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From art bazaars to joy rides, San Francisco puts Asian heritage front and center

San Francisco officials stand on the stage at the “Peaceful Garden” Block Party on July 23, 2022. | Paul Kuroda for The Standard

San Francisco’s Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community will be thrust into the global spotlight as the city celebrates AAPI Heritage Month in May and prepares for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November.

This year is the 45th anniversary of the AAPI heritage celebration at a national scale, although San Francisco has only recognized it since 2005. Dozens of nonprofits and city departments will collaborate to host events citywide during the month, including the film festival CAAMFest (May 11-21). That series of top-tier screenings highlights the community’s cinematic contributions at a time when the success of “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and “Always Be My Maybe” mean Asian American films have never been so prominent.

“We need to take the opportunity to strengthen ourselves,” said Claudine Cheng, the organizer of the celebration and founder of the Asian Pacific American Heritage Foundation. “We may have different cultures, history, heritage, but you know, we have one API community.”

Three local Asian community-based nonprofits will be honored during this year’s heritage month for achieving milestones, including the Asian Pacific Fund (30th anniversary), Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation (40th anniversary) and the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California (50th).

Pacific Islanders are often overshadowed by the Bay Area’s far larger East Asian populations. Last year, San Francisco established the Pacific Islander Cultural District in Visitacion Valley, and that community will also present different events, including a kickoff event this Saturday hosted by the Samoan Community Development Center.

Members of the Samoan Community Development Center attend a City Hall press conference on AAPI Month on Wednesday. | Han Li/The Standard

Looking ahead, in November, San Francisco will host this year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, an annual gathering of world leaders from around the Pacific Rim—including Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping—to discuss trade policies and other initiatives. The conference has never taken place in California before.

Mayor London Breed and other city officials gathered in City Hall Wednesday, vowing to revive the city’s image during the forum.

“No other event on an international scale has existed in San Francisco since 1945, when the United Nations was created right here,” Breed said. “This will be an opportunity to showcase San Francisco like never before.”

Breed added that, as many San Franciscans are Asian immigrants, the community will “be on full display” during November, and she hoped to display its diversity on a global stage. 

May’s diverse celebration events include the food related “Chow Fun,” which features cooking demos; the Indonesian Bazaar, a curated food and art bazaar at La Cocina Marketplace; Japanese taiko drumming performance in Chinatown, etc. CAAMFest will open with the highly anticipated Asian American comedy film Joy Ride at the Castro Theatre.