Asian, Pacific Islander, and Desi American (APIDA) Heritage Month may be ending soon, but the celebration is not over.
We are living through an extraordinary moment in our nation’s history as we begin to shed light on ALL communities and work to become fully inclusive. As an Asian American, I cannot tell you how excited I am to see what will happen in the future for us. But at the same time, I am scared—we are facing numerous tragedies as our community continues to endure acts of violence in public spaces.
Our identities and our cultures should be recognized and seen every single day beyond May—and our work and school life. With our college semesters ending, internships beginning, and summer about to start, it’s easy to forget and unwind quickly, but there are numerous ways we can all continue educating ourselves during our personal time off. Here are four ways you can continue celebrating APIDA heritage this summer:
1. Watch APIDA stories on Netflix.
Netflix does such a phenomenal job joining the conversation by collating its content into categories and prioritizing them as you browse. While some of these movies may not exactly touch on APIDA culture, these movies and shows truly matter to our community. APIDA representation in Hollywood continues to struggle, with less than 6 percent of APIDA actors and actresses playing speaking roles and less than 4 percent playing leads and co-leads in Hollywood films. It matters when we’re seen and representing our communities in media.
2. Read and relax.
One of my favorite things to do during the summer is to sit outside on the grass with an ice-cold drink and read a good book. Educating yourself about APIDA cultures is so crucial to understanding our communities and being an ally. I’m not talking about history books (although we should be learning about the history of our communities in America, too); reading novels written by APIDA authors filled with representation and references to our cultures and communities informs you of how these authors and the people in our community personally experience and feel them. You can’t get that from history textbooks.
If you don’t know where to start, try this list of APIDA books. Remember, you’re also supporting the authors when you purchase their books!
3. Support APIDA-owned businesses.
It’s obvious what the COVID-19 pandemic has done to so many small businesses, but restaurants and stores are slowly beginning to open up as more people become fully vaccinated. If you’re comfortable with going back out safely, visit APIDA-owned businesses in your area (or take a day trip) and help them recover and grow their business again. Let yourself be open to cultures with which you are not familiar. Try new dishes and cuisine that you’ve never had before. Shop in stores with handcrafted, homemade cultural items. You’re supporting our community by doing so.
4. Continue to show humility—and listen.
It’s commonly said that when you walk into a room, the first people notice about you is your race. And while we appreciate other communities taking the time to educate themselves about ours, please remember to be respectful and inclusive wherever you go. Don’t assume you know everything just because you did the above-mentioned activities. Always be authentic in your communication and interaction with others and show humility when you’re learning something new or having a difficult conversation. Listening and understanding are critical components to advancing diversity and inclusion in our society.
Liam Oakes is a recent graduate of Seton Hall University where he majored in public relations and served as the president of the University’s PRSSA Chapter. He is currently the communications manager for the New Jersey Coalition for Inclusive Education, a nonprofit organization that works with schools across the state to develop inclusive learning communities for students with disabilities. Connect with Liam on LinkedIn.