Celebrating Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May 18, 2023

May heralds Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month — celebrating the histories of Americans hailing from across the Asian continent and the Pacific Ocean.

The shape and breath of Asian Americans resist the stereotype of the inscrutable foreigner or the quiet model minority. Asian Americans include refugee-born Cambodian Americans working in factories in Long Beach… Fifth-generation Japanese Americans whose grandfathers fought Nazis in Europe and racism at home…Samoan teachers, South Asian stand-up comics, Filipino American graphic designers, and much more. 

Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AANHPI) descent are united by a struggle to assert themselves in the face of longstanding perceptions that they don’t belong. Cynthia Choi, co-founder of Stop Asian Hate, states:

“Our history is also filled with incredible stories of resilience, of persistence, of determination, to fight for our basic rights…This is a celebration of our history, of our culture,  and all the different ways in which our community has really demonstrated that we’re not only here to stay, we are a part of this fabric — a part of this country.”

Celebrating Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

In 1992, Congress passed a law to designate May as Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AANHPI) Heritage Month. The month was chosen for two reasons: to commemorate the immigration of the first known Japanese on May 7, 1843, and to honor the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.

The month pays tribute to the generations of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month who have enriched US history and are instrumental in its future success.

AANHPI Academy Award Winners and Nominees 2023

This year’s Academy Awards ceremoniously demonstrate Hollywood’s progression in terms of inclusion and recognition of Asian culture. The film industry took a significant leap forward at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony, with Hollywood praising the success of Asian and Asian-American storytellers.

  • Daniel Kwan shared with Daniel Scheinert (Best Picture, Best Director and Original Screenplay Winner: Everything, Everywhere, All at Once)
  • Jonathan Wang (Best Picture Winner: Everything  Everywhere All at Once)
  • Ke Huy Quan (Best Supporting Actor WinnerEverything Everywhere, All at Once)
  • Stephanie Hsu (Best Supporting Actress Nominee: Everything Everywhere All at Once)
  • Shirley Kurata (Best Costume Design Winner: Everything Everywhere All at Once)
  • Ian Chang (Best Original Score Nominee as the group Son Lux, with Ryan Lott: Everything Everywhere All at Once)
  • Mitsuki (Best Original Song Nominee shared with Ryan Loft and David Byrne: “This is a Life” for Everything Everywhere All at Once)
  • Kazuo Ishiguro, British of Japanese descent (Best Adapted Screenplay Nominee: Living)
  • Domee Shi, Canadian of Chinese descent  (Best Animated Feature Nominee shared with Lindsey Collins: Turning Red
  • Riz Ahmed, British of Pakistani descent,  and Aneil Karia, British  (Best Live Action Short Film Winner: The Long Goodbye)
  • Michelle Yeoh (Best Actress Winner:  Everything, Everywhere, All at Once)
  • Note: Only second woman of color to win Best Actress
  • M. M. Keeravani and Chandrabose (Best Original Song Winner: “Naatu Naatu” in RRR)
  • Shaunak Sen, Indian and Aman Mann, Canadian of Indian descent (Best Documentary Feature nominee: All That Breathes)
  • Kartiki Gonsalves and Guneet Monga (Best Documentary Short Subject Winner: The Elephant Whisperers) Note: The first Indian pair to win in the best documentary short subject category.  
  • Erick Oh (Best Animated Short Film nominee: Opera)

Check out the 2023 Oscars Highlights and the full list of winners on the NYFA blog.

AANHPI Heritage Month at NYFA

NYFA is celebrating at our campuses through on-campus events and screenings. From our Breaking In –  All at Once Lunch n’ Learn Workshop at NYFA Los Angeles to New York’s special Screening and Q&A with the Director, Producer, and Cast of The Girl Who Left Home, join us and learn why Asian American representation in film and media matters.

Did you know?!

The Academy Award-winning directors ‘The Daniels’ (Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert)  filmed their first collab while they were teaching assistants at NYFA’s Harvard Program. Little did they suspect back then their paths would lead them to stardom one day!, with the release of their hit film, Everything, Everywhere, All At Once, a tribute to Asian Americans. The historic win of Everything Everywhere All at Once at this year’s Oscars is part of a seismic shift in visibility for creatives of “non-traditional” backgrounds – not just for creators of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander descent. Has Hollywood finally noticed? How do we, as creators, fit into this uptick? 

Get more inspiration from some of our NYFA AANHPI students.

Inspiration from NYFA Students

“No race should come in the way of creative expression. We are one. Art has the power to create human evolution.”
-Simin Vaswani, Digital Editing Workshop ‘22

 “Now This Is What We Call Global Success On a Global Platform.”
-Yashasvi Singh, Acting for Film, Fall’22

“A cub’s cry today, is a lion’s roar tomorrow.”
-Sanket S. Dikshit, One Year Photography – Fall’22 

“It’s time to Rise and Shine for Indian Cinema.” 
-Shreya Phadke, One-year Photography – Fall’22

“Today is another chance to get better.”
-Karma Tshadup, Photography Workshop

NYFA would like to thank all of our faculty, staff, and students for their participation in AANHPI Heritage Month!