Happy National Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Month

What to learn more about Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month?
What Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Month means to me
By Malia Grindey, Website Contributor 

May 1st marks the first day of Asian Pacific American month- the celebration of Asian and Pacific islanders in America. Many think of “Chinese” at the mention of Asians and associate “Hawaii” with Pacific islander, but there is so much more to these cultures that the majority of us have yet to learn about. 


For starters, the main ethnic groups that make up the majority of Asian backgrounds consist of Japanese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Korean, and even Indian. These ethnicities each have their own distinct and equally magnificent customs that largely contribute to the massive diversity that is known to set America aside from all other countries. One especially popular custom that is largely appreciated here in the states is the foods introduced by each of these Asian cultures. Ever heard of sushi? Tried ramen before? Believe it or not, these popular foods actually originated in Japan along with tofu, miso soup, and sashimi. These yummy dishes have become a fan favorite amongst all ethnicities in America and continue to influence the role of food in our country’s shared customs. Moreover, Asian pop culture has also skyrocketed in popularity with Americans in recent years, with trends such as the Hello Kitty toy and pop band: BTS inching its way to the center of our own country’s culture. For example, the popular Sanrio icon can be found on numerous clothing items and Knick knacks at your nearby Target or Walmart due to its overwhelming popularity in the states. Same goes for Buddhism, a popular faith that was originally founded in India but made its way over to the Americas. We see numerous techniques drawn from this practice found in the form of yoga and meditation videos uploaded by popular American influencers on YouTube. Essentially, it is safe to say that Asian heritage has greatly impacted our own country’s culture immensely, and this month is a small way of sharing our thanks.

Pacific island culture has also made immense impacts on American culture in recent decades. Popular films such as Lilo and Stitch and Moana- which racked up a whopping $690.8 million in box office- are both deeply cherished movies in the hearts of Disney lovers and the majority of kids.

 While the graphics and entertaining plot played a large role in their success, an even larger portion of their popularity is thanks to the magical customs and culture that the movies are centered around: Pacific islander heritage. The nature of this noble lifestyle and its intriguing legends has been a pull for many. 


Being an individual that has Asian heritage in their background, it is both heartwarming and empowering knowing that there is a month dedicated to celebrating the richness and history of my ethnicity.  Having visited Malaysia- a country located in Southeast Asia- regularly throughout my childhood always awakened a sense of curiosity and gratitude for not only mine but all cultures around the world. Learning so much about my culture and people while there made me want to learn about all the other cultures I knew I hadn’t been exposed to. I hope that this month reminds people that there are so many cultures and customs out there to be educated on and that it brings them a sense of peace and unity knowing that each and every person they meet and even see has a deep cultural history just waiting to be delved into.


With that being said, there are many ways we can support and celebrate the legacy of Asian and Pacific islanders. Some fun activities may include making an Asian dish from scratch- exploring the numerous spices and seasonings familiar to Asian culture is both an enticing and yummy experience-, ordering a meal from a local and family-owned Asian business, donating to support the Iowa Asian alliance, and maybe even reading up on Asian and Pacific islander heritage. Educating yourself on ethnicities and cultures that make up our country is the first step to promoting cultural awareness and aiding in the resolution of ethnic and racial matters around us, all while helping us better understand the stories and complexity behind each and every cultural identity.

Anna May Wong Spotlight

By Amalia Phend, PTVI Contributor 

Actress Anna May Wong was born in January of 1905, in Los Angeles, California. Her birth name was Wong Liu Tsong, but she was given English name “Anna May.” Anna May Wong became her stage name, as she had become interested in movie production when film production moved to California in the 1910s and decided she was going to become a movie star. 


Wong was first cast as an extra in the 1919 film The Red Lantern. She would continue to work as an extra in many films while attending school, but ended up dropping out of Los Angeles High School in 1921 in order to become a full-time actress. 


Wong’s first leading role was in the 1922 silent film The Toll of the Sea, one of the earliest movies made in Technicolor. 


Throughout her career, Wong would audition for leading roles, yet her casting would always fall into either supporting or stereotypical. She attempted to start her own production company - Anna May Wong Productions - but it closed due to legal trouble with her business partner. 


Due to the discrimination in Hollywood film production, Wong moved to Europe in 1928, where she would star in films such as Schmutziges Geld (1928), Piccadilly (1929), and The Flame of Love (1930), among many others. 


Wong would then move back to the United States in 1931 with the promise of a leading role on Broadway in On the Spot, which ran for 30 weeks. 


Back in the U.S., she was again cast in stereotypical roles, such as in films Daughter of the Dragon (1931) and Shanghai Express (1932). 


Wong then travelled to China, staying there for ten months. She returned back to the U.S. after realizing that she was too westernized for the Chinese stage. 


At the age of 35, in 1942, she retired from films, only appearing in occasional television parts in the 40s and 50s. She was the first Asian American to play a lead in a U.S. television series - The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong (1951). 

Wong made her film comeback in Portrait in Black (1950), and while preparing for her role in Flower Drum Song (1961), she passed away in her sleep at the age of 56.