SFOpera - San Francisco Opera’s Department of Diversity, Equity, and Community Issues Statement About Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

San Francisco Opera’s Department of Diversity, Equity, and Community Issues Statement About Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Heritage months are a good opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the rich contributions of the many cultures that exist in the United States. But that recognition should not be relegated to a single month in the year.

May brings with it Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. But while we join in the celebration of this occasion, we also take the opportunity to affirm a simple fact: The diversity of cultures, experiences, and stories that comprise Asian Pacific American history are too great to be expounded upon within the temporal boundary of one month’s time.

Before we can begin to celebrate, we as a society must understand: Who are we talking about when we say Asian, Asian-American, or Pacific Islander?

These categories only scratch the surface when it comes to capturing the vast array of identities they include. Asians, Asian-Americans, and Pacific Islanders are no monolith. These terms are broad—and what’s worse, they can be misleadingly simple. Over 60% of the world’s population fall into these categories. To be Pacific Islander could mean being from a place as far east as Rapa Nui or as far west as Palau. To be Asian could mean being from places as distinct as the plains of Tajikistan to the mountains of Japan. And within each of these places, there are myriad ethnic groups, religions, and backgrounds, each deserving of individuality and respect.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is a relatively recent invention. It was signed into law only in 1990, though its history stretches back to the 1970s and the efforts of Jeanie Jew and Ruby Moy. Jew herself is the great-granddaughter of a Chinese immigrant who helped construct the United States’ transcontinental railroad. The Asian, Asian-American and Pacific Islander story has always been a part of the American story. Their history in North America even predates the founding of the United States itself. It is only by acknowledging this fact that we can build a more inclusive future.

We at San Francisco Opera say in no uncertain terms that Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) history is American history. At the same time, we recognize that much of American history has entailed exclusion, discrimination, and fetishization of AAPI communities, and that these painful legacies are deeply ingrained. Western art and media have long perpetuated these othering stereotypes, including the operatic canon. As a cultural institution, San Francisco Opera and its Department of Diversity, Equity, and Community (DEC) recognize that there is a part for us to play in dismantling these oppressive narratives.

As we recognize May as an important time to reflect upon the AAPI legacy in America, part of the way we want to celebrate is by amplifying the ongoing work happening at grassroots levels in and throughout San Francisco Bay Area.

Below is a list we developed of relevant cultural organizations, but it is not meant to be exhaustive or representative of the various organizations doing vital work in AAPI communities. Please take a moment to explore the organizations listed and consider making a donation and finding out how you can support their efforts. And if there is another organization not listed, whose work you think we should know about, please let us know! Email [email protected].

Au Co Vietnamese Cultural Center: https://www.aucocenter.org/
Chinese Cultural Center of San Francisco: https://www.cccsf.us/  
Richmond Area Multi-Service: https://ramsinc.org/
Japanese Cultural Central: https://www.jcccnc.org/
Filipino Community Center: https://www.filipinocc.org/
Korean Center: https://koreancentersf.org/

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