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May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month – a celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. A rather broad term, Asian/Pacific encompasses all of the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands), Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia) and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Easter Island).

The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese 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 the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.

Here are some ways to celebrate AAPI:

Lunch and Learns

Lunch and learns are short educational sessions that often involve question and answer segments, and are usually held during lunchtime. These seminars serve as professional development opportunities and employee engagement activities. Some lunch and learn subjects directly relate to work, while others revolve around entertainment or practical life skills. Hosting themed lunch and learns during Asian Pacific Heritage Month is a way to clear up misconceptions and share information about lesser-known aspects of Asian culture.

Book Club

One of the simplest ways to learn about the authentic Asian experience is to read books by Asian authors. These works empower members of the community to candidly tell important stories. To host a book club, first decide on a title. Since professionals are busy, try to allow about a month between announcing the book and holding the meeting. Sending members a copy of the book or reimbursing purchases is a nice touch.

Employee Resource Groups

This month-long occasion is not only about celebrating Asian culture in May, but supporting members of the community yearlong.  Asian employees should feel respected and valued at work at all times. Employers can empower Asian team members by launching an employee resource group.

Virtual Tours

Booking a flight to Asia may be outside your team building budget. However, you and your team can take informative and engaging online tours of Asian museums, landscapes, and heritage sites.

Remote Dinners

Food plays a huge part in Asian culture, communal family meals especially.In honor of the occasion, order a catered meal from an Asian-owned restaurant. If you manage a dispersed team, then reimburse teammates for takeout or delivery, and gather on video call to eat and talk together. We recommend trying out lesser-known cuisines such as Filipino, Cambodian, or Nepalese if possible. If these options are not available, then you could also cook dishes from scratch together on camera.

Employee Spotlight

Featuring Asian employees on social media or blog posts is a method of calling attention to the important roles these individuals play in the organization. Of course, you should always ask staff permission before posting.

As demands for diversity within the workplace grows, so does the call to acknowledge occasions like Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month at work. Observing the occasion is a way to express respect and appreciation to Asian and Pacific Islander employees, and to help staff at large feel safe in their unique identities. Not to mention, cultural months provide opportunities to gather, get to know teammates, and form a stronger sense of community.

Misty Resendez
Misty Resendez
Misty is a consultant with Purple Ink. She is passionate about DEI and women’s leadership.

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