May is AAPI History Month – and in this post, you’ll find ideas and activities to honor the occasion with your team! Learn through interactive sessions like a tea tasting, book or podcast club, virtual museum field trip, and more.
As you celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander History Month, it’s important to bring a sense of thoughtfulness and intentionality to your team building efforts. This post also includes tips and best practices to celebrate respectfully.
Did you know – Unexpected Virtual Tours is an Asian American-founded company!
We create all of our virtual DEI programming through a lens of intersectionality and historical accuracy. AAPI History Month is especially near and dear to our hearts. Stay tuned for a special AAPI History Month DEI team building program coming in 2023!
A few of our favorite AAPI History Month 2023 ideas:
Read on for details on these Asian American History Month ideas, and more ideas!
- Host a tea tasting
- Virtually visit museums & sites showcasing AAPI art and history
- Read books and listen to podcasts from AAPI authors and creators
- Attend a local festival or market
- Work with AAPI-owned businesses
In this list, you’ll find:
- Ideas and activities for AAPI History Month 2023
- Ways to respectfully celebrate Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month at work
- Fun ideas to learn about Asian American history
- Virtual Asian American Pacific Islander History Month activities for remote teams
- AAPI team building ideas for lunch and learns, video calls, and more
Frequently Asked Questions About AAPI History Month
What is AAPI History Month?
Celebrated during May, AAPI History Month is a time to honor Asian American and Pacific Islanders – their histories, their cultures, and their many contributions to America and the world.
AAPI History Month is a time to have fun learning together, to have meaningful dialogues, and to examine internal practices and mindsets to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion. AAPI History Month is also referred to as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month – and sometimes AAPI Heritage Month.
When is AAPI History Month?
AAPI History Month is celebrated during May.
What is the history of AAPI History Month?
According to AsianPacificHeritage.gov, “Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month originated with Congress. In 1977 Reps. Frank Horton of New York introduced House Joint Resolution 540 to proclaim the first ten days in May as Pacific/Asian American Heritage Week. In the same year, Senator Daniel Inouye introduced a similar resolution…”
When neither of these resolutions passed, in 1978, Rep. Horton introduced House Joint Resolution 1007, proposing that the President “proclaim a week…during the first ten days in May of 1979 as ‘Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week.’”
The resolution was passed and signed by President Jimmy Carter on October 5, 1978. Over the next decade, presidents passed proclamations each year for Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week. Then, in 1990, Congress passed a law expanding it to a month for that year. Later, in 1992, Congress passed a law annually designating May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.
Why is AAPI History Month in May?
May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the U.S. on May 7, 1843. Additionally, May marks the date of the transcontinental railroad being completed on May 10, 1869. Most of the workers who laid the tracks for this enormous undertaking were immigrants from China.
Important Reminders About AAPI History Month
First, it’s important to understand that “Asian” is a very complex and broad term that encompasses many countries and regions, cultures and subcultures, norms, diets, languages, and more. Describing things as “Asian” without more specificity can actually be offensive. That’s because using such a broad term brushes aside the unique identities and histories of specific cultures.
The term “Asian American” is also unique to the United States. Many other countries to not group Read more about the term “Asian American” in this Vox article: “The inadequacy of the term ‘Asian American.‘” Remember – this month is specifically about celebrating Asian American history and achievements, rather than Asian history and culture in general.
While there can be some nuance to learning the right terminology, AAPI History Month is a perfect time to delve in and learn with your team!
Ideas & Activities to Celebrate AAPI History Month at Work
1. Virtually Visit Sites and Museums Showcasing AAPI Art and History
Visiting a museum is a great way to honor people of our past and present. It’s also a great way to learn more about different cultures and ways of life. Take a step to further your knowledge by visiting a museum or cultural site that authentically showcases AAPI cultures and artists.
Many museums and historical sites across the world offer virtual exhibits focusing on AAPI arts, architecture, and more. Together, your team can traverse exhibitions and virtual walking tours to learn about a plethora of AAPI cultures near and far.
Museums & sites around the world with virtual opportunities to learn more about AAPI cultures:
- Asian Art Museum
- Kyoto National Museum
- Wing Luke Museum
- Great Wall of China
- National Museum of Korea
- Taj Mahal
- Vietnam Heritage Sites
2. Start Learning A New Language
Over 4 billion people speak an Asain language across the globe. Pay respect to AAPI cultures while encouraging a new useful skill by learning one of the over 2,000 Asian languages!
While your team isn’t expected to master a language in one month, you can learn a few basic words and phrases to grow your communication skills. There are multiple ways to host language lessons, making it a great fit for any team.
Post a word of the day in the office or share with the team via email. Or, schedule weekly meetings during the month to practice together. In addition, you may have a team member that speaks one of these languages who would enjoy leading practice sessions for the team. With over half the world speaking an Asian language, be sure to ask your team!
Language lessons are a great way to learn a new side of cultures while building your team’s listening and communication skills. Plus, you may even open the door to expanding your business opportunities with more bilingual team members.
3. Host a Chinese Tea Tasting
Perfect for virtual teams with a budget, host a tea party! Enjoy the tastes and history of traditional Chinese tea with a Chinese Tea Tasting class.
Led by a tea sommelier, your team will be guided throughout the entire brewing process. Plus, each team member will be sent a tea kit including a Gaiwan, a Ming dynasty ceremonial brewing bowl. This way, you’ll be ready with all that you need when joining the virtual class!
Learn the international history of tea, the proper techniques of tasting, tips of assessing teas, and more! Ending with a Q&A, this one hour experience will be sure to answer every tea question you may have.
By the end, everyone will develop a more intimate relationship with drinking tea. Plus, you each will have the supplies needed to continue your new expertise long past the tasting class.
4. Attend a Local Festival or Market
Attending locally led festivals and events is a great way to connect with and learn about different communities. Partake in appreciation of AAPI culture by attending a community celebration led by your area’s local groups.
Community festivals often highlight all corners of a culture’s vibrance. From booths showcasing traditional art forms and trades, to live music, films, and cuisine! Festivals are a hub for all interests. As a result, each of your team members is sure to find something to enjoy.
Consider researching local events happening in your area that you can promote amongst your team. We suggest looking on Facebook’s events tab or sites like Eventbrite for easy access to finding events happening near you.
Furthermore, schedule time as a team to share experiences following an event. By making time to reflect with one another, you can learn even more from each person’s experience!
5. Create Art Inspired by AAPI Cultures
AAPI cultures have influenced the art world for centuries. Get creative with inspired art pieces of your own!
Host an AAPI artist-led class for the team to learn a traditional craft or two from AAPI cultures. For example, hire a master crafter to teach the team the folding art of origami. Or, follow a video tutorial on the art form of calligraphy.
Once you determine your art form, gather your needed supplies. Then, choose a time to come together to learn and create. If your team is virtual, send employees supply kits or a list of items to pick up before your video call.
Craft classes make a fantastic group activity for all skill levels. Plus, use the opportunity to learn the history behind the art form. While you’ll enjoy the fun, don’t forget the crafts are rooted in thousands of years of tradition.
6. Work with AAPI-owned Businesses
Another way to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month is to incorporate working with AAPI-owned businesses. As a team, evaluate what companies you regularly do business with throughout your work. Then, determine how you may expand your list to incorporate businesses with AAPI representation.
On a large scale, consider doing business with AAPI-led companies throughout your entire portfolio. Or, look to hire AAPI-owned businesses for upcoming projects or on-going needs.
On a smaller scale, you can make quick switches to support AAPI businesses. For instance, purchase the coffee and snacks you provide for employees from an AAPI-owned brand. Or, source your office supplies and art from AAPI-owned vendors.
Working with AAPI businesses is a great way to invest in AAPI communities. By making a financial commitment to supporting Asian American-owned businesses on an ongoing basis, your team can create lasting impact.
7. Listen and Learn via Podcast
Podcasts are a great way to learn something new. And, listening to a podcast is a great way to hear voices and stories directly from specific communities.
Celebrate AAPI Heritage Month by listening to an AAPI-led podcast as a team. This works great for all teams, as you can listen anytime, anywhere.
For this activity, send out a list of AAPI-led podcasts in a team email or chat thread. Or, engage your team by taking suggestions of series that may already be a group favorite.
Take a vote and set a date for each team member to finish the episode. Then, share your reflections as a team during a group meeting. Plus, you don’t have to stop at one episode. Continue listening together through a whole series if there’s interest!
You can find many AAPI-led podcasts on streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music.
A few AAPI-led podcasts to get your list started:
- Asian American: The Ken Fong Podcast: Hosted by Ken Fong. Explore culture, history, and spirituality through interviews with culture-makers in the Asian American community.
- Authethinic: Bringing authenticity to ethnicity, this series focuses on a range of unfiltered discussions on race, social issues, and the Asian American experience.
- Dear Workplace: Hosted by Monica H. Kang, a workplace creativity expert, untangle workplace problems while diving into workplace trends, changes, and challenges.
- Legends From The Pacific: This series documents the folklore tales and traditions from Pacific Island nations across Asia, Australia, and the Americas.
8. Learn the South Asian Heritage of Yoga
Did you know that yoga originated in India? Partake in this 5,000 year-old practice and learn its South Asian heritage together as a team!
Attend a live class with an instructor or follow a video routine from your own spaces. When planning your session, look to select a traditional routine that honors the roots of the practice. Due to yoga becoming a widely popular exercise routine, the heritage of the practice can easily be lost.
Great for in-person or virtual teams, you can enjoy a yoga session from anywhere! Opt for a shorter class on our lunch break, or a longer class to destress from the work day.
Plus, this is a great way to encourage employee wellness. Doubling as both exercise and meditation, this activity is great for your team’s overall health!
9. Start a Book Club
Reading works by AAPI authors is a meaningful way to honor AAPI Heritage Month. Start a team book club to bring AAPI voices to the center of your conversations.
First, have club members vote on the book before the month starts. Check out Literary Hub’s 34 Books for AAPI Heritage Month (and all months) for ideas. Second, set a date for all readers to finish the book. Then, meet to discuss the group’s take-aways.
Furthermore, encourage employees to purchase their book from a locally AAPI-owned bookstore. Not only will you secure a great book, you will be financially contributing to the AAPI community’s ongoing success.
Check out this list of bookstores to support across several states. Can’t find a local business near you? Consider buying copies for your team online using Bookshop.org. When searching, filter for “Asian-American & Pacific Islander-owned Bookstores” in the store locator tool.
10. Watch Movies & TV Shows with Asian American Characters, Directors, & More
This AAPI History Month, watch movies and TV shows with your team in which Asian Americans play a central role – whether or not they focus around Asian culture!
Some movies & TV shows with Asian American characters that don’t specifically focus on Asian American culture include Ms. Marvel, The Mindy Project, and Never Have I Ever.
Watch together on a group call. Or, encourage team members to watch on their own and come together afterward to discuss.
11. Create an Interactive Map
Map your team’s ties to Asian countries around the globe with an interactive map activity! This is a great icebreaker for teams looking to add an activity to a busy schedule.
To start the activity, print or create a shared document with a global map. Then, encourage team members to pin or color in countries that they have a connection to. Or, take it a step further and create a map key with an array of symbols representing different types of personal links.
A few map key suggestions to get you started:
- Place of family origin
- Where family currently lives
- Locations traveled to
- Bucket list locations
- Previous countries live in
- Places traveled to for work
Once complete, share or display the collective map for your team to reflect on. Plus, be sure to encourage conversations around people’s mark locations. An interactive map will expand your team’s global thinking and may even begin new connections founded on similar answers.
Celebrate AAPI History Month: NEW Virtual Team Building Event!
Coming Soon from Unexpected Virtual Tours
New in 2023 – Unexpected Virtual Tours is launching our AAPI History Month virtual team building experience! Stay tuned for details to be announced on our tours webpage.