Here at Wrike, we’re immensely grateful for all the contributions, wisdom, and laughter our Asian American and Pacific Islander communities bring to us every day. Throughout May, individuals and organizations across the United States are similarly reflecting on and celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. We wanted to take a moment to better understand the origins of this month, what it means to us, and how we’re continuing to support and learn from the AAPI community each and every day.
Origins of AAPI month
The concept of designating a time to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage was first floated by congressional staffer Jeanie Jew. Jew, who attended the U.S. Bicentennial celebrations in 1976, came away from the event notably concerned about the lack of Asian representation in the celebration of American history. The matter was also highly personal for Jew, whose great-grandfather had immigrated from China to the U.S. in the 1800s and helped construct the transcontinental railroad.
Jew eventually teamed up with Ruby Moy, Chief of Staff for New York Representative Frank Horton, to spearhead a bill that proposed a week in May be designated as a time of celebration for Asian/Pacific American Heritage. May was specifically chosen to commemorate the first Japanese immigrants to arrive in the U.S. on May 7, 1843, as well as the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869, which was built largely by an immigrant Chinese workforce.
Formally introduced and backed by Horton and California Rep. Norman Mineta, a joint resolution was quickly passed by Congress in 1978 and signed into public law by President Jimmy Carter on October 5 of that year.
However, the law did not designate the week as an official annual celebration. Advocates and organizers had to repeatedly submit new requests each year to have the bill reauthorized. It took until the 1990s, again with the backing of Horton and a signature from President George H.W. Bush, to eventually transform the celebration into an annually celebrated month with official designation from the U.S. government.
“I want to commend the two women who made this event possible, Ruby Moy and Jeanie Jew. Mrs. Jew turned a personal tragedy in her family history into a positive force.” - Frank Horton, 1992
Thoughts and inquiries
We took some time to chat with Peter Kim, a Digital Marketing Manager here at Wrike, to get his perspectives on AAPI Heritage month and Asian American representation.
Thanks for taking the time to chat! For you, what’s most important about AAPI Heritage month?
Thanks for having me! For me, this month is especially important as a reminder to myself, other Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and other Americans that the AAPI community belongs here. As an immigrant myself born in Korea, learning how to fit in wasn’t always easy, and I know many of us have often struggled with feeling like outsiders. The Asian American and Pacific Islander community has a rich history of contributions to this country, and it’s important not to forget that we’re very much an essential part of this American landscape.
Is there anything specific you like to celebrate during this month?
My father was an artist and a designer, and my childhood involved plenty of artistic supplement and exposure. That being said, I’ve been drawn to learning more about the artistic contributions provided by the AAPI community throughout American history. For example, I recently learned about Chinese-American artist Tyrus Wong — a highly accomplished yet largely unrecognized painter and illustrator. Wong strongly influenced foundational American classics like Bambi through traditional Chinese art styles.
What would you like to see AAPI month accomplish — or people discuss more during this month?
Great question! For me, the recent rise in violence and racism toward the AAPI community has been immensely concerning. Although I’ve personally been fortunate to work and live in an environment where discrimination is a rarity, I have family and friends that have recently encountered horrific episodes of racism. The world certainly isn’t perfect, but I’d love this month to involve more open discussions across the country about why these acts of hate occur — and how the initial roots of racism take hold across society.
Diversity celebration and education
Wrike prides itself on the presence of many identities and cultures within the organization. The Asian American and Pacific Islander community constitute an essential part of Wrike’s identity and share in the many successes we’ve had over the years. Wrike would not be as we know it today without them.
Throughout the year, we also feature dedicated events to support and celebrate groups like Wrikers of Color — an initiative that aims to listen, understand, and advocate for the unique experiences and perspectives of employees of color while supporting employee growth and development. For more information, check out our Wrikers of Color video.