May 2024 Monthly Acknowledgments

This month we acknowledge Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and Jewish American Heritage Month and conclude with notes on the significance of Cinco de Mayo.

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month 

Also known as Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Heritage Month or AAPI Heritage Month is intended to recognize the contributions of persons of Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander heritage to U.S. history and all areas of society and celebrate their diverse cultures and traditions. 

Though Asian Americans are the fastest-growing demographic group, people in the Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander (AANHPI) community often experience a sense of invisibility. Their experiences and contributions to U.S. history and society are often overlooked. Polls show that many people in the U.S. cannot name a single Asian American historical experience or figure. 

Additionally, racial discrimination causes Asian Americans to feel lack of belonging or acceptance in the U.S. This is especially the experience of young, Asian American women. The STAATUS Index 2023 reports that 39% of Asian Americans surveyed felt they didn’t belong in their place of work and 32% felt they didn’t belong in school. More than other racial groups, Asian Americans report feeling unsafe in various public spaces. What implications does this have for our campus community? 

AAPI Heritage Month provides us an opportunity to celebrate the resilience of Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander peoples and focus on learning about the lived experiences of people in the AANHPI community. 

Jewish American Heritage Month (or JAHM) 

JAHM celebrates the contributions of Jewish Americans to our country’s history, culture, and society over the past 370 years. 

About 7.6 million adults in the U.S. are Jewish. New York City is home to the second-largest Jewish population in the world (after Tel Aviv). Some Jewish Americans identify as Jewish by religion. Others identify as Jewish ethnically, culturally, or through family background, but not religiously. Jewish identity is passed down through maternal lineage. 

Antisemitism—the hatred of or prejudice against Jewish people—was used to justify the Holocaust, which resulted in the mass murder of six million European Jews. That history motivates many Jewish people today to act as protectors of human rights and to speak up against inhumanity. Jewish Americans have advocated for the rights of other marginalized communities in the U.S. and participated in movements to support social change, like civil and voting rights. They have urged our nation to uphold its promise of “freedom and justice for all.”

Jewish American Heritage Month invites us to learn about Jewish American history and celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of Jewish Americans to every segment of our society.

Cinco de Mayo 

Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican army’s victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. It is not Mexico’s Independence Day. 

The anniversary of the Battle of Puebla is observed in the state of Puebla but is not a national holiday in Mexico. The celebration of Cinco de Mayo gained popularity in the U.S. during the Chicano Movement. Cinco de Mayo was used as a symbol for resisting colonialism and imperialism and was intended to be a celebration of Mexican culture. However, Cinco de Mayo became widely commercialized by U.S. beer companies targeting Mexican Americans. 

Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of heritage for many in the Mexican American community. Ways to respectfully participate in celebrating Cinco de Mayo include learning about its history, supporting Mexican-owned businesses, learning about Mexican culture and traditions, and/or attending a community event. 

In researching the observances for this month, I came across articles that cautioned against limiting our exploration of the lived experiences of different communities to a single month or placing the burden of education on these communities. We must each take the initiative to learn. Through learning we can become interrupters of discrimination and contributors to spaces where all feel welcomed, seen, and safe.

Heritage Month observances are intended to celebrate the essential contributions of diverse communities to our nation and the cultural richness they contribute to our society. 

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