Smithsonian & White House launch Asian American, Pac Islander month May 1

Photo Credit: 
Photo: Faletuiga/Tina Mata'afa-Tufele Tuiga: Faletuiga/Mark Magallanes and James Naki-Lima
Tuiga, ceremonial Samoan headresses, Taema ma Tilafiga, named in honor of the siamese twin sisters, who, according to legend, swam from Fiji to Savai'i, Samoa with the sacred tools used in traditional Samoan tattooing.


(Washington D.C.)—The Smithsonian and White House launch Asian Americans and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month May 1— to begin discussions and announce a number of special AAPI events that include a museum exhibit, a forum set for May 9 and internship opportunities in Washington D.C. for AAPI college students.

All are invited to participate in AAPI events that kick off the first of May, ‘May Day’, Lei Day in Hawai’i.

The AAPI Heritage Month theme is “I Want the Wide American Earth”, the title of a poem by acclaimed Filipino Writer Carlos Bulosan. The Smithsonian’s “I Want the Wide American Earth” exhibit explores and celebrates how AAPIs have shaped and been shaped by the course of American history.

May 9, the Department of Interior, The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and The White House Office of Public Engagement host the Forum on Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage. It will be held at the Department of Interior’s Yates Auditorium on C Street in Washington D.C.

At the May 9 forum, senior government officials and panel discussions including AAPI scholars and historians—meet to discuss how the legacy of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders—should be recognized, preserved, and interpreted for future generations.

Fall 2013 internship opportunities with the WHIAAPI have also been announced. Deadline is May 15.

“AAPI Heritage Month celebrates the contributions of millions of AAPIs to the American story and reminds us of the unique and emerging challenges facing AAPIs as they continue to embrace the American dream,” the White House says.

WHIAAPI, which comes under the Department of Education, says they will work “to further develop ways to address issues facing the AAPI community—from health care and language accessibility, to small business development, education—and immigration reform.”

Among the White House’s online list of AAPI Initiative (WHIAAPI) commissioners are Hawai’i’s Kamuela J. N. Enos and California’s Sefa Aina.

Enos, a Wai’anae native, is director of social enterprise at MA`O Organic Farms. He works with low income communities to combat major health issues and promote sustainable agriculture. In 2011, when Hawai’i hosted the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference (APEC), First Lady Mrs. Michelle Obama visited with Enos and students at Ma’o Farms in Wai’anae. Enos is also Director of the Hawaii Rural Development Council and holds a bachelor’s in Hawaiian Studies and a master’s in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Hawai`i at Manoa.

Aina is director of the Asian American Resource Center (AARC) at Pomona College in California. He is a founding member of: Pacific Islander Education and Retention (PIER), which tutors and mentors Pacific Islander youth in the Carson, Long Beach and Inglewood areas of Los Angeles; the National Pacific Islander Educators Network (NPIEN) and Empowering Pacific Islander Communities (EPIC). Aina holds a bachelor’s degree in history from UCLA and plans to earn a master’s degree in Asian American Studies at UCLA.

Director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center Konrad Ng hosts the Google+ Hangout On Air online launch. Special guests are Lisa Ling, journalist, writer, and host of "Our America with Lisa Ling" on OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network and Phil Yu, the blogger behind Angry Asian Man.

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