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Celebrating and Amplifying AAPI History and Voices Throughout the Year

The history related to our Asian American/Pacific Islander brothers and sisters is not only vast, but complicated.

AAPI Month

“Love isn't about what we did yesterday; it's about what we do today and tomorrow and the day after.”
― Grace Lee Boggs,
The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century

Each year in the month of May, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) history and cultures are recognized and celebrated. The origin of AAPI Heritage Month dates back to 1977 when the U.S. Congress passed a law designating May as “Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.” It later became known as Asian American/Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

As a healthcare organization committed to serving and celebrating all people, Burrell honors the connection between health, wellness, equality, and inclusion. We also acknowledge the American history of oppressing and silencing the AAPI community in both the past and present. As a community stakeholder, we strive to be better allies for our AAPI clients, coworkers, and community members.

Why is it important to understand AAPI history?
In order to be good allies and create inclusive spaces, it is important for all individuals, organizations, groups, etc. to understand and explore AAPI history, in order to have an empathetic and accurate understanding about what AAPI people have endured. The history related to our Asian American/Pacific Islander brothers and sisters is not only vast, but complicated. Developing a foundation of understanding regarding topics such as the Chinese Exclusion Act, Internment Camps, the model minority myth, yellow peril, and the way in which media and film have characterized our APPI communities is important to understanding the current struggles they still face in our society. These aspects of our history have created triangulation, prejudices, and misunderstandings of AAPI history. Ted Lai who hosts the podcast “Asian American History 101,” recently shared his thoughts about this when he and his daughter joined a Be Well segment.

“So much of what we see now is repeating history,” Lai said.

He also suggested that we consider “how much context we’re missing.” Lai explained that AAPI history is mostly erased or invisible in American history lessons. Learning is one way to help fill in gaps that might exist in our thinking, experiences and perspectives.

Why are AAPI allies important?
With the recent rise in AAPI violence, allies are even more important. Here are some ways that you can become a strong ally:

  1. Learn and self-reflect: Read about AAPI history, ask questions, acknowledge, attend a virtual bystander intervention training, etc. Podcasts, books, and online resources offer great tools for developing a new perspective and understanding.
  2. Amplify AAPI voices: Listen to experiences, ask questions, and center AAPI voices.
  3. Speak up and advocate: Do your part to help ensure equality for AAPI voices—support policies at work/school/your community that protect AAPI people and history. Illinois was one of the first states to require AAPI history in schools, but it does not have to be the last. Attend events, sign petitions, support AAPI non-profits/businesses, show support through your commitment to learning.

More than anything, enjoy and help celebrate the diverse AAPI communities, as there are many rich traditions and cultural elements that have added a rich tapestry to our country.

Resources for continuing education:


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