Asian Pacific-American Heritage Month in Massachusetts

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Artists in Arita, Japan. Birdcage vase, about 1700, Porcelain, lacquer, iron, gold, and paper.© Peabody Essex Museum. Photography by Mark Sexton.

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month across the United States, a time to celebrate the rich communities that contribute so much to the United States, and to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the Asian-American population in Massachusetts is 448,000, representing 6.6% of residents, with significant numbers in Quincy, Lowell, Malden, Lexington, Brookline, Cambridge, Burlington and Boston.

Massachusetts also has strong business, educational and travel connections with Asian Pacific nations. Boston’s Logan International Airport has direct flights between Boston and Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul.

A number of events and activities celebrating the Asian Pacific American community are taking place in Massachusetts.

On February 1, Boston City Councilor Ed Flynn filed a “Resolution Recognizing the Contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders” as part of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and held a reception for local Asian-Americans at Boston City Council chambers.

On May 7, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh held a celebration at Boston City Hall “to joyously recognize the many contributions—historically and in present day—that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have made to Boston, from enriching the city through food, arts, and culture, to energizing our philanthropic and civic spirit.”

Part of City Hall’s celebration is an exhibit entitled First Transcontinental Railroad across North America, a 7-panel exhibit highlighting the sacrifices made by Chinese migrant workers in their instrumental efforts to build America’s railroad system, allowing the nation’s commerce to flourish.

On Thursday, May 9, WGBH hosts its annual Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month Celebration at WGBH Studios in Brighton. It features a live interview with the first-ever Asian American US Cabinet Secretary, Norman Mineta, featured in the PBS documentary, Norman Mineta and his Legacy: An American Story, airing Mon, May 20. The event is free and open to the public but registration is required.

The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem has one of the foremost collections of Asian art in North America. Among its exhibits:

Japanomania! Japanese Art Goes Global features PEM’s celebrated Japanese export art collection, from the arrival of Portuguese merchants in the 1500s through Japan’s emergence on the world stage in the late 19th century and beyond. It runs through January 2021.

In June, PEM opens a new exhibit, Kimsooja: Archive of Mind, an installation on the works of South Korean, multi-disciplinary conceptual artist Kimsooja. It runs through January 2020.

On May 29, the Boston Asian American Film Festival (BAAFF) presents Short Waves: Stories Shaping our Community, with locally made, community-driven films.

According to the US Library of Congress, Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month is designed to not only celebrate the Asian continent, but also the Pacific Islands of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia.

Massachusetts has an Asian-American Commission, a permanent body that works to recognize and highlight the vital contributions of Asian Americans to the social, cultural and political life of the Commonwealth.