May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. Americans celebrate Asian and Pacific Islander neighbors who enrich our nation’s history and our future. The commemoration was officially created by former President Jimmy Carter in 1978 and later expanded to the entire month by former President George H.W. Bush. May 7 was cited as the day the first known Japanese immigrant arrived in the United States in 1843, and May 10 as the completion of the transcontinental railroad, largely constructed by Chinese immigrants, in 1869.
Jan Xie, a Chinese American living here in North Texas, says that the monthlong celebration makes her especially proud of her heritage. “Asian Americans want to build a better life for our next generation and all Americans,” she says. “This month gives us the opportunity to honor, recognize and celebrate.”
Xie views the month of May as an opportunity for Americans to learn from each other, as well as learn to respect the differences between our cultures through family life, food, films, books, music and more.
Xie is from Tsingtao, China, and moved to the United States when her husband’s job relocated to Dallas. Her sense of patriotism is strong as she expresses gratitude for the past kindnesses she received from Texas neighbors. However, she sensed a need for deeper understanding of her heritage, catalyzing the launch of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit she now leads as president, Asian Culture and Education Society (ACAES) USA.
ACAES USA began as a platform to showcase the contributions of Asian Americans. Xie references the 15,000 to 20,000 Chinese immigrants who labored over the railroad stretching from California to Nebraska in the 1860s. United States residents have always benefited from the presence and culture of their Chinese American neighbors.
Xie encourages all to “respect the culture’s diversity, the history and the contributions of Asian Americans” through the organization’s programs. Community celebrations of Asian holidays, international volunteerism and pandemic relief work are among them.
The nonprofit helps schools celebrate the Lunar New Year. It cultivates leadership skills for young Chinese American students by sending them to Hubei, China, each year to teach English and share tidbits of their American culture. Budding young artists also recently participated in a “Creativity against COVID-19” art contest, while athletes could register for sports clubs.
ACAES USA has offered pandemic relief services to frontline workers, police stations, nursing homes and post offices, as well as vaccine education and registration events. The team donated PPE and meals, held lectures on health education and helped residents with language barriers register for the vaccine.
In addition to bearing the titles of nonprofit director, volunteer, wife and mother, Xie is a community activist. She is president of the DFW chapter of the Organization of Chinese Americans. She also partners with United Chinese Americans, Asian American Unity Coalition and Gendercide Awareness Project to propel equal citizenship for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders along with education for Asian American girls.
In Xie’s words, “We must stand united, not divided.”