May marks the beginning of AAPI Heritage Month — a time to celebrate Asian and Pacific Islander heritage across North America.
Thanks in part to social media, it's also a month to recognize and openly acknowledge the contributions and influence of the Asian community.
Friendly reminder that you do not need to be of AAPI heritage to celebrate and be loud about National AAPI Heritage Month.— ✨ ɪᴛ ᴍᴇ ʟɪʟɪ ✨ (@LiliSparx) May 10, 2021
Given recent anti-Asian racism, it would be especially awesome to see more people hyping up + giving love to the Asian community❤️ #StopAsianHate
And with the past few years being especially tough on the Asian community, there’s no better time than the present to celebrate and uplift AAPI creators, businesses, entrepreneurs, and brands.
What Is AAPI Heritage Month?
Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month celebrates and recognizes the contributions of those from the Asian continent and the Pacific Islands of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia.
Similar to many commemorative months in the US, AAPI Heritage Month originated with Congress.
The month of May was chosen to:
Commemorate the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States on May 7, 1843
Mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869 — where the majority of workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants
While it was first petitioned in 1977 to mark the first 10 days as AAPI Heritage Week, it wasn’t until 1992 (when Congress passed Public Law 102-450) that the month was officially recognized.
AAPI Heritage Month is also celebrated in Canada, and was officially designated as Asian Heritage Month in 2002.
Why It’s Important to Celebrate AAPI Heritage Month on Social Media
Unfortunately, a lot of AAPI history isn’t taught in schools in the US and Canada.
Thankfully, there are many accounts doing the work and sharing stories on social media — from reflecting and acknowledging the hardships, to uplifting the community and spotlighting voices.
“We can't talk about AAPI Heritage Month without mentioning the trauma that the Asian community has gone through over the past few years,” says Madelyn Chung, founder and Editor-In-Chief of Asian-Canadian media platform, @RepresentAsiansProject.
“I think that's why more than ever, it’s really important to use this month to highlight and celebrate the Asian community. It’s important to amplify all of the contributions, the great people who paved the way for us, and those who are making us proud.”
For more on why inclusivity and diversity matters on social media, watch our workshop with strategist Sonia Thompson:
How to Celebrate AAPI Heritage Month on Social Media This May (and Beyond)
Although it is wonderful to have one month dedicated to the AAPI community, we should be celebrating their contributions (and those of other racialized communities) year-round.
Here are three ways you can celebrate and amplify AAPI heritage on social media every month:
Follow and Learn From AAPI Accounts
Spotlight and Support AAPI Creators & Small Businesses
Pass the Mic Visually and Creatively
#1: Follow and Learn From AAPI Accounts
Following inspiring and creative AAPI entrepreneurs, authors, activists, artists, creators, designers, and businesses is the first step.
By diversifying your feed (with other BIPOC communities, too), you can educate yourself, reflect, and then support and uplift them via social media.
Here are nine inspiring AAPI accounts to follow today:
Asian Founded — @asianfounded
This LA-based account highlights Asian-owned brands and businesses in creative ways. Every Wednesday, they do a round-up of business news from all over the world.
On Canada Project — @oncanadaproject
Founded by Samanta Krishnapillai, it was initially a passion project to speak to young Canadians about the COVID-19 pandemic. It's since grown to become a self-described "social enterprise" for Millennials and Gen Z to learn about tough topics, using easy-to-understand language.
Golden — @netflixgolden
Earlier this year, the streaming giant Netflix launched an exclusive Instagram (and Twitter) account dedicated to spotlighting the incredible talent, storytelling, and artistry by the Asian diaspora.
Product of Culture — @_productofculture_
Product of Culture is a collective that amplifies brands and creatives of the South Asian diaspora. Their social feed is full of news, lists, round-ups, and recommendations. They also produce the South Asian Film Festival of America.
Mikaele Oloa — @maugamu
Mikaele is a TikTok creator (and 5x World Fireknife Champion) who educates their audience on Samoan cultures and traditions — including traditional Samoan dance.
The RepresentASIAN Project — @RepresentASIANProject
A Canadian platform dedicated to celebrating, advocating and elevating Asian representation and voices in media and beyond. The account always has its finger on the pulse — from sharing wins in the entertainment industry to offering mental health resources to highlighting grassroot groups in need of support.
Melemaikalani Makalapua — @melemaikalanimakalapuaa
With large, engaged audiences on both Instagram and TikTok, content creator and Polynesian dancer Melemaikalani Makalapua shares content on the history of Hawai'i. An advocate for change, Melemaikalani educates on important issues, such as appropriation of Hawai'ian culture.
Kim Saira — @kimsaira
Known for her beautiful graphics, Kim Saira is an Asian Joy Coach, and who doesn’t need that in their life? She shares authentic and empowering insights in a creative and joyful way — creating a great resource for the community.
Hāwane Rios — @hawanemusic
Hāwane Rios is a singer and songwriter from Waimea, Hawai'i. As an advocate for Act To Change, Hāwane reflects on the importance of Hawaiian traditions, and shares inspirational poetry based on their experiences.
#2: Spotlight and Support AAPI Creators and Small Businesses
There are so many AAPI creators, businesses, and platforms you can spotlight — the list is neverending.
You can create a round-up of local AAPI businesses and creators you're either inspired by, have worked with, or bought from, and tag them in your Stories, Reels, or feed posts.
If you’re a foodie, you can showcase your favorite eateries and restaurants.
By regularly spotlighting different accounts on your account, you’re creating a resource for your followers to share — and then for their followers to share.
This is the power of social media.
#3: Pass the Mic Visually and Creatively
Passing the mic can be as simple as letting those in the AAPI community host an Instagram Stories takeover or AMA (Ask Me Anything) session where they can share inspirational words and stories.
But to take it a step further, it's also important to make sure there is representation behind the scenes too.
Here’s how three brands successfully passed the mic on multiple levels — going above and beyond the superficial, and celebrating AAPI talent in a visible way:
Nobis — @nobis
The outerwear brand recently made actor Simu Liu the face of the brand.
The Kit — @thekitca
Last AAPI Heritage Month, The Kit released a number of stories (including a cover feature) dedicated to celebrating Asian Canadians online, highlighting Asian-Canadian brands, and sharing first-person stories from editors and creators.
They also dedicated a photoshoot featuring three top Asian-Canadian makeup artists, who shared their experiences of growing up in Canada, and how they came to see their own beauty.
Shiseido — @shiseido
During Lunar New Year, there are a lot of beauty and fashion brands that launch limited-edition red and gold packaging without further thought or significant AAPI collaboration.
This past year, Japanese beauty giant Shiseido changed the game.
They teamed up with Chinese designer and Next in Fashion alum Angel Chen to reimagine the packaging of its products for Lunar New Year.
What to Remember When Sharing AAPI Heritage Month Content
Talk the talk; walk the walk — the AAPI community should be celebrated and spotlighted in your social media content year-round, not a token thing to check off your marketing checklist in May.
If you’re integrating AAPI events into your marketing calendar, consider providing funds or resources to grassroots organizations (like Project 1907) to help support the wider community in an actionable way.
Make the effort to discover and listen to what is happening in the AAPI space, introduce new voices and faces to your social followers, and make room for more diverse conversations.
But remember to look internally too — how does your brand stack up with the diversity of the people who work there?
In 2022, it's time to do good for the world by doing better. Break the same old creator wheel. Create a new table, and pull up a chair.