May has been the dedicated month to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islanders since 1979. It was officially designated in 1992 and selected to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the U.S. in May 1843 and the completion of the transcontinental railroad in May 1869 that was made possible by thousands of Chinese laborers.
As a member of the AAPI community, I put together a guide of “do’s and don’ts” for celebrating in AND with the community.
Do try new cuisines at local Arlington restaurants! There is room at the table for you to expand your palette – from staples like phở and ramen to delicacies like kao soi and braised duck, there’s plenty to try!
Do consider ordering take-out (if you can’t dine in) from the restaurants below instead of a sad, frozen single meal. It’ll taste so much better. Promise.
Do educate yourself in the different cultures and communities. Learn more about the challenges the AAPI community has faced and is currently facing. Being an advocate makes a difference.
When celebrating AAPI culture, it’s best to let your Asian friends shine. It’s wonderful that you studied abroad in Asia for a semester, have a kimono, or are a self-proclaimed eggroll expert – but let your Asian friends own their heritage. That’s kind of the whole point.
Don’t refer to AAPIs as a monolith by repeating or publicizing damaging stereotypes. The AAPI community is diverse and made up of many cultures, languages, religions, foods, and traditions. Stereotypes perpetuate inequality and place a detrimental burden on those affected as they affect how we think about, and behave toward, other people. It’s harmful. Besides, it’s 2023. Enough said.
Don’t put the burden of learning on the shoulders of the AAPI community. If you want to learn how to use specific utensils, YouTube is free. Google is also free, and you can ask anything! Knowledge is power, and the ability to gain knowledge is all around.
Don’t check a box for May and move on. Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage can’t be measured or limited to a sole month or event (nor can anyone's heritage fit into that restraint). Support AAPIs and their businesses in Arlington all year!
Defining a heritage is much more than feasting on unique cuisines, wearing traditional clothes, and watching a dance or performance. It’s about understanding a way of life different from our own and respecting the wealth of knowledge and skills that have been passed down generationally – sometimes over a whole ocean – to get to Arlington today.
Here are some other ways that you can celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander cultures and contributions while supporting the Arlington AAPI community!
Asian Heritage Fest at Asia Times Square
The annual Asian Heritage Fest at Asia Times Square will take place on May 12th-14th, 2023 in honor of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month. The festival will feature a wide variety of food vendors that sell authentic, mouthwatering Asian cuisine and performances that showcase traditional and modern music and dances. Most importantly, visitors will have the opportunity to learn about the history and contributions of national and local Asian Americans to American society. Various cultural displays and exhibits will highlight the achievements and struggles of Asian Americans throughout history!
Ben Thanh Plaza
Did you know that Ben Thanh Plaza is named in reference to Chợ Bến Thành that has existed in South Vietnam since the early 17th century?
Yes, Ben Thanh Plaza is a supermarket and hub for many Asian-owned businesses on Pioneer Parkway. But did you notice the honorary street toppers on Browning Street and New York Avenue? The Vietnamese name on those toppers can be traced to the monument of General Trần Hưng Đạo that stands in the front of the plaza by the gates. Read more about the revered General and how his statue came to be in Arlington
here before you go!
With Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Sympathizer
, being released in 2024 by MAX as a limited series
, the Vietnam war and its aftermath will be highlighted again for the American public. Arlington has its own place to reflect on the lives that were forever changed by this war at Veteran’s Park.
A Vietnam War memorial was added to Veteran’s Park in 2015. The sculpture by Mark Byrd features American and South Vietnamese soldiers fighting together. While there are many memorials dedicated to the American soldiers who fought in the Vietnam War, this is one of the few that honors members of the South Vietnam military. South Vietnamese troops and Americans that fought side by side. Members of Arlington's Vietnamese American population helped lead this project.
The International Corridor
Running along Pioneer Parkway, the International Corridor is a diverse commercial and cultural area of Arlington. You could explore some of the unique cuisines available in Arlington - from Thai and Vietnamese, to Indian and Nepalese, to Cajun, and Middle Eastern to name a few!
Asia Times Square
No, it’s not Sài Gòn either – but Asia Times Square, one of the largest Asian markets in Texas Times, has grown from a market that served the community to a multi-purpose center with restaurants, boutiques, grocers, beauty and health providers, and other retailers. Visitors can experience a myriad of Asian cultures through traditional celebrations mingled with modern cuisine and entertainment.
Click each button for a full list of restaurants.