PAO to host series of events celebrating AAPI History Month throughout May

Starting on April 29 and going until May 27, Lawrence’s Pan Asian Organization (PAO) will be hosting a series of virtual events via Zoom to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. These events aim to bring awareness to the contributions and influences that Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans have brought to the United States. 

PAO will kick off the AAPI Heritage month celebration with “What is AAPI Month” on April 29 from 5 to 6 p.m., in collaboration with Diversity & Intercultural Center (D&IC). At the event, PAO will be discussing the importance of raising awareness about AAPI’s history and the future of the AAPI community, as well as running a mini game which will determine three winners for prizes, according to PaNhia Vang, President of PAO.  

AAPI Heritage Month will also feature an Anti-Asian Crime discussion in collaboration with D&IC and Committee on Diversity Affairs (CODA) on May 13. This event will be centered around topics such as the rise in hate crimes against the Asian community, according to Yeng Lee, Assistant Director of the Diversity and Intercultural Center. 

Lee emphasized that AAPI community has been faced with more racism and xenophobia since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. D&IC is hoping to have an informative discussion and hopes that faculty, staff and students will join this important conversation, Lee said. 

The month will also include a screening of the PBS documentary on Asian American history, “Asian Americans – Episode 5: Breaking Through,” on May 6; a discussion about the experiences of Asian adoptees or Third Culture individuals, who were raised in a culture other than their parents’ or the culture of their country of nationality, with Professor Linda Morgan-Clement, Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life, on May 20; and an AAPI Cultural Dinner Night on May 27 to conclude AAPI Heritage Month. All events will be held on Thursdays from 5 to 6 p.m. 

For more information on how to register for the AAPI Cultural Dinner Night, students can contact sophomore Laurice Lavajo at lavajol@lawrence.edu, according to Lee. 

While all these events aim to raise awareness regarding the AAPI community’s culture, Vang emphasized the importance of understanding the accomplishments of AAPIs in history, which she said are often not recognized by society. The month of May was chosen to honor the first Japanese immigrants to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to highlight the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in the United States on May 10, 1869, which was built by workers who were largely Chinese immigrants, Vang said.  

“Considering the current social climate and the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes, I believe this is a great time for allies to get to know more about the history of AAPIs,” Vang said. 

As AAPI Heritage Month approaches, Lee encourages students, faculty and staff to attend at least one of the events to support the AAPI student body.  

“I just hope that many people around the community celebrate AAPI month with us and stand in solidarity with us to #stopAsianhate,” Lee said. “[And to] AAPI students, I am here for you and the Diversity and Intercultural Center is here for you. My door is always open for conversations!” 

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