Asian American and Pacific Islander History / Our History

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Media.Monks

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Every year in May, in recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Media.Monks works to amplify awareness of the achievements and challenges of the AAPI community and their contributions to US history as well as today’s society. Throughout the month, we’ll spread the love by highlighting our AAPI community group and amazing employee base in their work towards celebrating the unique history and incredible impact of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.

President Jimmy Carter designated May 4 to 10 as the official Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week on October 5, 1978. This moment in time signifies an important victory for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, the result of a long uphill battle during which both groups worked hard to prove their legitimacy to the national government. Following a pattern similar to the establishing of other heritage celebrations in the United States, it took more than a decade for Congress to pass a bill signed by President George H.W. Bush in May 1990, finally extending the week into a whole month. Years and many celebrations later, President Barack Obama officially changed the name to Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. 

The inauguration of May as the official Asian American and Pacific Islander Month was not a matter of chance, as it commemorates two crucial events in time. On May 7, 1843, the first Japanese migrants arrived in the United States, and on May 10, 1869, primarily Chinese laborers completed the construction of the transcontinental railroad on what is known as Golden Spike Day—literally and figuratively connecting East to West. 

At Media.Monks, we operate under people-centric values that empower our employees to build, innovate and work together as one team—where everyone belongs and everyone has a voice. We focus on fostering an environment where everyone feels at home by treating people in the way they want to be treated, encouraging colleagues to raise their voices, and working together to complement our differences and learn from one another. To that end, we support each and every person in creating community groups in recognition and honor of our unique identities and affinities. Ultimately, this helps create space for employees to share and celebrate both contrasting and common life experiences.

In recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, members of our DEI and Culture team and our AAPI Community Group have come together to reflect on and celebrate the history of these communities.

 

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Andrew Kondo Weigl

Chicago, Illinois

I’ve been with Media.Monks for: 3 months

My role: Associate Creative Director & Copywriter 

What AAPI History Month means to me: To me, it means a time to acknowledge the past and look to the future, while celebrating our collective accomplishments and honoring our losses. It’s an opportunity for self-reflection on how being Asian American has and continues to affect my life. 

A moment in AAPI history that has influenced or shaped me the most: Though it was before my time, the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII, including my American-born grandparents and aunt, has had a profound effect on my perception of the realities of the country that my family, friends, brothers, sisters, son and I in solidarity live in. The intimacy and connection I share with those who lived through it have made it an undeniable part of my own story. 

I am inspired by: Japanese American civil rights activist Yuri Kochiyama.

Monk Thoughts A time to acknowledge the past and look to the future. To celebrate our collective accomplishments and honor our losses. A chance for self-reflection on how being Asian American has and continues to affect my life.
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Nicholas Seo

New York City, New York

I’ve been with Media.Monks for: Almost 7 years

My role: Director, Go-to-Market for Commerce

What AAPI History Month means to me: Many things! Most importantly, it celebrates the diversity and richness across Asian and Pacific regions by honoring our past and reflecting on the present, which means casting a spotlight to remember and respect the heritage that has shaped our history and taking time to decipher what it means to be Asian in America today, and to shine a light on pressing issues that impact our future.

A moment in AAPI history that has influenced or shaped me the most: Again, many things, but in more recent memory, I would say the proliferation of Asian and Asian American representation in mass media and the growing acceptance of our stories as being "universal"—as having the shared condition of being human. This includes literature like "Minor Feelings" by Cathy Park Hong to cinema, like "Minari" by Lee Isaac Chung, and much more. The amplification of Asian American voices has inspired me to embrace my own AAPI identity, which I once shied away from.

I am inspired by: Grace Lee Boggs, a prominent Chinese American human rights activist, who was on the frontlines in the fight for social justice for minority communities, radicalizing what it meant to be an “American” in society.

Monk Thoughts AAPI History Month celebrates the diversity and richness across Asian and Pacific regions by honoring our past and reflecting on the present.
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Deborah Kuzma

Los Angeles, California 

I’ve been with Media.Monks for: 6 months

My role: Senior Art Director 

What AAPI History Month means to me: It gives me a chance to reflect upon my immigrant family's past and how it has shaped my personal life experiences.

A moment in AAPI history that has influenced or shaped me the most: The high-profile departure of Ann Curry from her post as co-host of NBC's TODAY in 2012 shaped my view of the continued need for conversation regarding the female Asian-American experience in the workplace.

I am inspired by: Kamala Harris, the Vice President of the United States of America.

Monk Thoughts It gives me a chance to reflect upon my immigrant family's past and how it has shaped my personal life experiences.
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Kervin Ray Morales 

New York City, New York

I’ve been with Media.Monks for: 2 years and 2 months

My role: Design Lead/Senior Art Director 

What AAPI History Month means to me: To me, AAPI history month is a month of proactive observance and acknowledgement. I’m proud of my Filipino heritage and it’s important to me to reflect and spotlight all the amazing creative work coming from the community. 

A moment in AAPI history that has influenced or shaped me the most: I don’t know if I would point to a specific moment in AAPI history, but seeing the recent increase in violence towards AAPI individuals has made me understand the importance of our visibility and community. 

I am inspired by: José Rizal has always been an inspiration to me. Outside of his political work, he also wrote beautiful poems and books about love, war and people.

Monk Thoughts AAPI history month is a month of proactive observance and acknowledgement for me. I’m proud of my Filipino heritage and it’s important to me to reflect and spotlight all the amazing creative work coming from the community.
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Tiffanie Jan Lee

New York City, New York

I’ve been with Media.Monks for: 9 months

My role: Associate Creative Director

What AAPI History Month means to me: This is a simple question, but the answer is complicated. AAPI Heritage Month seems like a relatively new concept, or at least the mainstream celebration of it. Growing up, this wasn't a thing, but it is for kids today, and that is so important. I rarely saw people who looked like me mirrored in textbooks, unless it was about wars or quite frankly, stereotypes and antiquities. But whenever my passions brought me to fellow AAPI people across music, art, culture, media and activism, it always gave me the courage to continue doing my thing. My hope is that young people won't have to work so hard to find their communities and to feel seen, heard and safe. While AAPI Heritage month is about awareness and education, it is also very much about making visible the beauty across our vast diaspora—with all of our myriad nuances.

A moment in AAPI history that has influenced or shaped me the most: There isn't one moment per se. However, both Taiwan and Hong Kong New Wave cinema, think of directors like Hou Hsiao Hsien and Wong Kar Wai, heavily influenced me in my younger years. I'm also really into contemporary AAPI photographers like Peter Ash Lee, Zorawar Waraich, Heather Sten, Justin Wee and Kee Dinesh.

I am inspired by: Doris Ho-Kane. She is an archivist and community activist who has tirelessly and single-handedly illuminated AAPI and API women's history around the world. The type of stories she has documented are truly stunning—all real history that's been invisibilized and marginalized from culture and curriculum. Superwoman status!

Monk Thoughts ... while AAPI Heritage month is about awareness and education, it is also very much about making visible the beauty across our vast diaspora—with all of our myriad nuances.
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Jemm Cellan

Ontario, Canada

I’ve been with Media.Monks for: 2 years and 8 months

My role: Senior Product Marketing Manager

What AAPI History Month means to me: To me, it means adaptability and a strong sense of belonging, wherever I may be. 

A moment in AAPI history that has influenced or shaped me the most: Both my grandmother and grandfather were guerilla fighters and war veterans during WWII. Their colorful stories are inspiring and humbling at the same time. More importantly, they helped shape how I tackle challenges today and how I pick my battles on a daily basis.

I am inspired by: While there are many Filipino icons, the one that springs to mind is Lea Salonga. Filipinos are almost always associated with our shared love for music and I am no exception. Lea is best known for her theater roles—Miss Saigon and Les Misérables, to name a few—and she was the singing voice behind Princess Jasmine and Mulan.

Monk Thoughts It means adaptability and a strong sense of belongingness wherever I may be.
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Lani Tuitasi

Los Angeles, California

I’ve been with Media.Monks for: 4 years

My role: Director of Cultural Innovation

What AAPI History Month means to me: My Polynesian heritage—I’m a mixed Samoan, Tongan, and European Pacific Islander in the States—has always been important to me. I'm passionate about writing stories that centralize Polynesian American voices as well as exploring ways to own our narratives as a community. While the islands are small, the power of our culture is big and I want the world to know. 

A moment in AAPI history that has influenced or shaped me the most: During Samoa's fight from colonial rule, the women fearlessly protected the men who were under attack, peacefully protesting through dance and helping lead legislative efforts to successfully gain independence. My ancestry is rooted in the Mau and I try to tap into their strength and bravery in everything I do—from writing Polynesian stories to delivering big pitches at work. This AAPI month I honor them, my ancestors, and the Polynesian women today who carry their legacy. Fa'afetai.

I am inspired by: I am most influenced by the women of the Mau Movement in Samoa in the 1920s.

Monk Thoughts My Polynesian heritage has always been important to me…While the islands are small, the power of our culture is big and I want the world to know.
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Matthew Au

New York City, New York

I’ve been with Media.Monks for: 2 years

My role: Brand Manager

What AAPI History Month means to me: To me, it's the time when I can unabashedly and unapologetically show off why I'm proud to be Asian American and the highs and lows that my family has experienced in the past, present and future. It's a time for me to reflect on my heritage and, especially for a third-generation Hong Konger-American like myself, to think about what it means for me to be both Asian and American—when to be "more Asian" or "more American," knowing that I’ll never be fully Asian or fully American. As a linguist and polyglot, AAPIHM is also a time when I, pragmatically, am more thoughtful about my culture and the role of language. I’m not able to communicate fluently with my grandparents, so I think of how so many other Americans don't know how much they take for granted that they can speak to their grandparents about more than just food, mahjong or the weather.

A moment in AAPI history that has influenced or shaped me the most: I will never forget the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which is the only US law ever passed by Congress that prevents a specific ethnic or national group from entering the United States.

I am inspired by: Too many to name, but Vera Wang stands out in particular.

Monk Thoughts AAPIHM is a celebration of the diversity of Asian and Pacific Islander cultures that exist. To me, it's the time when I can unabashedly, unapologetically (and with no qualifiers) show off why I'm proud to be Asian American…
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Brittany Calvo

Oahu, Hawaii

I’ve been with Media.Monks for: Almost 4 years

My role: Creative Ops Manager

What AAPI History Month means to me: AAPI History Month is important to me because it presents an opportunity to share and raise awareness of the many, many cultures that make up Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, as well as challenges that our community continues to face.

A moment in AAPI history that has influenced or shaped me the most: I’m inspired by my grandfather, Paul McDonald Calvo. Amongst the many other wonderful and inspiring things that he has accomplished, he served as Governor of Guam and in 1980 signed legislative Bill 417 into Public Law 15-128, creating the first Commission on Self-Determination (CSD) for the People of Guam. The Commission on Self-Determination was tasked with gauging the desire of the people of Guam as to their future relationship with the United States. 

I am inspired by: Furthermore, I’m inspired by the Hawaiian activist, educator, author and poet Haunani-Kay Trask.

Monk Thoughts AAPI History Month is important to me because it presents an opportunity to share and raise awareness of the many many cultures that make up Asian American Pacific Islanders, and challenges our community continues to face.
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