Notable Figures & Moments in AAPI History to Recognize This Week, from Justin Chon to 'Always Be My Maybe'

All month long, we are honoring those who have impacted the world with their activism, inventions, achievements and more

01 of 07

May 25, 2020: More Than 100 Prominent Creatives Call for an End to Anti-Asian Violence amid Pandemic

PEN America and Asian America Writers Workshop released a joint statement to call for an end to anti-AAPI attacks amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. More than 100 writers, artists, actors and creative professionals — including Riz Ahmed, Celeste Ng, Viet Thanh and Min Jin Lee — signed the statement of solidarity, which also announced a May 27, 2020, online day of action "to condemn hate and celebrate Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander writers."

"The time to turn back this wave of hate is now," the statement read. "We, the undersigned, call on everyday citizens to join us in standing in solidarity with all those targeted by hate during COVID-19. Together, we can use the power of our collective voices to call for a more just, equal, and inclusive society."

In 2022, the crusade continues as more Asian Americans are facing racism and even violence as the pandemic drags on. Here are ways you can support the APPI community right now.

02 of 07

May 26, 1946: Indian Activist Aruna Roy Is Born

AAPI heritage month
Manish Swarup/AP/Shutterstock

One of India's most celebrated political and social activists, Aruna Roy helped spearhead the formation of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), which played a major role in advocating for the Right to Information Law. The law, passed in 2005, has helped the country's poorest citizens to fight for their rights and inspired many other activists to unearth corruption and fight for a more just India.

Roy was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2000 and made the list as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME in 2011.

"Many social activists clamor for India to do more for the dispossessed," Jyoti Thottam wrote of Roy for TIME. "A former civil servant, Roy doesn't just condemn a broken system; she changes it."

03 of 07

May 27, 2006: Deadly Earthquake Hits Yogyakarta, Indonesia

AAPI heritage month
Tarko SUDIARNO/AFP via Getty

An earthquake, which measured 6.2 on the Richter scale, hit one of the most densely populated places in the country, killing more than 3,500 people, according to The Guardian. Roads, buildings and bridges were destroyed as hospitals dealt with an influx of dead or injured citizens at the time the tremor took place.

"I couldn't help my wife ... I was trying to rescue my children, one with a broken leg, and then the house collapsed," then-70-year-old food vendor Subarjo told the outlet at the time.

"I couldn't help my wife," he added, while sobbing. "I have to accept this as our destiny, as God's will."

04 of 07

May 28, 2008: Nepal Abolishes 239-Year-Old Hindu Monarchy

AAPI heritage month

After a 560-4 vote made by delegates at a special assembly, the government told the unpopular King Gyanendra to leave his palace in Kathmandu or he'd be forced out. Once the results of the vote were announced, thousands celebrated in the street and the government declared the following two days a holiday, according to Reuters.

"This is the people's victory," former Maoist guerrilla Kamal Dahal told the outlet at the time. "With today's declaration of a republic we have achieved what we fought for."

05 of 07

May 29, 1981: Actor-Director Justin Chon Is Born

blue bayou
Focus Features

The acclaimed film director and actor is best known for taking on films that have strong AAPI leads and center on the AAPI experience.

Chon wrote and directed Gook, a story about two Korean-American brothers who build an unlikely friendship with a young black girl in L.A. All three of their lives change once the Rodney King verdict is announced and riots ensue.

The 2017 film earned Chon the Best of Next award at the Sundance Film Festival and the Someone to Watch award at the Film Independent Spirit Awards.

Chon also directed and co-wrote the 2019 drama Ms. Purple, which tells the story of a young Korean-American woman who works as a karaoke hostess in Koreatown to support herself as the caretaker for her dying father. The film landed him wins at the L.A. Asian Pacific Film Festival and the Dallas International Film Festival and a nomination at Sundance.

Chon's most recent project was Blue Bayou, a story about a Korean adoptee who tries to reckon with his past before unexpectedly facing deportation. The film stars Chon and Oscar winner Alicia Vikander (pictured).

06 of 07

May 30, 2019: Narendra Modi Is Sworn in for a Second Term

AAPI heritage month
Ajay Aggarwal/Hindustan Times via Getty

Narendra Modi secured a second term as India's prime minister once his party won in a landslide in the 2019 election. Thousands, including regional leaders and Bollywood stars, gathered to celebrate.

The Prime Minister is the first leader since 1971 to earn a majority vote in back-to-back elections, according to BBC.

07 of 07

May 31, 2019: Always Be My Maybe Is Released on Netflix

Always Be My Maybe
Ed Araquel / Netflix

The rom-com, starring Ali Wong and Randall Park, was released to select theaters on May 29 before its larger debut on Netflix. The story follows childhood friends Marcus and Sasha, who reconnect as adults years after their painfully awkward teenage fling.

The film was written by Wong, Park and Michael Golamco and directed by Nahnatchka Khan. It also ignited a flame among Keanu Reeves fans, who loved his buzzed-about cameo in the film.

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