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. Every year, the Foundation coordinates resources to support San Francisco’s celebration of AAPI Heritage Month. In addition to the APA Heritage Awards and Reception, an annual signature event in the City, we also work with over 100 Publicity Partners to compile and cross promote the AAPI Heritage Month Celebration Guide, a list of events, activities, and educational resources for the month of May. Special thanks to our community representatives who volunteer on the APA Heritage Celebration Committee who make this all possible.
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, composed 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.
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.
Why is the month of May designed for APA Heritage Month?
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.
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.”
What is the history of Asian Americans? (PBS)
‘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 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.
Asian and Pacific Islander population
Share of residents who identify as Asian, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Island
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.
Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center – Founded in 1997, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center is a migratory museum that brings history, art and culture to you through innovative community-focused experiences.
SmithsonianAPA Education –Connecting educators with Asian American and Pacific Islander voices, stories, and community-created resources
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 Legal Outreach
Ascend Leadership, NorCal
Asian America Foundation
Asian American Women Artists Association
Asian Art Museum
Asian Firefighters Association
Asian Leaders Alliance
Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association (APAPA)
Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center
Asians Are Strong
Australian Chamber of Commerce in SF
Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco
California-Japan Sister Cities Network
Center for Asian America Media
Charity Cultural Services Center
Children’s Creative Museum
Chinatown Child Development Center
Chinatown Community Development Center
Chinatown Merchants Association
Chinese American Citizens Alliance San Francisco Lodge
Chinese Cultural District
Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco
Chinese for Affirmative Action
Chinese Historical Society of America
Clarion Performing Arts Center
Coalition Of Asian American Government Employees
Commonwealth Club of California
Community Youth Center of San Francisco
Coro Northern California
Edge on the Square
Filipina Women’s Network
Filipino American Arts Exposition
Filipino Arts & Cinema, International
Filipino Bar Association of Northern California
Filipino Food Movement
Fillmore Merchants Association
Friends of Indonesia
Gadung Kasturi Balinese Dance & Music
Gamelan Sekar Jaya
Hawaii Chamber of Commerce of Northern California (HCCNC)
Japan Center Malls
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)
KOHO SF Japantown
Korean American Bar Association of Northern California
Korean American Community Foundation of San Francisco
Korean Center, Inc.
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
Nakayoshi Young Professionals
National Japanese American Historical Society
NEXT Village SF
Nichi Bei Foundation
Nihonmachi Little Friends
Nihonmachi Street Fair, Inc.
No. CA Cherry Blossom Festival
North Beach Neighbors
North East Medical Services
Northern California Chapter of Sister Cities International
Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival
Oakland Fukuoka Sister City Association (OFSCA)
OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates: San Francisco Chapter
Pacific Asian American Women Bay Area Coalition (PAAWBAC)
Pacific Heights Residents Association
Parangal Dance Company
Pilipino Senior Resource Center
PRC (formerly Positive Resource Center)
Richmond Area Multi Services (RAMS), Inc.
Rotary Club of SF Chnatown
SACHI – Society for Arts & Cultural Heritage of India
Samoan Community Development Center
San Francisco-Assisi Sister City Committee
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 Art Commission
San Francisco Film Commission
San Francisco Indonesian Film Festival
San Francisco Public Library
San Francisco Human Rights Commission
San Francisco Recreation & Park Commission
SF Chamber of Commerce
SF Hep B Free – Bay Area
SF LGBTQ Center
SF Unified Lions Club
SF Urban Film Festival
Stand with Asian Americans
Stanford University School of Medicine Asian Liver Center
Sunset Chinese Cultural District
Taiwanese American Professionals – San Francisco Chapter
Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center
Tenderloin Boys & Girls Club
Tenderloin Lower Polk Merchants Association
United Peace Collaborative
University of San Francisco Kasamahan
Wah Mei School
We Are One
West Bay Pilipino Multi Service Center
Yerba Buena Community Benefit District (YBCBD)
Yerba Buena Gardens
YMCA of San Francisco
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.
2023 APA Heritage Celebration Committee
Claudine Cheng, Committee Coordinator
Al Perez, Celebration Co-Chair
Grace Horikiri, Celebration Co-Chair
Thomas Li, Celebration Co-Chair
Amy Li, Dear Community
Angela Tjitradi, Friends of Indonesia
Annie Dare, Gum Moon Residence Hall
Chad Nico Hiu, YMCA of San Francisco
Coma Te, San Francisco Art Commission
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
Kathleen Kimura, SF – Osaka Sister City Association
Patsy Tito, Samoan Community Development Center
Richard Hashimoto, Japantown Merchants Association
Richard Jue, Nihonmachi Street Fair, Inc.
Rodney Chin, Kokoro Assisted Living
Ron Lee, American Chinese Culture and Art Association
Rose Chung, Asian America Foundation & Miss Asian Global Pageant
Susie Kagami, KOHO SF
APA Heritage Foundation
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.