A previous street fair Fiesta Asia; photo by S. Pakhrin via Wikimedia Commons.
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, which commemorates the contributions and achievements of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to American history. From talks to workshops and festivals, here are some ways to celebrate in DC.
1. Living Earth Festival: Saving Sacred Spaces
Now until May 15
The Museum of the American Indian’s virtual film festival series explores issues affecting sacred spaces for Indigenous groups in Alaska, Hawai’i and Utah. Community members will discuss efforts to protect culturally significant sites, including Dr. Lilikala Kame’eleihiwa, who is of Hawaiian descent, on Mauna Kea, Hawaii’s highest mountain. The event can be viewed here.
2. Virtual Conference “Memory, Experience, and Imagination in the Works of Lao and Hmong American Authors”
May 2, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
The Library of Congress is hosting a virtual conference where Lao and Hmong American authors Kao Kalia Yang, Bryan Thao Worra, and Thavisouk Phrasavath will reflect on their work. The program aims to explore “the role of memory, experience and imagination in each author’s writings in the context of the Vietnam War and its aftermath”, as well as other topics such as global migration, refugees and the Laotian and Hmong diaspora. Register here.
3. Family Cinema Day: Moana at MLK Library
May 7, 1-3 p.m.
Join the MLK Library for a Free Screening of Disney’s Moana, an animated film about the adventures of a girl from the fictional island of Motunui, which is inspired by the culture and history of the real Polynesian islands and nations. Registration is mandatory, as are masks for participants over the age of two.
4. Celebrate Eid at Freer North Plaza
May 7, 2-4:30 p.m.
The Museum of Asian Art is hosting a festive afternoon of music, food and art to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday marking the end of Ramadan, in its square. There will be music from the Syrian Music Preservation Initiative and Ensemble Zaynab as well as calligraphers and henna artists. Savor food from local Egyptian restaurant Fava Pot, and while you’re at the museum, be sure to visit the exhibits, such as Engage the senses and Shaping an Empire: Safavid Textiles from the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha. Register here.
5. Workshop “The ancient art of henna tattooing”
May 8, 1-4:30 p.m.
If you couldn’t get enough henna at the Eid festival, be sure to visit the S. Dillon Ripley Center for the “The Ancient Art of Henna Tattoos” workshop. Participants will learn about the history of traditional Indian art and try their own henna design. Tickets start at $45.
6. Dear Corky preview at the MLK Library
May 10, 6:30-8 p.m.
At this event, organized by the DC Public Library, the Asian American Journalists Association and the 1882 Foundation, join producer Curtis Chin for a preview screening of his short documentary, Dear Corky, about the “undisputed and unofficial winner of Asian-American photography” Corky Lee. Next, the filmmakers will participate in a panel discussion with prominent photojournalists on Corky’s legacy as an AAPI artist. May 10 marks the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railway, which Chinese migrants helped build. Throughout his career, Lee photographed the descendants of Chinese laborers excluded from the 1869 “Champagne Photo”, taken upon the completion of the railroad. Register for the free event here.
7. Seminar “Food for Body and Soul: Community Advocacy through Culinary Traditions”
May 10, 6:45-8:15 p.m.
In partnership with the Museum of American History and the Anacostia Community Museum, chef/owner Janet Yu of Hollywood East Cafe in Wheaton will share stories and cook recipes influenced by her family’s heritage from Taishan, a village in provincial China. from Guangdong. Yu will also discuss preserving and sharing Chinese food culture as a form of advocacy. Register for the free virtual event here.
8. Screening and round table of Vincent who at the Eaton DC Hotel
May 11, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Eaton DC Hotel will project Vincent who, a documentary exploring the history of the Asian American civil rights movement and the 1982 murder of Vincent Chin. Chin, who was of Chinese descent, was killed by two white autoworkers during the height of the anti-Japanese sentiment. After the screening, there will be a panel discussion with producer Curtis Chin on the growing number of anti-Asian hate crimes and the #StopAsianHate movement. Places are limited and on a first come basis.
9. Cooking demonstration “Korean dishes with magpie and tiger”
May 13, 12-1 p.m.
The American Botanical Garden is hosting a free virtual cooking demonstration with American Korean restaurant Magpie and Tiger chefs Caleb Jang and Roren Choi. They will show how shikhye (Korean rice punch) and hwae dup bapp (Korean fresh bowl with raw fish). Register here.
10. Cambodian art exhibition: blessing ceremony, questions and answers with filmmaker praCh Ly
May 14, 2-3 p.m.
Join the Asian Art Museum in a joint blessing ceremony at Freer North Plaza for the exhibition ‘Revealing Krishna: Journey to Cambodia’s Sacred Mountain’. It will be led by two monks from the Cambodian Buddhist temple Watt Buddhacheya Mongkol in Woodbridge. Then there will be a Q&A at the exhibition with rapper and filmmaker praCh Ly, who directed the short documentary satook, which focuses on four Cambodians who left the country following the Khmer Rouge genocide. The film examines the transformation of Cambodia’s religious tradition through the prism of war and immigration. satook will be screened continuously in the exhibition “Revealing Krishna: Journey to the Sacred Mountain of Cambodia”. Register for the blessing ceremony here.
11. No-No Boy Concert at Songbyrd
May 15, 7 p.m.
As part of the Smithsonian’s “Asian Pacific America Music” series, No-No Boy will perform at Songbyrd. Smithsonian Folkways artist No-No Boy is a folk music project inspired by the family history of songwriter Julian Saporiti who lived during the Vietnam War. his album 1975, named after the year in which Saigon fell during the Vietnam War, draws on his own family heritage as well as other stories of immigration to the United States, interweaving stories and field recordings in his songs. Tickets are $12.
12. “News from Central Asia”: Wearable Art Exhibition
May 16-22, 10-5
A week-long program of festivities at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs commemorates GW’s decade-long Central Asia program. Throughout the week, there will be creative workshops led by artists, trendsetters and designers from Central Asia where participants can create their own jewelry; there will also be screenings of films and documentaries exploring life in Central Asia. On May 22, there will be a Silk Road Festival that celebrates Central Asian art, culture and food. Get tickets here.
13. Fiesta Asia Street Fair
May 21, 11-7
The 17th Asia Street Fiesta will celebrate AAPI Heritage Month in downtown DC with a day of festivities representing more than 20 cultures across Asia. There will be live music performances, a cultural parade, displays of traditional and contemporary Asian crafts, and a wide range of Asian cuisines from local restaurants and vendors.
14. Discover the art of Indonesian batik
May 21, 1-4 p.m.
Join Indonesian artists Agus Ismoyo and Nia Fliam in the Smithsonian Castle’s Moongate Garden, where they will discuss and teach the traditional textile process of Javanese batik. Register here.
15. Webinar “Asian Plant-Based Cuisine Then and Now”
May 25, 6-7 p.m.
In this event organized by the Museum of Asian Art, Joe Yonan, the Washington Post’The food and restaurant editor will host an intimate conversation exploring the history of plant-based eating in Asian and Asian American cuisines with cookbook author and TikToker Joanne Lee Molinaro (aka TheKoreanVegan ) and Miyoko Schinner, founder of Miyoko’s Creamery, a brand of plant-based dairy products. Register for the free event here.
16. A South Asian pop-up at The Outrage
May 28, 12 p.m.-5 p.m.
The Outrage, an activism-focused clothing boutique, will host a pop-up event featuring local South Asian-owned businesses.