a similar bill (SJRes.72) was introduced in the United States Senate by Senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga. Both bills were subsequently revised to conform to the Census Bureau’s designation of the community as “Asian/Pacific” (SJRes.1007) rather than “Pacific/Asian.”

The drafter of the bills selected the week of May 4th because of two significant historical events that took place during that period: the arrival date of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States recorded on May 7, 1843, and the date of completion of the Transcontinental Railroad on May 10, 1869.

The proposed legislation required the support and co-sponsorship of at least 218 members of Congress in order for the bill to pass the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee. An intense national advocacy campaign was launched. Jeanie Jew founded and chaired the National Coalition for an Asian/Pacific American Heritage Proclamation, and together with Ruby Moy, they also founded the Asian Pacific Congressional Staff Caucus.

Major national organizations that were involved in the advocacy of the passage of these bills were: Organization of Chinese Americans, Japanese American Citizens League, and the Organization of Chinese American Women. This was the first national advocacy campaign that involved the youth and young professionals in our community, notably members of Young OCA under the leadership of then OCA Executive Director Hayden Lee.

As a result of persistent efforts, the coalition was able to secured 231 Congressional Representatives to co-sponsor the bill, and the bills were passed by an overwhelming majority in both the House and the Senate.

On October 5, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed the Joint Resolution into law which proclaimed the week of May 4-11 Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week.

Meanwhile, the Joint Resolution adopted did not contain a provision for annual designation, and community organizations had to apply to Congress every year for the proclamation of Heritage Week. It took more than ten year of advocacy before the celebration was extended to include the entire month of May. On May 7, 1990, President George W. Bush signed into law proclaiming Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

In 1992, the Heritage Month celebration was finally institutionalized when Congressman Horton introduced legislation (HR 5572) to designate “May of each year as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.” The support for this proposed legislation was unanimous.

On October 23, 1992, community leaders from around the country witnessed a new chapter in Asian Pacific American history as the President signed into law proclaiming the month of May every year as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in perpetuity.

With this law, the President of the United States is “authorized and requested to issue annually a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe the month designated… with appropriate programs, ceremonies and activities.”

In addition to the Federal Proclamation, the law also provides for “State Proclamation,” so that “the Chief Executive Officer of each State is requested to issue annually a proclamation calling on the people of the State to observe the month designated… with appropriate programs, ceremonies and activities.”

Publicity Partners 2021

Thank you to over 100 publicity partners for their role in promoting public awareness of APA Heritage Month

San Francisco Officials:

  • Mayor London Breed
  • Assessor-Recorder Joaquin Torres
  • City Administrator Carmen Chu
  • District Attorney Chesa Boudin
  • Public Defender Manohar Raju
  • Sheriff Paul Miyamoto
  • Treasurer Jose Cisneros

San Francisco Board of Supervisors:

  • Connie Chan
  • Catherine Stefani
  • Aaron Peskin
  • Gordon Mar
  • Dean Preston
  • Myrna Melgar
  • Rafael Mandelman
  • Hillary Ronen
  • Shamann Walton
  • Ahsha Safaí

San Francisco Board of Education

  • Jenny Lam
  • Faauuga Moliga

City College of San Francisco 

  • Alan Wong

BART Board of Directors

  • Janice Li

San Francisco Government Agencies:

  • Mayor’s Office of Communications
  • Mayor’s Office of Technology
  • San Francisco Arts Commission
  • San Francisco Film Commission
  • San Francisco Human Rights Commission
  • San Francisco Public Library
  • San Francisco Unified School District

State of California Officials

  • State Treasurer Fiona Ma
  • State Board of Equalization Member Malia Cohen
  • State Assembly Member David Chiu
  • State Assembly Member Phil Ting
  • State Senator Scott Wiener


  • AAPI Dubs, Golden State Warriors Employee Resource Group
  • Albert’s List
  • All Islanders Gathering as One
  • American Red Cross, San Francisco Leadership Council
  • Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation
  • API Council
  • apple
  • Ascend Leadership, NorCal
  • Asian America Foundation
  • Asian Americans for Community Involvement
  • Asian Art Museum
  • Asian Business League
  • Asian Commercial Professionals (ACP)
  • Asian Firefighters Association
  • Asian Leaders Alliance
  • Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association (APAPA)
  • Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center
  • Asian Pacific Islander Leadership Network (ERG)
  • ASIAN, Inc.
  • AsianWeek Foundation
  • California Asian Pacific American Bar Association
  • California-Japan Sister Cities Network
  • Center for Asian America Media
  • Charity Cultural Services Center
  • Chinatown Community Development Center
  • Chinatown Merchants Association
  • Chinese American Citizens Alliance San Francisco Lodge
  • Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco
  • Chinese for Affirmative Action
  • Chinese Historical Society of America
  • City College of San Francisco
  • CKW Real Estate
  • Clarion Performing Arts Center
  • Coalition Of Asian American Government Employees
  • Commonwealth Club of California
  • Community Youth Center of San Francisco
  • Coro Northern California
  • Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network
  • Exygy
  • Filipina Women’s Network
  • Filipino American Arts Exposition
  • Filipino Bar Association of Northern California
  • Filipino Food Movement
  • Fillmore Merchants Association
  • First Voice
  • Florence Fang Community Farm
  • Fred Finch Youth & Family Services
  • GLBTQ+ Asian Pacific Alliance (GAPA)
  • GlobalSF
  • Hawaii Chamber of Commerce of Northern California (HCCNC)
  • InspirASIAN
  • Japan Center Malls
  • Japan Exchange & Teaching Program Alumni Association of Northern California (JETAANC)
  • “Japan Society of Northern California “
  • Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Northern California (JCCNC)
  • Japanese Community Youth Council (JCYC)
  • Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California
  • Japantown Community Benefit District (JCBD)
  • Japantown Task Force (JTF)
  • Korean American Bar Association of Northern California
  • Korean American Community Foundation of San Francisco
  • Korean American Professional Society
  • Korean Community Center of the East Bay
  • Millbrae Sister Cities Commission
  • Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD)
  • Nakayoshi
  • National Association of Asian American Professionals San Jose
  • Nihonmachi Street Fair, Inc.
  • North Beach Business Association
  • North East Medical Services
  • Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival
  • Oakland Fukuoka Sister City Association (OFSCA)
  • OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates: San Francisco Chapter
  • OCA-Asian Pacific American Advocates East Bay (Oakland)
  • OrigamiUSA
  • Pacific Asian American Women Bay Area Coalition (PAAWBAC)
  • Paper Tree
  • PG&E Samahan (Filipino) Employee Resource Group 
  • Pilipino Senior Resource Center
  • Planning Association for the Richmond
  • Samoan Community Development Center
  • San Francisco – Bangalore Sister City Association
  • San Francisco – Haifa Sister City Committee
  • San Francisco – Ho Chi Minh City Sister City Committee
  • San Francisco – Manila Sister City Committee
  • San Francisco – Osaka Sister City Association
  • San Francisco – Paris Sister City
  • San Francisco – Seoul Sister City Committee
  • San Francisco – Taipei Sister City Committee 
  • San Francisco Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector
  • San Francisco Public Library
  • San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD)
  • San Francisco Women’s Political Committee
  • SF Chamber of Commerce
  • SF Hep B Free – Bay Area
  • Simple Steps Community Connection
  • Southeast Asian Development Center
  • Sparxo
  • Stanford University School of Medicine Asian Liver Center
  • Summer Search
  • Taiwanese American Professionals – San Francisco Chapter
  • Tau’olunga Talents of Fungamohuhefa’o e MAPU’a VAEA
  • Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center
  • Tenderloin Merchants Association 
  • The Fromm Institute For Lifelong Learning at the University of San Francisco
  • United Playaz 
  • University of San Francisco Kasamahan
  • University of San Francisco’s Leo T. McCarthy Center 
  • VIA Programs
  • Vietnamese Language Garden
  • Wah Mei School
  • West Bay Pilipino Multi Service Center
  • YLabs 
  • YMCA of San Francisco

* Listing as of April 29, 2021

Our Team

Celebration Committee

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2019

The annual San Francisco celebration of APA heritage month is coordinated by community representatives who volunteer on the APA Heritage Celebration Committee.

2021 APA Heritage Celebration Committee

  • Claudine Cheng, Committee Coordinator
  • Al Perez, Celebration Co-Chair
  • Angela Pang, Celebration Co-Chair
  • Thomas Li, Celebration Co-Chair
  • Anne Alvarez,  SF-Manila Sister City Committee
  • Arcadi Kolchak, Kaiser Permanente
  • Ashley Cheng, Coalition of Asian American Government Employees
  • Crystle Wong, Sparxo
  • Dennis Yee, OCA San Francisco Bay Chapter
  • Drew Min, APAPA San Francisco
  • Preet Singh, Sister City International
  • George Saxton, SF -Ho Chi Minh City Sister City Committee
  • Green Chang, Korean American Chamber of Commerce, USA
  • Grace Horikiri, Japantown Community Benefit District
  • Hagen Choi, SF-Seoul Sister City Committee
  • JJ Lara, APA Heritage Foundation
  • Jack Chin, SFGovTV
  • Jaclyn Funasaki, Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce of N. California
  • Kathleen Kimura, SF-Osaka Sister City Association
  • Noora Larson, Business for Social Responsibility
  • Richard Hashimoto, Japantown Merchants Association
  • Richard Jue, Nihonmachi Street Fair
  • Ron Lee, American Chinese Culture and Art Assoc.
  • Rose Chung, Miss Asian Global Pageant

APA Heritage Foundation

2020 APA Heritage Foundation Board

The APA Heritage Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting appreciation of Asian Pacific American cultural heritage and providing a forum for community collaborations.

Founded in 2009, the Foundation’s mission is to secure funding and other resources to support San Francisco’s annual celebration of APA Heritage Month.  Over the years, the organization’s purpose has been expanded to include the following: supporting diverse API art and cultural programs, creating opportunities for civic engagement and  addressing pertinent issues impacting the API community.

2021 Board of Directors

  • Claudine Cheng, President
  • JJ Lara, Board Chair
  • Suwandi Tandjung, Treasurer
  • Stephen Wilson, Secretary
  • Irene Yee Riley
  • Jack Song
  • Scott Adams

City and County of San Francisco

Official Celebration

This is the official celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month for the City and County of San Francisco.