6 ways your small business can celebrate Asian Pacific Heritage Month
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, where the contributions and culture of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are honored and recognized. First introduced in 1977, it began as a week-long celebration, and later in 1990, became a month-long celebration. With over 20 million Asians living in America, and 1.4 million Pacific Islanders, this is the fastest growing racial and ethnic group in the U.S. The contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are broad. How can your small business celebrate Asian Heritage Month, and their achievements and traditions? Glad you asked …
Ask your employees how they want to celebrate
First and foremost, create a survey or send an email asking your employees how they want to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Ask if any of the employees with an Asian or Pacific Islander background want to share their culture and traditions.
If your company doesn’t already have an employee resource group (ERG) for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, maybe your employees are interested in starting one. Or perhaps employees would like to lead a guided discussion to talk about the uptick in anti-Asian hate crimes, and how their fellow colleagues can be allies both in the office and outside the workplace. If your employees don’t feel equipped to guide a serious discussion, see if anyone in your network can.
The best and most impactful ideas are the ones that are informed by your Asian and Pacific Islander employees.
Explore Asian and Pacific Islander cuisine
Cuisine is central to Asian and Pacific Islander culture. Even if working remotely, there are ways you can enjoy and appreciate traditional Asian dishes and food. For example, employees can partake in a recipe exchange, and post the end results on Slack, or share favorite local restaurants. When your office reopens, an employee can pick an Asian cuisine favorite and lead a cooking session. This can also be done remotely on Zoom.
Host a lunch and learn or discussion session
If your budget allows for it, or if someone internally feels equipped to discuss a topic in-depth, you can host a lunch-and learn for your employees. These lunch-and-learns can cover current events, arts, culture, or anything that piques your employees’ interest. Topics can cover:
- Cultural differences in business etiquette
- Management lessons
- How to support Asian communities
- The arts
Consider reaching out to local colleges and universities for expert speakers, or your local Asian cultural center.
Host a book club or movie night
Book clubs and movie nights are a great way for employees to exchange ideas, get to know fellow colleagues they don’t usually work with, all while supporting Asian creatives. The group can vote on a book or movie, and then have a volunteer prepare discussion questions. Book clubs and movie nights are also pandemic-safe, and can be done virtually. Rotten Tomatoes has lists of some of the best Asian American movies, and Goodreads has a list of the best books written by Asian authors in 2020.
Visit a museum, in person or virtually
To celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month this May, encourage your employees to discover Asian art. Since the pandemic began, museums have been allowing audiences to view exhibits from the safety of their homes (or offices), and in many cases, at no cost. The Asian Art Museum in California, while now open, has virtual events and exhibitions, as does The National Museum of Korea.
Doing crafts as a team is an excellent way to encourage team bonding, while learning about the rich history these crafts are rooted in. Participants can gather at lunch or after work and get creative, either in person or on Zoom. No need to get too complicated with craft projects. You can explore paper-based ideas, including origami, washi tape, or paper lanterns.
What to keep in mind
Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is a way to honor and recognize your employees’ culture and differences. That being said, it’s important not to pressure anyone to participate, including (and especially) your Asian and Pacific Islander employees. All events should be voluntary. These activities are a great way to show appreciation for your employees and their contributions, celebrate their traditions, while encouraging your workforce to bond, and learn more about their fellow colleagues’ unique backgrounds.
Part of DEI (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) is recognizing your employees for who they are outside of their official job roles, and taking the time to celebrate their differences. Don’t miss your opportunity to celebrate this month.