Every year during the month of May, we celebrate Asians and Pacific Islanders and their contributions to American culture. This month was specifically chosen to commemorate the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States on May 7, 1843, and the completion of the transcontinental railroad, which was built by mostly Chinese immigrants, on May 10, 1869.
These 31 days acknowledge the accomplishments and contributions of the AAPI communities. Be it through their voices, skills, activism, food, fashion or music. You too can contribute to or visit these Portland AAPI organizations listed below.
APANO is a volunteer-led, statewide organization advocating for the interests of Asians and Pacific Islanders. They strive to unite communities across ethnicity, language, and age, and to address critical social justice issues in Oregon.
Located right in Southeast Portland, the Asian Health & Service Center‘s mission is “to be the bridge between Asian and American cultures and build a harmonious community” and “reduce health inequity and improve health care quality for all Asians.” Not only does the center have a plethora of multilingual staff, but they offer a variety of health and community- based services. From mental health clinics to wellness groups, and even weekly clubs.
In the early days of the pandemic, four Portland high school students founded Project Lotus to raise awareness about mental health in the Asian American community. Asian Americans are three times less likely to seek mental health assistance than other Americans. In particular, it has culturally been a taboo topic among families. Project Lotus seeks to bridge that gap with webinars, community blogs, and a podcast entitled “The Root Problem.”
Founded by members of the Portland Asian American dance rock band The Slants, the eponymous foundation believes in amplifying underrepresented voices that challenge conventional thinking. They continually work at the intersection of arts and activism while partnering creators with grassroots organizations to ultimately “transform systems.” They even give out grants and scholarships to artists who “counter hate with art,” and tackle social issues through non-traditional artistic approaches.
Lan Su Chinese Garden
An absolute icon in the Old Town Portland community, the Lan Su Chinese Garden was founded in 2000 to “cultivate an oasis of tranquil beauty and harmony.” Lan Su was built by Chinese artisans from Suzhou (our sister city) and is one the most authentic Chinese gardens outside of China.
Portland Japanese Garden
Said to be one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan by former Japanese ambassador to the United States, Nobuo Matsunaga, the 12-acre space includes an authentic Japanese tea house, streams, a koi pond, a gorgeous view of Mount Hood, and much more. It is also a nonprofit, created specifically to cultivate inner peace as well as harmony between people and cultures.
Japanese American Museum of Oregon
Located in downtown Portland, JAMO works to preserve and share the history and culture of the Nikkei community (Japanese immigrants and their descendants). A specific focus for the museum is World War II, when Japanese-Americans were forcibly sent to internment camps following the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941. Simultaneously, Japanese American soldiers, who were some of the most decorated in military history, fought and died for the United States while their own family members were imprisoned.
You can also check out our interview with the Minidoka Swing Band, whose members actively remember and honor the Japanese Americans who were interned during WWII.
Portland Chinatown Museum
Oregon’s first museum about Chinese American history, art, and culture opened to the public in 2018. Despite anti-Chinese legislation and racial discrimination, Chinese merchants and workers were the earliest and largest non-European immigrant group to settle in Oregon. By 1900, Portland’s Chinatown ranked as the second largest in America. This museum provides not only a cultural attraction, but contributes to the preservation and revitalization of Old Town Chinatown.
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