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31 Stories for 31 Days of AAPI Heritage Month

May 1, 2021

By Beatrice Alvarez

Every day in May we are celebrating AAPI Heritage Month with stories that explore aspects of our shared American history. Every day, we will amplify AAPI voices and offer a story to stream from across PBS stations, long-running series, and filmmakers. The best part is that if we do something every day for a month, perhaps it can become a habit, a way to be, that we continue long after the 31 days are over.

1.Breaking Through | Asian Americans

Asian Americans

Breaking Through

At the turn of the new millennium, the U.S becomes more diverse, yet more divided.

Pulizer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen reveals personal stories and poignant analysis of American society and cultures in the series Asian Americans. Hear him describe the beginnings of the Asian American movement in this episode. He is just one of many notable voices featured in this series.

2. Queen Lili'uokalani: The First and Last Queen of Hawai'i | Unladylike 2020

American Masters

Queen Lili‘uokalani - The First and Last Queen of Hawai‘i

Queen Lili‘uokalani was the first sovereign queen, and the last monarch of Hawai'i.

3. Anik Khan: Street Level | American Masters

American Masters

Anik Khan: Street Level

Explore the music of Anik Khan, the Bangladesh-born, Queens, NY-raised hip-hop artist.

4. Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir | American Masters

American Masters

Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir

The story of the author of the “The Joy Luck Club.”

5. Delano Manongs | Viewfinder KVIE


Delano Manongs

Forgotten Heroes of the United Farm Workers

Learn about Larry Itliong, a Filipino farm worker who dedicated his life to advocating for agricultural workers. He helped build the coalition with Mexican and Mexican-American farm workers to form the United Farm Workers. Station KVIE documents the history of Filipino Americans in California who fought for justice and took on the entrenched agricultural industry.

6. Down a Dark Stairwell | Independent Lens

Independent Lens

Down a Dark Stairwell

Sometimes the quest for racial justice isn’t black and white.

Documentary filmmaker Ursula Liang looks at how two communities see racial injustices play out in the aftermath of a tragedy. This timely film from Independent Lens is available to stream until May 12.

7. A People's History of Asian America | Digital Studios | Premieres May 6

A People’s History of Asian America

Why “The China Virus” Has Always Been A Part Of U.S. History

This xenophobic sentiment has resulted in a cycle of violence dating back to the 1800s.

Digital Studios teamed up with Dolly Li and Adrian De Leon to bring you a series about Asian American history. Stay tuned for the first episode premiering on May 6!

8. Generation Rising | Asian Americans  

Asian Americans

Generation Rising

During a time of war, a young generation fights for equality and claim a new identity.

In so many of the social and political movements of American history, AAPI activists have taken their rightful place in conversations of justice and equality. In the halls of Congress, Hawaiian Congresswoman Patsy Mink not only joined the conversations, but moved them forward.

9. LGBTQ+ Choreographer is Changing Bollywood Dance | If Cities Could Dance

If Cities Could Dance

LGBTQ+ Choreographer Amit Patel is Changing Bollywood Dance

Dancer Amit Patel is reinventing Bollywood dance for queer expression

10. American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs | POV


American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs

Grace Lee Boggs, 99, is a Chinese American philosopher, writer, and activist.

Meet Grace Lee Boggs and follow her life's work as a philosopher and activist. POV is bringing back this excellent profile and you can stream it on the PBS Video App beginning May 3.

11. Model Minority | What I Hear When You Say

What I Hear When You Say

Model Minority

Explore the use of this term “Model Minority” to describe Asian American communities.

Stereotypes and media portrayals can be damaging when they only portray one aspect of a person's humanity. Learn why the narrative of the Asian Americans as a "model minority" must be challenged, even though it seems complimentary on its surface, in this episode of What I Hear When You Say.

Along the same lines, comedian and filmmaker Hari Kondabolu discusses problematic media representation in the form of demeaning AAPI characters on television in this interview with PBS Newshour. In it he explains: "You can’t help but be shaped by media. And you can’t help but be shaped, especially as a young person, by how others see you." Kondabolu also appears in the series: Asian Americans, which is streaming on the PBS Video App this month.

12. Curtain Up! | America ReFramed | Premieres May 11

America ReFramed

Curtain Up!

While preparing to stage a musical, Chinatown kids discover their own cultural identities.

13.  Seadrift | Reel South



A fatal shooting in Texas ignites a maelstrom of hostilities against Vietnamese refugees.

Documentary filmmaker Tim Tsai explores the nuance and forgotten history of the American South, including this story of a small Texas town's struggle to accept Vietnamese refugees.

14. Maia Cruz Palileo: Becoming the Moon | American Masters

American Masters

Maia Cruz Palileo: Becoming the Moon

Maia Cruz Palileo is a multi-disciplinary artist who explores themes of migration.

15. Mr. Tornado | American Experience

American Experience

Mr. Tornado

The story of Ted Fujita's groundbreaking work to understand the deadliest storms.

16. Chai Pani | My Home, NC

My Home, NC

Chai Pani

Food that tells a story of identity and belonging is what Chef Meherwan Irani is proud to

17. Out of State | POV | Begins streaming May 3

Independent Lens

Out of State

This film from Ciara Lacey about reconnecting with cultural roots far from home is returning to PBS for the month of May. Stream it on the PBS Video App.

18. Mira Jacob | Book View Now

Book View Now

Mira Jacob | 2019 AWP Conference and Bookfair

19. Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio: This is the Way We Rise

American Masters

Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio: This Is the Way We Rise

Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio is a Kanaka Maoli wahine poet, activist, and academic.

20. Relish | Twin Cities PBS


For Yia Vang, Food Starts with Family

Relish host Yia Vang tells stories of his family through the food he makes.

21. The Odds: Is Hollywood Finally Diverse? | We Gon' Be Alright

Indie Lens Storycast

The Odds: Is Hollywood Finally Diverse? | We Gon' Be Alright Ep. 2

22. Eating Up Easter | Independent Lens

Independent Lens

Eating Up Easter

The challenge to protect remote Rapa Nui culture and environment from modernization.

23. Chinese Exclusion Act | American Experience

American Experience

The Chinese Exclusion Act

The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act remained in force for more than 60 years.

In 1892 Chinese American activist Jee Gam wrote an impassioned critique of the Geary Act, legislation that proposed Chinese Americans carry a registration card, proving their right to be in the United States.  Gam made powerful case against discrimination while the racist Chinese Exclusion Act was the law of the land. His and many more experiences are included in the The Chinese Exclusion Act from American Experience

24. Tokyo Hula | Pacific Heartbeat | Premieres May 23

Maui Arts & Cultural Center


This is the third film in Marie Lisette Flanary's exploration of Hula and this one takes Hawaiian culture to Japan. Catch this film when it premieres May 23 on the series Pacific Heartbeat.

25. Standing Above the Clouds | PBS Short Film Festival

PBS Short Film Festival

Standing Above the Clouds

Native Hawaiian mother-daughter activist stand to protect their sacred mountain Mauna Kea.

Filmmaker Jalena Keene-Lee tells a story from the intersection cultural preservation and environmental activism. This film was featured in the 2020 PBS Short Film Festival.

26. The Donut King | Independent Lens | Premieres May 25

Independent Lens

Trailer | The Donut King

Meet the Donut King, the Cambodian refugee who built a multi-million-dollar empire baking

Ted Ngoy arrived in the U.S. as a refugee from Cambodia. He went on to build a successful business that only provided quality goods (donuts) but also benefitted his community by creating employment opportunities.

27. Far East Deep South | America ReFramed | Premieres May 4

America ReFramed

Far East Deep South

A Chinese American family’s search for their roots leads them to the Mississippi Delta.

28. The First American-Born Chinese Woman Doctor | Unladylike 2020

The First American-Born Chinese Woman Doctor
American Masters

The First American-Born Chinese Woman Doctor

Margaret Chung became the first American-born Chinese woman doctor in 1916.

29. The Ito Sisters | Viewfinder KVIE


The Ito Sisters

Explore the lives of three Nisei sisters from the Sacramento Delta, including internment.

30. American Aloha: Hula Beyond Hawai'i | Pacific Heartbeat | Begins streaming May 23


PH1005 American Aloha: Hula Beyond Hawaiʻi Promo

AMERICAN ALOHA: HULA BEYOND HAWAI’I tells the stories of three 
kumu hula (master instructors) who direct hula schools based in California. 
The film explores the challenges they face trying to perpetuate hula faithfully, from the very traditional to the contemporary, as it evolves on distant shores, and serves as a reminder of the power of tradition for communities creating a home away from home.

31. Anna May Wong: The First Asian American Movie Star

Anna May Wong: The first Asian American Movie Star
American Masters

Anna May Wong: The first Asian American Movie Star

Anna May Wong spent her acting career resisting racism and typecasting in Hollywood.

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