APA Heritage


Origin of Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month

In the United States, the month of May each year is celebrated as Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month. The first celebration began as “Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week” on May 4, 1979, when President Jimmy Carter signed Proclamation 4650 to commemorate the contributions and accomplishments of Asian/Pacific Americans. In 1990, Congress expanded the observance from a week to a month. In 1992, President George H.W. Bush passed Public Law 102-540 designating the month of May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.

In 2005, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom embraced the proposal by former OCA National President Claudine Cheng to launch an annual official city of San Francisco celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. 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.

On April 29, 2022, President Joe Biden proclaim May 2022 as ‘Asian American, Native Hawaiian, And Pacific Islander Heritage Month.’

In 2022, San Francisco renamed the celebration to ‘Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month.’

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.”

‘Asian Americans’ is a five-hour film series that delivers a bold, fresh perspective on a history that matters today, more than ever. As America becomes more diverse, and more divided, while facing unimaginable challenges, how do we move forward together? Told through intimate and personal lives, the series will cast a new lens on U.S. history and the ongoing role that Asian Americans have played in shaping the nation’s story.

San Francisco Chronicle data visualization

Six maps show how San Francisco’s Asian population has changed

By  | 

San Francisco is home to nearly 300,000 Asians and Pacific Islanders. Equivalent to about a third of the city’s population, they make up the second largest race group, closely following the 39% white share.

But the city’s Asian and Pacific Islander population a half century ago was vastly different — in terms of both its size and composition of ethnicities. And while Chinatown was the most prominent Asian enclave back then, new immigrants have since settled into other areas, sprouting new ethnic communities across the city.

For this story, The Chronicle examined the Asian and Pacific Islander population for each decade from 1960 to 2020. The data is sourced from the decennial census and compiled by the University of Minnesota’s Population Center. Because the census asks people about their race and ethnicity in a survey, our findings are based on residents who self-identified as a particular race or ethnicity, and not a definitive count of Asians and Pacific Islanders. Moreover, the Census Bureau’s definition of “Asian” has changed since 1960, so counts between certain decades are not perfectly comparable. Still, we think this is the best available data that captures the vast majority of Asians and Pacific Islanders each year.

How many A’s in AAPI? Dolly & Adrian hear from South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander voices to explore the pros and cons of disaggregating Asian American as a statistical category.

A People’s History of Asian America is a series of thoughtful visual essays and explainers, hosted by Emmy award-winning journalist, Dolly Li, and Asian studies scholar and professor, Adrian De Leon. Each episode offers informed and empowering perspectives, helping to break down common microaggressions and racist stereotypes through the tools of ethnic studies. This series covers what your classic American school history textbook may not.

Publicity Partners 2022

Thank you to over 100 organizations for partnering with us to promote the public awareness of Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month

  • AAPI Dubs, Golden State Warriors Employee Resource Group
  • American Red Cross, San Francisco Leadership Council
  • Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation
  • API Council
  • Ascend Leadership, NorCal
  • Asian America Foundation
  • Asian Art Museum
  • Asian Business League
  • Asian Leaders Alliance
  • Asian Pacific American Community Center
  • Asian Pacific Islander Leadership Network (ERG)
  • ASIAN, Inc.
  • Australian Chamber of Commerce in SF
  • Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco
  • California Asian Pacific American Bar Association
  • California-Japan Sister Cities Network
  • Center for Asian America Media
  • Chinatown Child Development Center
  • Chinatown Community Development Center
  • Chinatown Media and Arts Collaboraive (CMAC)
  • Chinese American Heritage Foundation
  • Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco
  • Chinese for Affirmative Action
  • Chinese Historical Society of America
  • Clarion Performing Arts Center
  • Commonwealth Club of California
  • Community Youth Center of San Francisco
  • Coro Northern California
  • Dear Community
  • Exygy
  • Filipino American Arts Exposition
  • Filipino Bar Association of Northern California
  • Filipino Food Movement
  • Fillmore Merchants Association
  • Florence Fang Community Farm
  • Fred Finch Youth & Family Services
  • Gamelan Sekar Jaya
  • GLBTQ+ Asian Pacific Alliance (GAPA)
  • GlobalSF
  • Hawaii Chamber of Commerce of Northern California (HCCNC)
  • IFundEducation
  • Indonesian Professionals Association
  • InspirASIAN
  • Japan Exchange & Teaching Program Alumni Association of Northern California (JETAANC)
  • Japan Society of Northern California
  • Japanese American Museum San Jose
  • 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 Cultural District
  • Japantown Merchants Association
  • Japantown Task Force (JTF)
  • Kimochi, Inc.
  • Korean American Community Foundation of San Francisco
  • Korean Center, Inc.
  • Korean Community Center of the East Bay
  • Kultivate Labs
  • Legacies of the Pacific
  • Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good at USF
  • LYRIC San Francisco
  • Millbrae Sister Cities Commission
  • Miss & Mrs Vietnam USA
  • Miss Nepal Global Citizen & Building Education
  • Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD)
  • Nakayoshi Young Professionals
  • National Association of Asian American Professionals San Jose
  • NEXT Village SF
  • NextSF
  • Nihonmachi Little Friends
  • Nihonmachi Street Fair, Inc.
  • CA Cherry Blossom Festival
  • North Beach Business Association
  • North Beach Neighbors
  • 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)
  • Outer Sunset Merchant Professional Association
  • Pacific Asian American Women Bay Area Coalition (PAAWBAC)
  • Paper Tree
  • Planning Association for the Richmond
  • PRC (formerly Positive Resource Center)
  • Richmond Area Multi Services (RAMS), Inc.
  • Rotary Club of SF Chnatown
  • Samoan Community Development Center
  • San Francisco – Haifa Sister City Committee
  • San Francisco – Ho Chi Minh City Sister City Committee
  • San Francisco – Osaka Sister City Association
  • San Francisco – Paris Sister City
  • San Francisco – Seoul Sister City Committee
  • San Francisco Kiel Sister City Committee, Inc.
  • San Francisco Public Library
  • San Francisco Women’s Political Committee
  • SF LGBTQ Center
  • SF Recreation & Parks Department
  • SF Unified Lions Club
  • Southeast Asian Development Center
  • SPUR
  • Stanford University School of Medicine Asian Liver Center
  • Summer Search
  • Taiwanese American Professionals – San Francisco Chapter
  • Tenderloin Merchants Association
  • The Fromm Institute For Lifelong Learning at the University of San Francisco
  • Together SF
  • Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley
  • United Peace Collaborative
  • United Playaz
  • VIA Programs
  • Wah Mei School
  • We Are One
  • West Bay Pilipino Multi Service Center
  • YMCA of San Francisco

Our Team

Celebration Committee

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2019

The annual San Francisco celebration of Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month is coordinated by community representatives who volunteer on the APA Heritage Celebration Committee.

2022 APA Heritage Celebration Committee

  • Claudine Cheng, Committee Coordinator
  • Al Perez, Celebration Co-Chair / Pistahan Parade and Festival
  • Grace Horikiri, Celebration Co-Chair / Japantown Community Benefit District
  • Thomas Li, Celebration Co-Chair / Meta
  • Angela Tjitradi, Friends of Indonesia
  • Chad Nico Hiu, YMCA of San Francisco
  • Crystle Wong, Sparxo
  • Dara Meinerth, YMCA of San Francisco
  • Zay David Latt, San Francisco State University
  • Dennis Yee, OCA San Francisco Bay Chapter
  • G Preet Singh, Sister City International
  • George Saxton, SF – Ho Chi Minh City Sister City Committee
  • Green Chang, Korean American Chamber of Commerce, USA
  • 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
  • Nan Chotiphanomvivat, Wat Buddhapradeep
  • 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, Asian America Foundation & Miss Asian Global Pageant
  • Bomion Spring Kim, Korean Center, Inc.
  • Susie Willemsz-Geeroms, NAAP San Jose

APA Heritage Foundation

2020 APA Heritage Foundation Board

The APA Heritage Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the diverse Asian American and Pacific Islander cultural heritage as well as to 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 Asian American & Pacific Islander 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.

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 American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month for the City and County of San Francisco.