Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month

To celebrate May’s Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, our Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Team put together a list of personal recommendations that celebrate the multitude of AAPI experiences in America through movies, music, books, tv shows, and more:

AAPIs On (and Behind) Screen

via Arlene D’Attilio

To highlight its Asian American and Pacific Islander creators and talent during AAPI Heritage Month, Netflix has launched a hub on the service dedicated to AAPI content. Netflix’s Celebrate Asian American & Pacific Islander Stories collection includes series, films and specials starring AAPI talent. There are also specific breakdowns for AAPI behind-the-camera talent, AAPI stories for families, Asian comedy icons, Asian and Pacific Islander Hollywood stars, and culture and food across Asia and the Pacific Islands.

An AAPI Literature Classic (1957)

via Jenny Waldmann

No-No Boy, by John Okada, “tells the story of Ichiro Yamada, a fictional version of the real-life “no-no boys.” Yamada answered “no” twice in a compulsory government questionnaire as to whether he would serve in the armed forces and swear loyalty to the United States. Unwilling to pledge himself to the country that interned him and his family, Ichiro earns two years in prison and the hostility of his family and community when he returns home to Seattle. As Ozeki writes, Ichiro’s “obsessive, tormented” voice subverts Japanese postwar “model-minority” stereotypes, showing a fractured community and one man’s “threnody of guilt, rage, and blame as he tries to negotiate his reentry into a shattered world.”

I read this last year and was moved by Okada’s blunt portrayal of a young man in conflict – with his friends, his family, his country, and his heritage – during a time (the Japanese American Internment during WWII) that much of American history glosses over.

AAPI Representation

via Christa Lane Hooper

Per Arlene’s recommendation, I watched The Claudia Kishi Club from Netflix’s Celebrate AAPI Stories collection (it’s only 17 minutes!). It dives into how the character Claudia Kishi from The Babysitter’s Club broke the mold on how so many AAPI characters were depicted in media and for that reason she resonated at a deeper level for so many who read the books. I recommend it for others who want a taste of nostalgia remembering the Babysitter’s Club and who want to learn at a deeper level why something as simple as portraying an AAPI character as multi-dimensional, non-stereotypical makes such a difference. And then if you want to keep going down memory lane, Netflix has even released a Babysitter’s Club series to check out. (I swear I’m not getting a Netflix kickback!)

What it’s like to be an Asian American writer

via Jillian Getting

Celeste Ng is an Asian American author known for her bestselling novels Everything I Never Told You and Little Fires Everywhere. Her novels explore the Asian American experience in suburban America. In an interview she spoke about being an Asian American writer:

“If you’re a writer of color or you’re from any sort of marginalized group, [people want to know] why aren’t you writing about whatever it is that people associate with you…..I’m trying to find the things that feel important to me to write about, which often do have to do with race and culture, but they aren’t always approached in the way that I think people think of Asian American writers.” 

Little Fires Everywhere has been adapted to a TV mini-series on Hulu.

AAPIs in Music

via Jaynice Del Rosario

The Linda Lindas are a quartet made up of Mila, 10, Eloise, 13, Lucia, 14, and Bela, 16, who describe themselves as embodying the spirit of original punk, power pop, and new wave through today’s ears, eyes, and minds. The Linda Lindas are half Asian and half Latinx and channel the essence of artsy, free-spirited Claudia Kishi from “The Babysitter’s Club” by occupying space in a music scene that has long been known for its whitewashed, masculine dominance. “A little while before we went into lockdown, a boy came up to me in my class and said that his dad told him to stay away from Chinese people,” the drummer said to introduce “Racist, Sexist Boys.” “After I told him that I was Chinese, he backed away from me. Eloise and I wrote this song based on that experience.”

This is a super inspiring contemporary example of Girl Power! Girls are so powerful!

An AAPI Celebratory Event

via Maggie Geiger Johnson

As May and AAPI Heritage Month come to a close and we enter Pride Month in June, there is a perfect event for those in the Philly area to celebrate (outside, and socially distanced, of course). Thanks to WHYY’s “Things to Do” curator, Tonya Pendleton for the inspiration… and here’s hoping the weather holds out!

Though the Bearded Ladies are continuously celebrating and affirming the LGBTQ+ community, they’re hosting a special event this holiday weekend on the eve of Pride Month in June. In conjunction with the Asian Arts Initiative, a free rollerblade and skateboard party is happening on Saturday. Skaters can sign up for skate time on a first-come, first-served basis and there will be live performances from acts including Sam RiseIcon Ebony Fierce, and more.

  • What: Rollerblade and skateboard party
  • Where: East Poplar Recreation Center, Skate Park section, 800 N. 8th St.
  • When: Saturday, May 29, 2 p.m.
  • How Much: Free