Throughout May, people across the nation are celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Between the 1970s and 1990s, resolutions of all sorts proposed the commemorative recognition of Asian American culture and historic contributions. After first implementing a single week, the U.S. Congress passed a law in 1992 that set aside the entire month of May as AAPI month because of its connection to the history of Japanese and Chinese immigrants in America.
Founded with the mission to unite people and preserve their cultural heritage, these AAPI nonprofits and collectives have made an impact on communities throughout the greater Houston area. In celebration of this exciting month, here’s a list of art and cultural organizations to know about this month and beyond:
Asia Society is a global network bridging all AAPI cultures and backgrounds. The Texas location is located in the Museum District and hosts a series of enriching art exhibitions, workshops and events like the popular Night Market and AsiaFest. For AAPI month, the Asia Society has crafted a list of 31 ways to celebrate with a special program in celebration of each day of May.
The performing arts are a huge component of Indian culture. In 2002, Dr. Lavanya Rajagopalan founded Silambam, an arts organization centered on classical Indian art forms through special events and educational programs such as its Artstream initiative, which brings live concerts directly to you. Silambam has its own multiuse cultural center near South Houston and recently celebrated its 20-year anniversary with a performance by Silambam’s four artistic directors.
With an emphasis on connecting Houstonians of Japanese descent and origin, JASH was established in the late 1960s with language programs and an annual festival being a few of its first efforts. Since then, the organization has continued to host lectures and business networking events, along with dinners and the Japan Festival of Houston. Programs are open and available to Japanese Houstonians of all ages, including Japan Junction, a monthly first Wednesday experience of kamishibai, or “paper drama” storytelling.
At 16 years old, Stephanie Hu spearheaded the founding of this organization to support marginalized voices. What started as a blog evolved into a literary magazine and exists today as a national task force of more than 150 virtually connected chapters. Dear Asian Youth is doing work to empower activists and socially aware youth of the future.
Houston’s first organization geared toward Tamil-speaking people (an Indian language in the Dravidian family and one of the oldest languages in the world), Bharathi Kalai Manram connects Houstonians through fine arts and educational programming. It was founded in 1974 and is popular for its five-location school system led by volunteers that teach children how to read and write in Tamil in Katy, Pearland, central Houston and more.
Authentic Chinese dance is the center of this organization’s mission. Each year, DAA hosts more than 50 free events in the Houston area and provides professional coaching through its academy, which gives young dancers opportunities to compete and perform at major events.
APAHA is another major historic organization, founded in 1992, that promotes awareness of AAPI culture and diversity. Programs include the Lunar New Year Children’s Festival, along with a series of performances by Korean, Hawaiian and Indian dancers in May each year. Twice a year, Houstonians can embark on a tour of sacred places of worship in the city, from the Vietnamese Buddhist Center to the Asian American Baptist Church.
Founded by visual artist Matt Manalo, this collective was started to connect contemporary artists of Filipino heritage. Through language and material exchanges, this group meets monthly at the Asia Society and is made up of artists working in all mediums. For more information, visit here.