Ke Liko A’e O Lei Lehua danced on stage for API Heritage Month in 2013 at Seattle Center. This year’s event features performers such as Sigma Psi Zeta Step Dancers, bellydancing by Shiori, and more. • Courtesy Photo
Ke Liko A’e O Lei Lehua danced on stage for API Heritage Month in 2013 at Seattle Center. This year’s event features performers such as Sigma Psi Zeta Step Dancers, bellydancing by Shiori, and more. • Courtesy Photo

This year’s API Heritage Month Celebration in Seattle will showcase several new activities and musical events, and coordinators say it will be one of the busiest days at the Seattle Center this year.

Peter Tsai, chairperson for API Heritage Month, says he and other board members are especially excited about the extent that the younger generation has gotten involved in Seattle’s API community. Each year, the Asian Pacific Directors Coalition, which is the umbrella organization that puts on the event, receives volunteers from numerous colleges and high schools in the Greater Seattle area who become passionately involved.

“We try to include younger people as our emcee’s and lead volunteers to keep the interest high from year to the next, as the original folks slowly pass this on to the next generation,” says Tsai, who has been involved with the celebration for over 10 years. “It’s a real opportunity to develop some leadership in the community.”

The event this year boasts an impressive line-up that will be enjoyed across all age groups. Homegrown Asian American hip-hop artist Gowe will be the headlining act, and new this year, API Heritage Month has teamed up with Kollaboration, the pan-Asian Pacific Islander music and talent platform that started in Los Angeles and is now in 14 U.S. cities, including Seattle. Tsai says he thinks it’s great to have formed this partnership, especially with the burgeoning popularity of artists represented by Kollaboration. Once unknown outside of some Asian American fan groups, K-Pop and other forms of East Asian music have been making waves across all cultural groups in the past few years, and API Heritage Month will provide a platform for Seattelites to see the diversity of music and culture from the region all in one day.

“We hope the event will be educational and will let people know that May is API Heritage Month, a federal designation,” Tsai says. “It will be a fast-paced day with a different activity, something unique, every 15 minutes, with no downtime. There are nearly 20 groups that will showcase different aspects of the API community.”

The Chinese Information Service Center (CISC) is the fiscal sponsor for API Heritage Month celebration on May 3, and executive director Dorothy Wong says that events such as these are even more necessary today than in decades before.

“Many of the things that we fought for are disappearing,” Wong says. “It is very important for the young people to get involved and for them to ensure equal opportunities for the API community.”

Wong has been involved in numerous organizations throughout the years, both within the API and broader community, and is an ardent supporter of API representation. She is looking forward to this year’s celebration, and she fully backs the API Heritage Month’s committee in choosing hip-hop acts such as Gowe that capitalize on youth interests and trends.

The CISC was founded in 1972 by student volunteers in order to aid Chinese immigrants, especially senior citizens. Now in 2015, the CISC has grown to cover the needs of Asian Americans, bicultural families, and individuals of all ages. In order to stay relevant, an organization needs to evolve, and Wong says the community as a whole cannot become complacent. The young API community has a lot on their shoulders, she says, but she is hopeful.

In addition to musical acts at API Heritage Month, there will be cultural and historic performances, dances, youth drill teams, drumming, martial arts, and artists from around the state.

Returning for its second year is the Hum Bow eating contest. Last year participants included TV announcers, and politicians, including Mayor Ed Murray, and Tsai says this year’s contest still has openings for those who are up to the challenge.

The lively marketplace on site will also provide the opportunity for Seattle Center visitors to take home a piece of API heritage with them at the end of the day.

API Heritage Month Celebration, hosted by the Seattle Center’s Festal Series, in partnership with the Asian Pacific Directors Coalition, runs from 11:45 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 3, at the Seattle Center Armory, 305 Harrison Street. Free Admission.

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