Things to Do

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Celebrations Around DC

AAPI food talks, film screenings, festivals, and other things to do throughout the month of May

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, which commemorates the contributions and achievements Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders made to American history. From lectures to workshops and festivals, here are a few ways to celebrate in DC.

1. Living Earth Festival: Saving Sacred Spaces

Now through May 15
The virtual film festival series from the Museum of the American Indian explores issues impacting spaces sacred to indigenous groups in Alaska, Hawai‘i, and Utah. Community members will discuss efforts to protect sites of cultural significance, including Dr. LilikalaKame‘eleihiwa, who is Native Hawaiian, on Mauna Kea, Hawai‘i’s highest mountain. The event can be viewed here.

2. “Memory, Experience & Imagination in Works of Lao & Hmong American Authors” virtual talk

May 2, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
The Library of Congress is holding a virtual lecture during which 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 against the backdrop 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 Movie 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 actual Polynesian islands and nations. Registration is required and so are masks for attendees over the age of two.

4. Celebrate Eid at the 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 plaza. There will be music by the Syrian Music Preservation Initiative and the Zaynab Ensemble as well as calligraphers and henna artists. Enjoy food from local Egyptian restaurant Fava Pot, and while you’re at the museum, be sure to check out exhibitions, such as Engaging the Senses and Fashioning an Empire: Safavid Textiles from the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha. Register here.

5. “The Ancient Art of Henna Tattoos” workshop

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 Ancient Art of Henna Tattoos” workshop. Participants will learn more about the traditional Indian art’s history and give a try at their own henna design. Tickets start at $45.

6. Dear Corky pre-premiere screening at 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 pre-premiere screening of his short documentary, Dear Corky, about the “undisputed, unofficial Asian American photographic laureate” Corky Lee. Afterward, the filmmakers will participate in a panel discussion with leading photojournalists about Corky’s legacy as an AAPI artist. May 10 marks the anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, which Chinese migrants helped built. Throughout his career, Lee photographed the descendants of Chinese workers excluded from the 1869 “Champagne Photo,” taken upon the railroad’s completion. Register for the free event here.

7. “Food for the Body and Soul: Advocating for Community through Culinary Traditions” seminar

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 prepare recipes influenced by her family’s heritage from Taishan, a village in the Guangdong Province of China. 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 Panel Discussion of Vincent Who at the Eaton DC Hotel

May 11, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Eaton DC Hotel will screen 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 auto workers at the height of 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 #StopAsianHate movement. Seating is limited and is on a first-come basis.

9. “Korean Dishes with Magpie and the Tiger” cooking demo

May 13, 12-1 p.m.
The US Botanical Garden is holding a free virtual cooking demo with Korean American restaurant Magpie and Tiger’s chefs Caleb Jang and Roren Choi. They will demonstrate how to make shikhye (Korean rice punch) and hwae dup babp (Korean fresh bowl with raw fish). Register here.

10. Cambodian Art Exhibition: Blessing Ceremony, Q&A with Filmmaker praCh Ly

May 14, 2-3 p.m.
Join the Museum of Asian Art in a communal blessing ceremony at the Freer North Plaza for the “Revealing Krishna: Journey to Cambodia’s Sacred Mountain” exhibition. It will be led by two monks from the Cambodian Buddhist temple Watt Buddhacheya Mongkol in Woodbridge. Afterward, there will be a Q&A at the exhibit with rapper and filmmaker praCh Ly, who directed the short documentary Satook, which focuses on four Cambodians who left the country as a result of the Khmer Rouge genocide. The film examines the transformation of Cambodia’s religious tradition through the lens of war and immigration. Satook will be screened continuously in the “Revealing Krishna: Journey to Cambodia’s Sacred Mountain” exhibition. Register for the blessing ceremony here.

11. No-No Boy concert at Songbyrd

May 15, 7 p.m.
Part of the Smithsonian’s “Asian Pacific America Music” series, No-No Boy will perform at Songbyrd. No-No Boy, a Smithsonian Folkways artist, is a folk music project inspired by songwriter Julian Saporiti’s family history of living through the Vietnam War. His album 1975, named after the year Saigon fell during the Vietnam War, digs into his own family heritage as well as other stories of immigration in the United States, by interweaving histories and field recordings into his songs. Tickets are $12.

12. “News from Central Asia”: Exhibition of Wearable Art

May 16-22, 10-5
A weeklong schedule 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 hosted by Central Asian artists, tastemakers, and designers where participants can make their own jewelry; there will also be screenings of movies 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 Fiesta Asia Street will celebrate AAPI Heritage Month in downtown DC with a day of festivities representing over 20 cultures across Asia. There will be live music performances, a cultural parade, exhibits of tradition and contemporary Asian crafts, and a diverse array of Asian cuisines from local restaurants and vendors.

14. Experience the art of Indonesian batik

May 21, 1-4 p.m.
Join Indonesian artists Agus Ismoyo and Nia Fliam in the Moongate Garden at the Smithsonian Castle, where they will discuss and teach the traditional Javanese batik textile process. Register here.

15. “Plant-Based Asian Food Then & Now” webinar

May 25, 6-7 p.m.
In this event organized by the Museum of Asian Art, Joe Yonan, the Washington Post’s food and dining editor, will moderate 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 plant dairy brand. Register for the free event here.

16. A South Asian Pop-up at The Outrage

May 28, 12-5 p.m.
The Outrage, an activism-oriented apparel shop, will host a pop-up event featuring local South Asian-owned businesses.

David Tran
Editorial Fellow