18 ways to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have endured a lot this year, both within and beyond the Bay Area. The AAPI community has historically been integral to the founding of San Francisco, of the Bay Area and California as a whole, thanks to its industrial and cultural contributions, and it continues to inform the zeitgeist that makes the Bay Area what it is today. 

It’s important now to show up and support the community for AAPI Heritage Month, and every day after. We’ve compiled a mix of in-person and online events that span music, dance, cinema and history for seasoned locals, visitors and newcomers to enjoy and learn from the vast spectrum of Bay Area residents who identify as part of the AAPI populace.

“The Paper Dreams of Harry Chin” (Through June 18, San Francisco Playhouse, 450 Post St., San Francisco, $15-$100): Playwright Jessica Huang’s award-winning and based-on-a-true-story play explores the repercussions of the Chinese Exclusion Act through Harry Chin, a “paper son” who forges his immigration papers upon arriving in the U.S. https://www.sfplayhouse.org/sfph/

“Seeing Gender” (Now through Sept. 5, Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St., San Francisco, $10-$15): In a first for the 50+-year-old institution, the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco has asked four curators to draw from its collection (which comprises more than 18,000 pieces) to explore how Asian artists have explored, imagined and interrogated gender. Maya Hara, Shinhwa Koo, Joanna Lee and Megan Merritt present a 16-piece curation that, much like the Bay Area, illustrates how gender can be “fluid or fixed, divine or sensual, subversive or orthodox.” https://exhibitions.asianart.org/

“We Are Bruce Lee” (Ongoing, Chinese Historical Society of America, 965 Clay St., San Francisco, $10): Bruce Lee is a Chinese American icon not only of cinema and martial arts, but also culture. This exhibition is a love letter to his legacy, which “transcended race, geography, and culture through uncanny strength and resilience.” https://www.wearebrucelee.org/

Taiwanese American Cultural Festival (10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Union Square, San Francisco, free): Celebrate the multifaceted culture of Taiwan and its American descendants with a slew of performers, storytellers, food and even tech on display. https://www.tafestival.org/

Kina Kantor and Jomar Tagatac star in “The Paper Dreams of Harry Chin,” a play by Jessica Huang about the repercussions of the Chinese Exclusion Act, running at San Francisco Playhouse through June 18. (Photo courtesy Jessica Palopoli)

Emmy-nominated filmmaker James Q. Chan hosts “Chinatown Short Films” (4-6 p.m. Saturday, Clarion Performing Arts Center, San Francisco, $10-$30): James Q. Chan hosts a Q&A and screening of two of his best documentary films, both of which center Asian American icons: “Bloodline” about the famous Vietnamese Californian cuisine chef Tu David Phu, and “Becoming Polka Dot,” chronicling San Francisco Chinatown fashion icon Dorothy Quock. ​​https://www.theclarionsf.org/

Elaine Hsieh Chou with Muriel Leung: “Disorientation” (7 p.m. Saturday, Green Apple Books, 1231 Ninth Ave., San Francisco, free with RSVP): Debut author Elaine Hsieh Chou joins Muriel Leung for a discussion of her book, “Disorientation,” a satire that tackles social issues both big and small while following 29-year-old Ph.D. student Ingrid Yang as she struggles to finish her dissertation. https://www.greenapplebooks.com/event

“HellaDesi Comedy Night” (7 p.m. every Sunday, Neck of the Woods, 406 Clement St., San Francisco, $0-$15): Laughter is medicine, and these Desi comedians want you to take your dose. With standups that have performed for Comedy Central, SF Sketchfest and Cobb’s Comedy Club, among others, the South Asian diaspora in the Bay abounds with giggles. https://sf.funcheap.com/event-series/sfs-desi-comedy-night/

“Guo Pei: Couture Fantasy” Tea, Talk, and Tour (9 a.m.- 1 p.m. May 10, Legion of Honor, 100 34th Ave., San Francisco, $65-$170): The couture designs of Guo Pei exude elegance, craft and opulence, so the Legion of Honor has created a morning worthy of the designer’s new exhibition. A morning tea will be followed by a talk with Jill D’Alessandro, curator of the costume and textile arts for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and a museum tour. https://legionofhonor.famsf.org/events

Wilson Shieh’s 1999 painting “Musical Bodies: Bango” is featured in Asian Art Museum’s “Seeing Gender” exhibition, which shows through Sept. 5. (Photo courtesy Asian Art Museum)

Screening of documentary film “Out of State” (5:30-7:30 p.m. May 11, online, free): Native Hawaiian filmmaker Ciara Lacy’s latest work is “Out of State,” a documentary that follows two Native Hawaiian inmates in a prison in Arizona as they navigate the carceral system and connect with their indigneous culture. The screening, hosted by UCSF, will be followed by a discussion with the director. http://tiny.ucsf.edu/4QHfBI

“Hella Tender: SF Chinatown Art Embrace” (11 a.m.-5:30 p.m. May 14, 2022, San Francisco Chinatown, free): We could also use some tenderness right now. This neighborhood hang — co-presented by the Asian American Women Artists Association and Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center — is a mix of art exhibitions and art workshops held in small businesses and public spaces all around Chinatown to connect with our neighbors and reap the creative benefits of the country’s first autonomous Asian communities. https://www.aawaa.net/hella-tender

Celebrating 25 Years of USAAF with “Generations of Power” (Noon-4 p.m. May 14, Japantown Peace Plaza, 1610 Geary Blvd., San Francisco, free): For its 25th anniversary, the United States of Asian America Festival presents a dynamic and multi-disciplinary showcase of spoken word, jazz fusion, story theater, classical North Indian dance and ritual performances. https://www.apiculturalcenter.org/usaaf_2022_calendar

“Music as Conversation with Vân-Ánh Võ and the Blood Moon Orchestra” (11:30 a.m. May 15, Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St., San Francisco, free with RSVP and museum admission, $10-$15): Music is a medium of resistance, and resilience, both of which color the experience of immigration. Emmy-winning composer and musician Vân-Ánh Võ is joined by her Blood Moon Orchestra and other musical guests to tell stories through dynamic performances. https://calendar.asianart.org/

“Immigration Stories of Asian American Women: Here Is Happiness” (3 p.m. May 15, online, free): Renowned storytellers Eleanor Clement Glass, Alton Takiyama-Chung and Janet Liu share personal anecdotes of their lives as global citizens with roots in Asia, including China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines and even Hawaii, as well as stories, folk tales and history informed by their communities at this Zoom event hosted by the Asian Art Museum. https://calendar.asianart.org/

AAPI Cultural Festival in Mountain View (Noon-4 p.m. May 14, Mountain View Civic Center, 500 Castro St., free): Santa Clara County is home to a bevy of AAPI diaspora communities, and multiple local organizations have coordinated to present a day of artistic performances and cultural booths representing groups from the Korean, Chinese, Malaysian and Indian communities. https://aapisiliconvalley.wixsite.com/home

Chinese fashion designer Guo Pei’s porcelain-inspired dresses are part of the “Guo Pei: Couture Fantasy” exhibition showing at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco through Sept. 5. (Photo courtesy the Gary Sexton/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco)

Rahiti Dance (Noon May 21, Western Addition Library, 1550 Scott St., San Francisco): For 30 years, the Rahiti Dance company has been a pioneering and award-winning Bay Area Polynesian dance group that incorporates dance styles form Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa and New Zealand. Don’t worry, they have more shows scheduled for June, too. https://www.rahiti.com/events.html

Indonesian Bazaar (11 a.m.-3 p.m. May 21, La Cocina Municipal Marketplace, 332 Golden Gate Ave., San Francisco, free): The many islands that make up Indonesia have enjoyed a rich and long culinary history, and now you get to taste it. Join an afternoon of Indonesian food, fashion and traditional dance. https://friendsofindonesiasf.org/

Berkeley South Asian Radical History Walking Tour (10 a.m. and 2 p.m. May 22, 2712 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, $12.50-$17.50): Berkeley’s South Asian community has a long history of political, cultural and community action in the Bay Area, though it’s not always obvious. Hosts and organizers Barnali Ghosh and Anirvan Chatterjee will guide you around the city on a two-mile crash course on historical sites, stories and contributions. https://www.berkeleysouthasian.org/

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