APA Heritage Month


Origin of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

In the United States, the month of May each year is celebrated as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. This annual celebration came about in 1978 when President Jimmy Carter signed into law a Joint Resolution of the Congress of the United States designating the month of May for the celebration of Asian and Pacific Islanders culture and heritage.

In 2005, a new community tradition was born in San Francisco when Mayor Gavin Newsom embraced the proposal by former OCA National President Claudine Cheng, to launch an annual official celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in San Francisco. The Mayor’s APA Heritage Celebration Committee, comprising of a diverse group of APA community representatives, was established to coordinate this community celebration. In 2010, the APA Heritage Foundation was incorporated as a nonprofit organization to help secure sponsorships and resources needed to carry on the annual festivities.

Over the years, this annual community celebration has been made possible through the generous support of businesses and community sponsors as well as professional services.

Congressman Norman Mineta (CA)

In the mid 1970s, a nationwide advocacy campaign was launched to obtain Congressional Resolution to designate one week in May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Week. This concept originated from Jeanie F. Jew, a staff person on Capital Hill at the time and a board member of the Organization of Chinese Americans.

Ms. Jew was frustrated that Asian Pacific Americans were not included as a recognized community in the celebration of the United States Bicentennial and she would like to see the United States government acknowledge Asian Pacific Americans as part of the country. In addition, she also wanted to commemorate her great grand father who had worked as a labor in the building of the Transcontinental Railroad.

In June 1977, a bill (HJRes.540) was introduced by Congressman Horton, co-sponsored by Congressman Norman Mineta (CA), to call upon the President of the United States to proclaim the seven day period beginning May 4, 1979 as “Pacific/Asian American Heritage Week.”

Congressman Frank Horton (NY)

Consequently, Jeanie Jew enlisted the support of Ruby Moy, then an administrative assistant to Congressman Frank Horton (NY). In June 1977, a bill (HJRes.540) was introduced by Congressman Horton, co-sponsored by Congressman Norman Mineta (CA) to call upon the President of the United States to proclaim the seven day period beginning May 4, 1979 as “Pacific/Asian American Heritage Week.”

United States to proclaimed May 4, 1979 as “Pacific/Asian American Heritage Week.”

A few weeks later, a similar bill (SJRes.72) was introduced in the United States Senate by Senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga. Both bills were subsequently revised to conform to the Census Bureau’s designation of the community as “Asian/Pacific” (SJRes.1007) rather than “Pacific/Asian.”

The drafter of the bills selected the week of May 4th because of two significant historical events that took place during that period: the arrival date of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States recorded on May 7, 1843, and the date of completion of the Transcontinental Railroad on May 10, 1869.

The proposed legislation required the support and co-sponsorship of at least 218 members of Congress in order for the bill to pass the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee. An intense national advocacy campaign was launched. Jeanie Jew founded and chaired the National Coalition for an Asian/Pacific American Heritage Proclamation, and together with Ruby Moy, they also founded the Asian Pacific Congressional Staff Caucus.

Major national organizations that were involved in the advocacy of the passage of these bills were: Organization of Chinese Americans, Japanese American Citizens League, and the Organization of Chinese American Women. This was the first national advocacy campaign that involved the youth and young professionals in our community, notably members of Young OCA under the leadership of then OCA Executive Director Hayden Lee.

As a result of persistent efforts, the coalition was able to secured 231 Congressional Representatives to co-sponsor the bill, and the bills were passed by an overwhelming majority in both the House and the Senate.

On October 5, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed the Joint Resolution into law which proclaimed the week of May 4-11 Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week.

Meanwhile, the Joint Resolution adopted did not contain a provision for annual designation, and community organizations had to apply to Congress every year for the proclamation of Heritage Week. It took more than ten year of advocacy before the celebration was extended to include the entire month of May. On May 7, 1990, President George W. Bush signed into law proclaiming Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

In 1992, the Heritage Month celebration was finally institutionalized when Congressman Horton introduced legislation (HR 5572) to designate “May of each year as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.” The support for this proposed legislation was unanimous.

On October 23, 1992, community leaders from around the country witnessed a new chapter in Asian Pacific American history as the President signed into law proclaiming the month of May every year as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in perpetuity.

With this law, the President of the United States is “authorized and requested to issue annually a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe the month designated… with appropriate programs, ceremonies and activities.”

In addition to the Federal Proclamation, the law also provides for “State Proclamation,” so that “the Chief Executive Officer of each State is requested to issue annually a proclamation calling on the people of the State to observe the month designated… with appropriate programs, ceremonies and activities.”

Publicity Partners 2020

Thank you to over 100 publicity partners for their role in promoting public awareness of APA Heritage Month

San Francisco Officials:

  • Mayor London Breed
  • Assessor – Recorder Carmen Chu
  • City Attorney Dennis Herrera
  • District Attorney Chesa Boudin
  • Public Defender Manohar Raju
  • Sheriff Paul Miyamoto
  • Treasurer Jose Cisneros
  • Board of Education Commissioner Jenny Lam
  • City College Trustee Ivy Lee
  • City College Trustee Alex Randolph

San Francisco Board of Supervisors:

  • Sandra Lee Fewer
  • Catherine Stefani
  • Aaron Peskin
  • Gordon Mar
  • Dean Preston
  • Matt Haney
  • Norman Yee
  • Rafael Mandelman
  • Hillary Ronen
  • Sharmann Walton
  • Ahasha Safai

San Francisco Government Agencies:

  • Mayor’s Office of Communications
  • Mayor’s Office of Protocol
  • Department of Technology
  • San Francisco Unified School District

State of California Officials

  • State Treasurer Fiona Ma
  • Board of Equalization member Malia Cohen
  • State Senator Scott Wiener
  • Assembly Member David Chiu
  • Assembly Member Phil Ting


  • Albert’s List LLC
  • Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation
  • Apple Asian Association
  • Ascend West Coast
  • Asian America Foundation
  • Asian Art Museum
  • Asian Business League
  • Asian Commercial Professionals
  • Asian Improv Arts
  • Asian Leaders Alliance
  • Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association
  • ASIAN, Inc.
  • California Asian Pacific American Bar Association
  • California Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce
  • California-Japan Sister Cities Network
  • Center for Asian America Media
  • Chinatown Community Development Center
  • Chinatown Merchants Association
  • Chinese American Citizens Alliance San Francisco Lodge
  • Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco
  • Chinese Real Estate Association of America
  • City College of San Francisco
  • Coalition of Asian American Government Employees
  • Community Health for Asian Americans
  • Community Youth Center of San Francisco
  • Coro Northern California
  • Council of District Merchants Association
  • Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network
  • Filipino American Arts Exposition / Pistahan Parade and Festival
  • First Voice
  • Gilead Asian Interest Network
  • GlobalSF
  • Hawaiʻi Chamber of Commerce of Northern California
  • Indonesian Professionals Association
  • InspirASIAN
  • Japan Center Malls
  • Japan Society of Northern California
  • Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Northern California
  • Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California
  • Japanese Exchange Teachers Alumni Association of Northern California
  • Japantown Community Benefit District, Inc.
  • Korean American Professional Society
  • Mongolian Community Association of Bay Area
  • Nakayoshi Young Professionals
  • National Association of Asian American Professionals – San Jose
  • Nemenzo Te Fare
  • Nihonmachi Street Fair, Inc.
  • North East Medical Services (NEMS)
  • Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival
  • Oakland Fukuoka Sister City Association
  • OCA – East Bay Chapter
  • OCA – San Francisco Chapter
  • One Myanmar Community
  • Oracle Professional Asian Leadership
  • Policylink
  • Rotary Club of SF Chinatown
  • Salesforce Asiapacforce
  • Salesforce Southasiaforce
  • Samoan Community Development Center
  • San Francisco – Bangalore Sister City Committee
  • San Francisco – Ho Chi Minh City Sister City Committee
  • San Francisco – Manila Sister City Committee
  • San Francisco – Osaka Sister City Association
  • San Francisco – Seoul Sister City Committee
  • San Francisco – Taipei Sister City Committee
  • San Francisco Community Health Center
  • San Francisco Cosmopolitan Lions Club
  • San Francisco Unified Lions Club
  • Self-Help for the Elderly
  • SF Chamber of Commerce
  • SF Hep B Free – Bay Area
  • SF Public Library
  • Shake The Cosmos, Inc.
  • Silicon Valley Chinese Technology Business Association
  • Silicon Valley Insider Media
  • Sparxo
  • Suave
  • Taiwanese American Professionals
  • Tay Than Hlaing Entertainment
  • Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center
  • Willie L. Brown Institute
  • YMCA of San Francisco, API ERG
  • Your Filipino Professionals Association


  • KPIX
  • NBC Universal
  • Nichi Bei Weekly
  • San Francisco Examiner
  • SFGovTV
  • Skylink TV
  • World Journal

* Listing as of April 30, 2020

Our Team

Celebration Committee

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2019

The annual San Francisco celebration of APA heritage month is coordinated by community representatives who volunteer on the APA Heritage Celebration Committee.

2020 APA Heritage Celebration Committee

  • Claudine Cheng,  Committee Coordinator
  • Al Perez,  Celebration Co-Chair
  • Angela Pang,  Celebration Co-Chair
  • Thomas Li,  Celebration Co-Chair
  • Alvin Louie,  San Francisco Unified Lions Club
  • Angie Louie,  Filipino American Chamber of Commerce
  • Arcadi Kolchak,  San Francisco Hep B Free
  • Ashley Cheng,  Coalition of Asian American Government Employees
  • Carmen Colet, San Francisco-Manila Sister City Committee
  • Chau Lam, Chilipepper Event Productions
  • Crystle Wong,  Asian Pacific American Public Affairs Association
  • David Latt,  Office of Speaker Nancy Pelosi
  • Dennis Yee,  OCA San Francisco Bay Chapter
  • G Preet Singh,  Sister Cities International, Northern California
  • George Saxton,  San Francisco – Ho Chi Minh City Sister City Committee
  • Green Chang,  Korean-American Chamber of Commerce, USA
  • Hagen Choi, San Francisco -Seoul Sister City Committee
  • JJ Lara,  APA Heritage Foundation
  • Jack Chin, SFGovTV
  • Jack Song, APA Heritage Foundation
  • Jaclyn Chiyo Funasaki,  Hawaii Chamber of Commerce of Northern California
  • Jacqueline Bhagavan, Coral Tree Foundation
  • Jay Cheng, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce
  • Jeanette Adi,  San Francisco – Manila Sister City Committee
  • Kathleen Kimura – San Francisco – Osaka Sister City Association
  • Kelvin Wu,  Mayor’s Office
  • Lance Toma, San Francisco Community Health Center
  • Mary Nicely,  Office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond
  • Mike Chop, Apple Employees Resource Group
  • Noora Larson, Business for Social Responsibility
  • Richard Hashimoto, Japantown Merchants Association
  • Richard Jue, Nihonmachi Street Fair
  • Ron Lee,  American Chinese Cultural and Art Association
  • Rose Chung, Asian America Foundation
  • Susie Willensz-Geeroms. – Indonesian Professional Association

Special Acknowledgement

Thank you representatives from the Mayor Office, Board of Supervisors and City Agencies for supporting to the Celebration Committee

  • Calvin Yan, Office of Supervisor Aaron Peskin
  • Jen Low, Office of Supervisor Norman Yee
  • Jennifer Li, Office of Supervisor Hillary Ronen
  • Kelvin Wu, Mayor’s Office
  • Mason Lee, Mayor’s Office
  • Victor Lim, Department of Emergency Management
  • Vivian Po, Office of Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu

APA Heritage Foundation

2020 APA Heritage Foundation Board

The APA Heritage Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting appreciation of the diverse Asian Pacific American cultures as well as to providing a forum for community collaborations.

The main activity of the Foundation is to coordinate and support San Francisco’s annual official celebration of APA Heritage Month through securing sponsorships and community partnerships.

In addition, the Foundation’s program also includes promoting awareness of significant APA ethnic festivals throughout the year and establishing community partnerships to create opportunities for nurturing the next generation of APA leaders in all sectors of society.

2020 Board of Directors

  • Claudine Cheng, President
  • Scott Adams, Board Chair
  • JJ Lara, Treasurer
  • Steve Wilson, Secretary
  • Jack Song. Director
  • Irene Yee Riley, Director
  • Suwandi Tandjung, Director

Official Celebration

This is the official celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month for the City and County of San Francisco.