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Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Artists

Updated: Sep 16, 2021

May is #AAPIHeritageMonth

May is Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, a celebration of Asiana and Pacific Islanders in the United States. A rather broad term, Asian/Pacific Islanders includes the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands), Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia) and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Easter Island).

In 1977, Rep. Frank Horton of New York and Senator Daniel Inouye each introduced a similar a resolution to found Asian and Pacific American Heritage week. Neither of these resolutions passed, but in June 1978, Rep. Horton introduced a resolution that President Jimmy Carter should “proclaim a week, which is to include the seventh and tenth of the month, during the first ten days in May of 1979 as ‘Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week.’” This joint resolution was passed by both the House and the Senate and was signed by the President on Oct. 5, 1978. In 1990, Congress passed a public law which expanded the observance from a week to a month.

In 1992, Congress passed a public law that declared that May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. May was selected to honor the contributions of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders to mark both the first Japanese immigrants to the United States on May 7, 1843 and the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. Chinese immigrant laid most of transcontinental railroad.

In this post, we will be introduced to three artists of Asian-American and Pacific Islander descent from a variety of backgrounds and who work in a range of art forms. We will learn about three musicians—two from the past and one living and working today. We begin our post by meeting the Hawaiian queen, author, and composer, Lili'uokalani. Then we are introduced to jazz baritone saxophonist, composer, bandleader, playwright, writer, and social activist, Fred Ho. And thirdly, we learn about the life and work of cello virtuoso, music educator, and humanitarian activist, Yo-Yo Ma.


Before we get into the main content of this post, a brief note:

As this blog has grown, I've added more resources that I offer to the public free of charge, including well-researched educational blog material, lesson suggestions for teachers, and enrichment for artists of all skill levels and experience. If you are a regular visitor and you have the means to do so, please consider buying me a coffee on Kofi or joining me on Patreon.

I look forward to continuing to share content of the highest caliber with you as well as my passion for all things creative! You have my sincere gratitude from the bottom of my heart for your continued support.


Lili'uokalani – Queen and Composer

Our first artist of AAPI heritage is Queen Lili'uokalani. She composed hundred of songs or chants called mele with about 150 of them being published. Her most famous song is Aloha Oe. She also composed He Mele Lahui Hawaii, the Hawaiian national anthem. Her story illustrates how imperialism and colonialism have affected AAPI people and culture.