This year’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, which begins May 1, continues to evolve. There are at least three factors changing the month, first recognized as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in 1990. It had previously been just a week, and Islander was added in 1992.
In 2021, as in 2020, the month will be celebrated under pandemic conditions. This year, rising protests against anti-Asian hate give the month a sharper edge. And now, the month’s focus is expanding as May is more frequently noted as APIDA month. That stands for Asian Pacific Islander Desi American.
Desi embraces South Asian people, typically those from or with ancestry in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The subcontinent also includes Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. Afghanistan and the Maldives are often considered part of South Asia, too.
Desi is from the Sanskrit word for a native of a “desh” or country. Desi is not a nationalistic designation, but rather, it is pan-ethnic and used in the name of the month to complete the concept of who Asian Americans are.
So far, the Bias Busters series has guides on East Asian cultures and Indian Americans. One on Sikh Americans, who are rooted in Punjab, is in the works. “100 Questions and Answers About East Asian Cultures” is available from Amazon or the Front Edge Publishing bookstore.