May has been an important month for me for almost my entire professional career doing policy work in Washington, DC. As Asian American/Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPIHM), it has served as an opportunity to focus on the communities I’ve served, lift up issues such as immigration, cultural and linguistic competence, and address anti-Asian violence and racial discrimination. From its modest beginnings in 1977 when it was just the first week of May, to 1992 when it became officially designated for the entire month, it was chosen initially to recognize both the completion of the transcontinental railroad and the role Chinese laborers played there as well as the arrival of the first cohort of Japanese immigrants.
May is also the month when Memorial Day commemorates those soldiers who have fallen in the line of battle and given, in President Lincoln’s words, “the last full measure of devotion.” The Filipino World War II veterans I worked for remembered their fallen comrades even as they continued to fight a different struggle — for the simple dignity of recognition from the government under whose flag they fought. I’ve recently become involved with the Filipino Word War II Veterans Recognition and Education Project to ensure that as they age, their legacy and contribution to our country is not forgotten.
At the Diverse Elders Coalition, we celebrate May as Older Americans Month. I’ve appreciated the time I’ve spent here learning from elders of color and LGBT elders about the challenges they face and the resilience they’ve shown in the face of adversity. Established in 1963 as a result of discussions between President John F. Kennedy and what is now the Alliance for Retired Americans, Older Americans Month recognizes the contributions of older persons. This May, we will mark the month in a number of ways, including:
- Diverse Elders Story Initiative: Lifting up real experiences from elders of color and LGBT elders and connecting them to the issues we care about;
- White House Conference on Aging: Providing updates on the White House Conference on Aging and our work to increase the role our communities play in this once in a decade opportunity; and
- Connecting Our Communities: Using social media to make the vital connections between the constituencies our members serve; highlighting common work with common cause and how we are all working for a more inclusive discussion on policies that work for ALL older people.
Announcing our work for this month on May 1, I also recognize May Day and the international solidarity workers across the globe celebrate today. Indeed, it was older workers in the labor movement that helped create Older Americans Month as the National Council of Senior Citizens.
I welcome you to follow us all month at our blog here, or our social media presence on Facebook and Twitter. We will be making some exciting announcements and look forward to making more announcements about positive changes for the communities we serve!
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.