The annual Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month Celebration (APIHMC) kicked off this year on May 1, 2022, at Seattle Center in the Armory Hall. The event drew thousands of attendees throughout the day. This year’s program includes 15 featured acts and performances, including the much-anticipated Alan Sugiyama Hum Bow Eating Contest, cultural and modern dance teams, one martial art demonstration and a book reading – to name a few.
The Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month Celebration is part of the Seattle Center Festal series and produced in partnership with the Asian Pacific Directors Coalition (APDC) This is the 20th year the Seattle Center has collaborated with AANHPI community planners to bring together and present cultural focus, identity, and the collective stories of Asian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander heritage.
The Alan Sugiyama Hum Bow Eating Contest, previously known as the Celebrity Hum Bow Eating Contest, this year featured six notable local chefs and food related personalities. The highlight of this event was preceded by a moving speech remembering Al Sugiyama by Monique Le, host of Afternoons with Monique show (writer of this article).
Alan Sugiyama, who passed away in 2017, was a social and civil rights activist who fought racial discrimination against the AANHPI community for five decades. He founded this annual event’s planning committee and weaved an indelible thread of AANHPI heritage and traditions into the colorful fabric of Seattle’s diverse community some 20 years ago. Sugimaya also co-founded the Center for Career Alternatives (CCA) with Peter Tsai, the current APIHMC planning committee chair. Over 35 years, CCA has helped more than 30,000 people in King and Snohomish county find employment and start a new life. Mr. Sugiyama was also the first Asian American to be elected to the Seattle School Board and served for eight years.
Jack Woo, previously the owner of Tokyo Dog, won the hum bow eating contest. He said after the contest, “I came to support the AAPI community, didn’t expect it to be so fun… Honored and delighted to be the winner of this year’s Hum Bow Eating Contest. This API Heritage event is an important message of our history and struggles.”
Among the performers were some rousing performances from the Seattle Chinese Drill Team, the always-present International Lion Dance Team, and Japanese drums group Kaze Daiko Taiko; colorful cultural dances from MiYoung Margolis Dance Collective, Huayin Performing Arts group, Halau Hula Ka Lei Monkihana I Ka Ua Noe, UW Traditional Chinese Dance; modern dances from the UW Vietnamese Student Association dance troupe, Live2Dance Seattle Bollywood dance troupe, and the UW K-Pop dance group The Kompany. There was also a children’s book reading by author Cindy Wong-Li. Nikhil Bagga, a 12-year-old Seattle based prodigy singer, song writer and guitarist delighted and impressed the audience with his band.
One of the major themes in this year APIHMC is still the Anti-Asian sentiment lurking in society’s collective consciousness, becoming prevalent in the pandemic years. Throughout the event, different speakers touched on this and reminded all in attendance the unique cultural identity the AANHPI community possesses, and the importance of true tolerance and acceptance.
One of the attendees of the event, Miss Seattle Teen USA 2021 Tara Le Gardner, a Vietnamese American whose platform was anti-Asian hate with the message “Inclusion is the Solution” shared, “I’m really glad I came to this year’s API Celebration event. A lot of great performances and I got to connect with my Asian heritage. This is a great tradition, and one that shouldn’t be forgotten.”
The event was put together with support from ACRS, APICAT, BECU-AAPI Resource Group, CAPAA, CISC, Seattle Mariners, OCA-APA Advocacy, ICHS, Kin On and a number of other sponsors.