Your guide to celebrating the many cultures of this diaspora in May and year-round.
From local events and important initiatives to the very social fabric of the city, D.C. has been deeply and indelibly shaped by the AAPI community — and there’s much to explore and support all year long. We spoke with social sculptor Philippa Pham Hughes, anti-bias educator and author Liz Kleinrock, artist Anthony Le, National Association of Asian American Professionals President Jenny Nguyen and DC South Asian Arts Council Inc. Director Manoj Singh to get their thoughts on how to celebrate the AAPI community and support its representation in the District, in May and every month.
District Fray: What does AAPI Month mean to you?
Philippa Pham Hughes: For most of my life, I ignored my Asian heritage because I wanted to fit in, to be more American. I assimilated and denied my Vietnamese side. AAPI Month has helped me gain pride in being Asian American and learn that to be American is to delight in all the parts of myself. America contains multitudes and I contain multitudes.
Anthony Le: AAPI Heritage Month highlights what it means to be Asian American: holding onto your cultural lineage while navigating the winds of living in America. My recent exhibition “Golden Looking Hour” at Transformer featured paintings that subverted the assumptions we make about each other based on race and gender. Once freed from those presumptions, we can truly enjoy and bask in the weirdness of the portraits of Asian Americans and other allies.
Liz Kleinrock: This is a joyful celebration of our shared history and community for the AAPI diaspora. It’s also Jewish American Heritage Month, so as an Asian Jew, it feels like this month was meant for me.
Jenny Nguyen: It is an opportunity for AAPI individuals and communities to celebrate their cultural heritage and to share their stories and experiences with others, while promoting a deeper understanding and appreciation of the rich cultural diversity of their communities.
Manoj Singh: AAPI Month is a celebration and reminder of our contributions we have made for diversity and achievements of the United States. It is the time of the year we educate our fellow citizens and the next generation about our cultural heritage and contributions that make up the fabric of the United States.
How are you activating and/or supporting locally during AAPI Month?
Hughes: I host salons at my home on different topics throughout the year and plan to host a conversation in May around what it means to be Asian American. I am excited to attend the White House Forum on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, and will also attend as many events as I can that are part of the National Museum of Asian Art’s centennial.
Kleinrock: During AAPI Month, I speak to different companies, organizations and schools about Asian American history and identity. I try to remind folks that rather than focusing on our oppression, this is a celebration of our communal joy, power and beauty.
Singh: This year, we are hosting the DC South Asian Literary Festival, which is coming together to celebrate our stories, poetry and culture.
What can locals do year-round to support the AAPI community?
Hughes: Support small businesses owned by Asian Americans — especially the efforts of Viet Place Collective, which is upholding the deep Vietnamese legacy in the DMV. Right now, they’re focused on preserving Vietnamese culture at Eden Center, which is under consideration for redevelopment by the City of Falls Church.
Le: We can enter AAPI Heritage Month with an openness to listen and learn, and that’s how we can continue to uplift the Asian American community beyond this month.
Nguyen: Learn about the issues facing the community, speak out against hate, support AAPI-owned businesses, donate to AAPI organizations providing critical resources, and attend events, rallies and other gatherings to show your support and solidarity with AAPI communities.
Singh: Educate people about Asian culture, help with lobbying for our cause at all legislative levels, support Asian American candidates in elections, talk about our social issues in classes and panel discussions, and celebrate our successes. Always be inclusive and an inspiration.
Learn more about our interviewees below.
More Local AAPI Leaders to Know
Educator, organizer and artist working in ceramics and creating community activations, like a recent garden installation that invited visitors to share the ways they heal. dianedcosta.com // @dianemakesthings
Curator for the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and part of the 1882 Foundation research team, working on a historic preservation report about Chinese and Korean Americans in D.C. bit.ly/smithsonian-sojin-kim
How to Celebrate AAPI Month in D.C.
Click here for a full list of AAPI Month events to choose from.
Centennial Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Festival at the National Museum of Asian Art
Over two weeks, celebrate 100 years of the National Museum of Asian Art’s dedication to highlighting AAPI artists. Programs include music, dance, film, food, markets, exhibitions and dialogue — all sure to delight, educate and inspire. Free+. Various times. 1050 Independence Ave. NW, DC; asia.si.edu // @natasianart
NMAA × SAMASAMA Art Market at Freer Plaza
Enjoy an outdoor market on the plaza where you can meet and shop with creators and learn about the processes that contribute to the beautiful multicultural landscape of Asian American diaspora communities. Free+. 3 p.m. 1150 Jefferson Dr. SW, DC; asia.si.edu // @natasianart
DC South Asian Literary Festival at Various Locations
The DC South Asian Arts Council Inc. will host the third year of its literary festival, and it’s the first to have some events in person. Hear from a plethora of South Asian writers from near and far and enjoy panels on topics like Indian women writers and artists. Free. Various times. dcsaaci.org //
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Concert and Reception at Harmony Hall Regional Center
Join for an afternoon of celebration and education about the generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders who have enriched America’s history and are instrumental in its future success. Free. 1 p.m. 10701 Livingston Rd. Fort Washington, MD; pgparks.com // @pgparksandrec
Centennial Night Market at Arts & Industries Building + Freer Plaza
Since 2021, No Kings Collective has organized THE REDEYE, a night market celebrating the foods and cultures of the Asian diaspora. Now, they team up with The National Museum of Asian Art for a one-day open market to celebrate the museum’s centennial, featuring food vendors, artists, makers and more. Free. 12 p.m. 900 Jefferson Ave. SW, DC; nmaa.swoogo.com/market // @natasianart
5.19 + 5.20
Everything, Everyone, All the Food at Once Fest at District Pier
This festival will feature acclaimed culinary talent and recognize AAPI traditions across two days. Enjoy great food and live, local performances, especially at the Saturday Night Markets. $20+. Various times. 101 District Sq. SW, DC; wharfdc.com // @thewharfdc
2023 Fiesta Asia Street Fair on Pennsylvania Avenue
Fiesta Asia Street Fair features over 1,000 performers, artisans, entrepreneurs and food vendors for eight consecutive hours. Don’t miss out. Free. 11 a.m. 400 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC; fiestaasia.org // @fiestaasia
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