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How to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

The work of Shen Wei (above) inspired "Meditations on the Power of Community," a short film commenting on his paintings. Film director Lenora Lee is hosting a Q&A about her creation in the coming weeks, during AAPI Heritage Month.Jeffrey Sturges/Courtesy Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

This past year marked a tumultuous time for the United States’ vast Asian-American population of 20 million people. Marginalized communities bore the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic, and anti-Asian hate crimes increased by 60 percent in Boston, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino.

But May, which is AAPI Heritage Month, is a celebration of the diaspora and its resilience. Communities pay tribute to generations of residents and immigrants who have enriched America’s history.

Here are eight events and series that nod to the past, present, and future of the country’s AAPI community. All are held virtually.


PROJECTING CONNECTIONS: CHINESE AMERICAN EXPERIENCES With three short films available on demand through May 10, this series from Arts Emerson allows viewers to learn about lived experiences of the Chinese in the Greater Boston Area and beyond. Rick Quan’s “A Chinese American Giant: The Y.C. Hong Story,” Emiko Omori’s “Vanishing Chinatown: The World of the May’s Photo Studio,” and Weiying Olivia Huang’s “Meditations on the Power of Community,” featuring dance created by Pao Arts Center 2021 artist-in-residence Lenora Lee Dance, are screening. Access to a taped Q&A with the directors, moderated by Susan Chinsen, director of the Boston Asian American Film Festival, accompanies the films. Available through May 10. Pick your price, from free to $25.

ASIAN AND PACIFIC ISLANDER AMERICAN BOOK MONTH The Asian Author Alliance hosts more than a dozen discussions with AAPI authors and artists in May on its YouTube channel. Session topics focus on Asian YA romance and fantasy, food as cultural identity in stories, the mixed race lens, debunking model minority stereotypes, supporting “diverse diversity” within Asian-American voices, writing about racism in children’s literature, and more. Through May 27, free.

MEET THE MAKERS: AAPI STORIES AND FILMMAKERS The makers behind four new documentary films on the Asian diaspora are gathering to discuss their work, premiering in May on GBH’s World channel. The panelists include Baldwin Chiu and Larissa Lam (”Far East Deep South”), Hui Tong and Kelly Ng (”Curtain Up!”), Justin Feltman and Razi Jafri (”Hamtramck, USA”), and Yi Chen (”First Vote”). May 7, 1 p.m., free.


LIVE Q&A FOR MEDITATIONS ON THE POWER OF COMMUNITY Lenora Lee Dance choreographed “Meditations on the Power of Community,” in response to the Shen Wei: Painting in Motion exhibition at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. In this session, Lee will be joined by Cynthia Woo, director of the Pao Arts Center, filmmaker Weiying Olivia Huang, and Paul W. Lee, chair of the Asian Community Fund for a panel discussion about art, activism, and advocacy. May 11, 6 p.m., free.

STOP ASIAN HATE: VIRTUAL FORUM After hate crimes against Asian-Americans rose at an alarming rate this year, several experts will discuss the history of anti-Asian actions. The GBH-sponsored forum will also offer information on how to report hateful incidents and get emotional support. Panelists include Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins and Stop Asian Hate organizer Ryan Doan Nguyen. May 13, 6 p.m., free.

THE LARGER CONVERSATION: DELICATE BLEND Three Boston Asian-Americans — Ben Hires, CEO of Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center, photograher Mel Taing, and Fiona Phie, executive director, March For Our Lives: Boston — will touch on navigating life in the United States while staying connected to their cultural traditions and heritage. The panel is inspired by the Gardner Museum’s “Shen Wei: Painting in Motion,” exhibition (through June 20) and the Chinese-American artist’s interest in blending traditional Chinese and contemporary art practices. May 13, 6 p.m., free.


BRINGING ASIAN CUISINE TO THE AMERICAN TABLE In this webinar, Boston University associate professor Megan Elias will explore the diverse history of Asian and Asian Pacific food in the US. She’ll track how traditional ingredients have made their way into the American diet and detail the journeys of Asian-American cookbooks that made their mark. May 19, 3 p.m., free.

BUILDING AAPI POWER The Asian Community Fund and the Boston Foundation offer a data presentation assessing the needs of the AAPI community. Afterward, community leaders Carolyn Chou (Asian American Resource Workshop) and Souvanna Pouv (Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association of Greater Lowell) will talk about how those needs can be met to create lasting change. May 24, 2 p.m., free.

Diti Kohli can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @ditikohli_.

Diti Kohli can be reached at her @ditikohli_.