ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. The month in its entirety came into federal recognition in 1992 and focuses on celebrating the contributions and influence of the Asian community to U.S. history and culture.  Rochester homes a large portion of that community.

The Asian-Pacific Islander American Association of Greater Rochester (APAA) was founded in 2002 and works to promote relationships among ethnic groups, as well as help foster a sense of pride and belonging to the Rochester Community. 

APAA President, Mimi Lee said most people don’t know May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

“We have a job set out for us to continue to promote, to share to educate people about the importance of the contributions of Asian Americans in the United States of America,” Lee said.

Along with documenting the histories of Asian communities across Rochester, APPA has been curating galleries for the heritage month at city hall. This is the organization’s first year back since the pandemic.

“This is the fourth exhibit that I’ve created for the City Hall Link Gallery here and I’m very privileged that we are here in the people’s house City Hall,” Lee said. “We are pleased to be part of this wonderful house to showcase the Asian community here. We have pieces by 10 local artists. The youngest being a high schooler, and the oldest being a baby boomer retiree. We have a gamut of different paintings and ink and pencil drawings and collages talking about how our community felt during the COVID years. It is titled, ‘Through And Beyond the Pandemic.’ It’s about how the Asian American community survived and thrived through the pandemic, through the anti-Asian intolerance and violence. Many of these pieces showcase how we felt like a community.”

During the pandemic, a national campaign called ‘Stop Asian Hate’ arose from growing crimes against Asian communities. ‘Stop APPI Hate,’ a national coalition reported they received over 9,000 incident reports of Asian hate crimes between March 2020 and June 2021.

According to Lee, she curated this exhibit to provide a visual representation of the effects the pandemic had on the Asian community, and the rising hate crimes against the ethnic group.

“Two things that came from this pandemic, one is sort of a silver lining the rise of the activism and saying, ‘Hey, we are as much part of this community as everyone else, we helped make this country a better place to live.’ The second thing is, unfortunately, the pandemic had a toll in terms of anxiety and mental health. We are hoping to reach out to both our state officials and our community to partner to look at the devastating effects of mental health of not just the Asian community but particularly the Asian community,” Lee said.

Lee said beyond these annual exhibits, it’s important to acknowledge community contributions beyond just the month of May.

“It should be a whole yearlong celebration, not just the Asians, the African Americans and Latinos, the authentic people that came here that make up a wonderful nation. We are a nation of immigrants,” Lee said. “I want to acknowledge that it’s a year-long exercise and celebration. And noting the contribution no matter what color, where you come from, as long as you make a contribution, roll up your sleeves and take an active part in becoming a viable member of our community.”

The gallery is available for viewing at City Hall until June 6th.