Here is how you can celebrate, honor and support Asian Heritage Month – BC Alliance for Arts + Culture

In 2002, the Government of Canada designated May as Asian Heritage Month. This declaration was adopted by the Senate thanks to a proposal by Senator Vivienne Poy, the first Canadian senator of Asian heritage.

This month celebrates the contributions of all Asian Canadians, past and present, including those of East Asian descent (eg, China, Japan, Korea), South Asian descent (eg, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka), Southeast Asian descent (eg, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia), Central Asian descent (eg, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan) and West Asian descent (eg, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey).

While it is important to honor and celebrate this month, it is also equally important to stand up in our fight against the systemic racism which Asian Canadians experience every day. According to Vancouver Police Department reports and a study led by the University of Victoria there has been a 717% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in 2020.

During this month we take the opportunity to learn, reflect on and celebrate the many achievements, cultures and traditions of the members of our artistic communities who claim Asian heritage. We must also find ways to fight racism and support the organizations which make it their focus.

Below are some resources, upcoming events and workshops, as well as causes and organizations to which you can donate to show your support:

  • explorASIAN Festival, run by the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society, is in its 26th year and includes 60+ Asian Heritage Month in-person and virtual events, talks, conferences and exhibitions presented by their various community partners across Vancouver. Check out the exciting programming for this month, or support the Festival by donating here.

  • Act2endracism is a coalition of concerned citizens and community groups of Asian descent whose focus is on Canadians affected by COVID-19 triggered related racism. They work on activities and campaigns targeted at anti-racism. To become a member or an ally, click here.

  • Elimin8Hate (E8) is an advocacy arm of the Vancouver Asian Film Festival which strives for racial equity and an inclusive society for all Asian Canadians. Their goal is to work to interrupt, dismantle and eliminate anti-Asian racism at the individual, institutional and systemic level by harnessing the power of arts, film and media. You can support this important organization by donating hereor by attending their events, or by amplifying their work on social media. Check out their post on how to be an ally here.

  • The LiterASIAN festival explores Asian voices in Canadian writing with a variety of events from May 7 to 15. This year features a speaker line-up that includes panel discussions, writing workshops, literary book talks, manuscript development sessions, and ends with a film screening that showcases the artistic creations of the featured speakers.

  • Finding our Voices, Telling our Stories: Navigating as a BIPOC artist in the literary and performing artsis the opening night event of the LiterAsian Festival. It will be a dialogue hosted by BIPOC speakers which will initiate a conversation about how art can be a powerful antidote to racism and explore the controversy behind the abrupt cancellation of Kim’s Convenience amidst its success in television. The evening will end with a film screening that showcases the artistic creations of the featured speakers and a presentation of the 2022 ACWW Community Builders Award. Sat, 7 May 2022 at 6:00 pmregistration required.

  • Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada provides an extensive list of resources for learning more about anti-racism strategies and information on combatting anti-racism and overcoming harmful stereotypes about Asia and people of Asian descent.

  • Representation Matters: A Japanese Family Restaurant on Screen is a movie screening and talk which is part of Uplift Asiana new programming series at VPL designed to celebrate Asian voices and push back against discrimination. Koto: The Last Service is a moving short documentary film that offers a soothing balm to anti-Asian racism by showing the care and appreciation that surrounded the Maeda family’s Koto Japanese Restaurant. The screening will be followed by a talk on how documentary film can be used to explore and represent the experiences of Asian Canadians while pushing back against discrimination in our communities.

  • Sher Vancouver is a registered charity for LGBTQ + South Asians and their friends and families in Metro Vancouver, BC Their two peer-led support groups, Sher Feline and Sher Jupiterprovide safe spaces for LGBTQ + youth and adults.

  • The National Film Board has curated this selection of films that celebrate the many achievements and contributions of Canadians of Asian descent.

  • Webinar: The Hong Kong and Taiwanese Diaspora in the Literary Imagination is a webinar hosted by Asian Heritage Month at UBC which will explore the coming of age of a new generation of Hong Kong-born and Taiwan-born Canadian writers, whose literary works often draw on their transnational experiences. Join them for a conversation with authors Sam Cheuk and Julia Lin, along with moderator Allan Cho, by registering here.

  • Yarrow SocietyThe Yarrow Intergenerational Society for Justice supports youth and low-income immigrant seniors in Chinatown and downtown Eastside. They engage in intergenerational relationship building by helping seniors overcome language and cultural barriers to services that meet their basic needs. To donate to the Yarrow Society click here. You can also apply to be a Yarrow volunteer here.

  • Cold Tea Collective is a media platform, sharing the real stories, perspectives, and experiences of North American Asian millennials. The platform was started in 2016, to amplify the stories and lived experiences of Asian Canadians and Asian Americans today. You can support them by clicking this link.

  • Project 1907 provides spaces, events, programming, education and resources for diasporic Asians to explore the nuances of intersectional experiences as entry points to building collective action and solidarity within, and across, communities experiencing racism. They are a volunteer-run organization and if you are interested in supporting their work with a donation, donations can be made via e-transfer to info@project1907.org.

  • Japan Market a grassroots initiative to create events where local Japanese vendors shine and share their passion and love for Japanese culture with Vancouver. The early bird registration for their Summer Festival is now open!

  • The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is offering online learning activities through which you can find out about ancient Chinese arts and crafts, Chinese festivals, and more. These multi-age activities are suitable for use in class or at home and, where appropriate, include BC Curriculum links.

  • Join a virtual Cooking Class for Korean traditional food Galbi – jjim (May 9th)

  • Asia Pacific Curriculum offers free educational resources on contemporary Asia and modern Asian history. These resources equip teachers to integrate Asia into their classrooms, with materials such as background readings, PPT presentations, interactive features, and assessments.

  • The Government of Canada offers this resource pagefeaturing videos, resources available to combat anti-Asian racism and discrimination and significant events in the history of Canadians of Asian heritage.

  • Consider donating to organizations which strengthen and promote Asian arts, culture, and history, such as Center A, Historic Joy Kogawa House, Indian Summer Festival, Vancouver Asian Film Festival, Vancouver Asian Canadian Theater, Chinatown Storytelling Center, Chinese Canadian Museum Society of British Columbia, Canadian International Dragon Boat Festival Societyor Kokoro Dance

The list above is by no means comprehensive. We invite you to self-educate and do additional research into the many contributions of Canadians of Asian descent!

[Hero image from Government of Canada’s Asian Heritage Month digital toolkit]