Asian Pacific Islander celebrations began in the 1970s, when student groups and coalitions at local high school and colleges organized events to showcase the rich heritage and diversity of their communities.

In 1982, the Asian Pacific Directors Coalition (APDC) was formed and continued to support many events in the Greater Seattle area. APDC is comprised of over 40 executive directors, board presidents, and leaders from local non-profits, civil rights organizations, educational institutions, and government. APDC advocates for the needs of the API community, offers a platform for collaboration, and supports professional/organizational development.

In 2002, APDC formed a sub-committee to organize the Asian Pacific Islander (API) Heritage Month Celebration and joined Seattle Center Festál — a year-long series of community events that celebrate the cultural richness of communities in Seattle — under the leadership of Alan ‘Al’ Sugiyama, a long-time community activist, first chairperson of APDC, and the first Asian American elected to the Seattle School Board.

The man was always thinking — how he could bring the community together and celebrate for the common good. Hence, the idea for API Heritage Month was born.

[Source: Northwest Asian Weekly]

Al Sugiyama also established an iconic attraction of the API Heritage Month Celebration: the local celebrity hum bow eating contest. In 2017, Sugiyama passed away after a two-year battle with cancer, and the contest was renamed in his honor as the “Alan Sugiyama Hum Bow Eating Contest”.

API Heritage Month Celebration marks the beginning of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM) of May (as designated in 1992 by Congress) in the Greater Seattle area. Thus, the event typically occurs on the first Sunday in May at Seattle Center.

“The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.”

[Source: The Library of Congress]

Over 4,000 visitors each year attend API Heritage Month Celebration — a one-of-a-kind event that showcases the culture, traditions, and history of Asian Pacific Islanders through art, music, and dance.

Asian Pacific Islander (API) Heritage Month Celebration is organized by a committee of dedicated volunteers and supported by community sponsors.


Asian Pacific Islanders (APIs) are seen as the ‘model minority’ with few issues. Yet, the reality isn’t true:

  • “Asian Americans Are the Least Likely Group in the U.S. to Be Promoted to Management” [Source: Harvard Business Review]
  • “Asian-American Actors Are Fighting for Visibility. They Will Not Be Ignored.” [Source: New York Times]
  • “A Lawsuit by Asian-American Students Against Harvard Could End Affirmative Action as We Know It” [Source: TIME]
  • “America is Ignoring a Huge Part of Trump’s Crackdown on Immigrants” [Source: HuffPost]


The API community represents 30 countries with over 100 unique languages and dialects.

Mandarin Chinese is spoken more than any other single language throughout the world.

There are an estimated 21.4 million Asian residents living in the U.S. [Source: U.S. Census Bureau]

The Asian American population is the fastest growing in the U.S. and expected to continue over the next decade. [Source: Pew Research Center]