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Cottonwood Heights Journal

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month

May 09, 2024 02:08PM ● By Cassie Goff

A Life of Flowers (With a Special Sight and Sound Recital featuring Traditional Japanese Instruments) will be held May 2 from 4-6 p.m. at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. This a free event. (Photo courtesy of the University of Utah)

The beginning of May welcomes Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month: a time to recognize, honor, commemorate and celebrate the history, culture, contributions and achievements of members of AAPI communities and their influence within the State of Utah and subsequent counties and cities. 

Roughly one out of every five Utah residents belong to an ethnic or racial minority group including Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, American Indian and Black, according to the 2021 census. 

In Salt Lake County, the AAPI voter population includes over 85,834 residents, with an additional 27,211 AAPI residents in Utah County and 15,423 in Davis County, according to 2022 voter data. 

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are wide-ranging ethnic groups with over 100 languages and 51 communities. Utah’s Asian American communities describe themselves as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog-Bikolnon, Filipino, Khmer, Laotian, Hmong, Taiwanese and Asian Indian. Utah’s Pacific Islanders communities describe themselves as Tongan, Samoan, Micronesian, Melanesian, Native Hawaiian, Polynesian and Fijian.  

“There’s a lot of solidarity in communities within Taylorsville, Cottonwood Heights, Millcreek and Holladay,” said former Utah Sen. Jani Iwamoto.  

Even though there has been increased recognition and visibility for AAPI communities, the history of discrimination throughout the State of Utah has been documented. 

Iwamoto points us all the way back to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, where a 10-year ban on Chinese laborers was observed by the nation. In 1952, the Immigration and National Act lifted immigration restrictions for Asian countries. However, many hate crimes and discrimination acts continued to be documented including the murder of Vincent Chin in 1982.

In 1987, AAPI Heritage Month originated as Asian/Pacific Heritage Week. In 1990, it was expanded to the month-long celebration observed today. 

In 2016, Rep. Karen Kwan was sworn into the House of Representatives and became the first ever Chinese American to serve in the Utah State Legislature. 

In 2020, the Stop AAPI Hate Coalition was founded and it continues to track and respond to hate crimes and incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders across the nation. 

In 2021, a settlement agreement addressing widespread racial harassment of Black and Asian American students was announced between the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the United States Attorney’s Office for Utah with the Davis School District in Utah.  

“This agreement will help generate the institutional change necessary to keep Black and Asian American students safe,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Civil Rights Division. 

While trends in 2021 reported increasing hate crimes, Iwamoto reminded us that hate crimes increase against women. “Asian women are seen as easy targets. Sexism and racism surged within the first three months of 2021.” 

In 2022, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall proclaimed May as Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage month. 

Many organizations throughout the greater Salt Lake area will be hosting and celebrating events throughout April, May and June, such as the: Salt Lake Japanese American Citizens League, Asian Association of Utah, Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote, Asian American Collegiate Association, Pacific Islander Student Association, Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment, Pacific Islanders in Communication, National Tongan American Society, Utah Asian Chamber of Commerce, Pacific Islander Knowledge 2 Action Resources, Utah Pacific Islander Health Coalition, National Tongan American Society, Community Alliance of Filipino Americans of Utah and OCA Asian Pacific Islander American Advocates, among others. 

Salt Lake Community College’s Student Engagement, Experience, and Achievement Office celebrated AAPI Month throughout April with an event series that included a beauty standards workshop, tattoo history lecture, drumming and performance workshop and a noodle bar. 

The Center for Economic Opportunity and Belonging, founded by President and CEO Ze Min Xiao, launched their We Are Utah Toolkit on April 12. 

The Utah Museum of Fine Arts will be hosting A Life of Flowers—Sound Recital featuring Traditional Japanese Instruments on May 2 from 4 to 6 p.m. 

The Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month Community Leader Mixer will be held on May 11 at Capitol Theatre (50 W. 200 South). 

The Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Celebration will be held on May 11 from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium in Draper. 

The Asian Association of Utah will be hosting the 47th annual Utah Asian Festival on June 8 from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. at the Grand Building of the Utah State Fair park (155 N. 1000 West). 

If Utah residents can’t make it to the events, they can celebrate AAPI Heritage Month in a variety of ways, including visiting locally owned restaurants including Takashi (Salt Lake City), Bartolo’s (Salt Lake City), Doki Doki Dessert Café (Salt Lake City), Hong Kong Teahouse (Salt Lake City), Pho Tay Ho (Salt Lake City), Sapa Sushi Bar and Asian Grill (Salt Lake City), Skewered Thai (Salt Lake City), Bucket of Crawfish (West Valley), Fat Fish (West Valley), OMO Korean BBQ (West Valley), Tonkatsu Ramen Bar (West Valley), Chabaar Beyond Thai (Midvale), Chanon Thai Café (Midvale), Montauk Bistro (Draper), Bakes ‘N Bubbles (Murray), Tea Rose Diner (Murray), Mulan Chinese (Sandy), Teru Sushi (Cottonwood Heights) and Oh Mai (several locations). λ