Michael Wu, Tim Hyland (Member of Actors Equity Association), Stephen Sumida, and Rachel Mae Guyer-Mafune act onstage in “Hometown Boy.”

Celebrating Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month 2023

Arts and Events Throughout Seattle and the South End

by Amanda Ong

This month commemorates the history, contributions, and talents of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AA&NH/PI), who have shaped American identities and culture for centuries. Seattle has a long history of Asian American and Pacific Islander artists, leaders, and activists, from “Uncle Bob” Santos to Bruce Lee, among many others today. As AA&NH/PI communities continue to fight for the rights and liberties of their people, here and abroad under U.S. power, we continue to recognize their stories and struggles. 

One simple way of doing this is to uplift and support the talents and voices of the AA&NH/PI community, of which there is certainly no shortage in Seattle. Check out some of these events the Emerald has rounded up of AA&NH/PI talent this month!

Hometown Boy by Keiko Green at the Seattle Public Theater

Through May 28
7312 W. Greenlake Drive, Seattle

In its West Coast premiere, Hometown Boy is the story of James, who returns to rural Georgia to check on his aging father and finds secrets he left behind in his hometown a decade before. Hometown Boy has been developed at the Kennedy Center, the National New Play Network, and Actor’s Express, but it was in fact written by Green while in Seattle. It showcases the complexities of generational trauma for an Asian American family and the unique experiences of Asian Americans in the South. Tickets are available on the Seattle Public Theater website.

“Eye of the Tiger” Exhibition with the Nisei Veterans Committee

May 13, 14, 20, 21, 27, and 28, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Nisei Veterans Committee Memorial Hall Gym, 1212 S. King St., Seattle

Rooted in the Chinatown-International District, the “Eye of the Tiger” is a photo exhibit that reflects on the effect the pandemic has had on the CID. The project was born when Ron Choi, who became project manager of the exhibit, approached Commander Michael Yaguchi of the Nisei Veterans Committee. The array of photographs are displayed throughout the NVC Memorial Hall.

BonsaiFEST! at the Pacific Bonsai Museum

May 13 and 14, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 
2515 S. 336th St., Federal Way

For its fourth BonsaiFEST!, the Pacific Bonsai Museum not only will feature many a flowering bonsai in bloom, but it will also debut its 2023 special exhibition, “Avant-Garden.” The exhibit centers bonsai artists moving against the grain of traditional practices and expanding on bonsai as an art form. There will also be live bonsai-making demonstrations, tours, merch, food, an art station, and a poetry writing workshop with Alexandria Manalo. One of only two bonsai museums in the U.S., the Pacific Bonsai Museum in Federal Way maintains a collection of 150 bonsai with trees from across Asia. The event is free with a suggested donation of $12. Check out the Pacific Bonsai Museum website for more information.

Seattle Chinese Garden Peony Festival

May 13 and 14, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
North entrance to South Seattle College, near 5640 16th Ave. SW, Seattle

Coinciding with Mother’s Day and the bloom of the peonies, the Seattle Chinese Garden celebrates Peony Festivals with a number of events and activities, including peony sales, lion dances, crafts, live Chinese traditional music, lectures, and tea demonstrations. A Sichuan-style garden, the Seattle Chinese Garden is a testament to the friendship between sister cities Seattle and Chongqing, China. The event is free with a suggested donation of $6.

Truth at the Margins: Intersex, Transgender, and Tibetan Histories

May 18, 6 to 7:30 P.M.
Bertha Knight Landes Room, City Hall, 600 4th Ave., Seattle

Dr. Tenzin (UC Berkeley) brings his expertise to City Hall to discuss rhetoric, gender, and sexuality at the intersection with Tibetan identity, discrimination, and racist, sexist, and transphobic misinformation in media, particularly in relation to a recent media story. The work at hand comes to suggest how much we have to learn at the intersection of these identities. You can register for the event on the Seattle Public Library website.

Junk G7! International Days of Action Against the G7

May 18–20, 2023

Organized by @resistusledwar, the International Group of Seven, or G7 (including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States), is meeting in Japan from May 19–22. The International People’s Front is calling for global days of action to hold the G7 accountable for their actions and encourage equity. One of these causes is to stop the occupation of countries in Asia Pacific — a meaningful cause for AA&NH/PI month. The list of actions you can take is included on @resistusledwar’s Instagram.

Julie Otsuka talks The Swimmers for Seattle Reads

Various Dates
Various Locations

Seattle Public Library’s Seattle Reads program encourages all Seattleites to participate in what is essentially a yearly book club with related programming, and it selected The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka as its 2023 pick. It has curated an exhibit at the Central Library and four programs with the author on Friday, May 19, and Saturday, May 20. Otsuka is the acclaimed author of When the Emperor Was Divine and The Buddha in the Attic. Her latest novel, The Swimmers, concerns Alice, who, after an incident at the local pool, is plunged back into the remnants of her childhood during World War II, growing up in a Japanese American concentration camp, as her estranged daughter returns to her life. 

Times and locations include:

  • Julie Otsuka with Tom Ikeda: May 19, 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., Southeast Seattle Senior Center, 4655 S. Holly St. 
  • Julie Otsuka with Naomi Kawamura: May 19, 7 to 8 p.m., Central Library, Level 1 – Microsoft Auditorium, 1000 4th Ave., Seattle
  • Julie Otsuka with Dr. Kristoffer Rhoads: May 20, 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., Lake City Branch, 12501 28th Ave. NE, Seattle. 
  • Julie Otsuka with Dr. Kristoffer Rhoads: May 20, 3 to 4 p.m., Greenwood Senior Center, 525 N. 85th St., Seattle

All events are free. You can register on the Seattle Public Library website.

2023 Chinatown Insider: Film Screening and Artist Panel

May 20, 1 to 3:45 p.m.
Wing Luke Museum, 719 S. King St., Seattle

All centered around the CID, this program features Maria Gargiulo’s short film East of Occidental, Han Eckelberg’s short film Mak Fai Insider, and Stewart Wong and the 1886 Chinese Expulsion Art Project. This program is free with suggested donations, and includes free admission to the Wing Luke Museum, where guests are encouraged to visit “Nobody Lives Here: The People in the Path of Progress.” The new exhibit carries on the themes of the film screening and artist panel, highlighting the displacement of the CID community due to the building of I-5, and of national Communities of Color due to public infrastructure projects. Seats are limited; guests are encouraged to register on the Wing Luke Museum website

“Begin Again” by Bennyroyce Dance

May 26–28
Filipino Community of Seattle, 5740 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S., Seattle

Filipino American choreographer and Juilliard graduate Bennyroyce Royon’s work “Begin Again” premieres at the historic Filipino Community of Seattle on May 26. “Begin Again” reflects on the pandemic, trauma, loss, and moving forward, and incorporates visual design elements using props and video projections. Each performance includes a post-show Q&A session. Additional collaborators include Wilmer Galindo (graphic designer), Marie Zvosec (dramaturg), Barret Anspach (composer), and with production support from Catalyst Presents. Tickets are $18 to $55 and include discounts for students, seniors, and military. “Begin Again” will show May 26 and May 27 at 7 p.m. and May 28 at 2 p.m. Buy tickets on the Bennyroyce Dance website.

Wing Luke Museum’s 2023 Spring Market

May 27, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Wing Luke Museum Community Hall, 719 S. King St., Seattle 

Featuring local Asian American artists and small businesses, come visit the first-ever Spring Market at Wing Luke Museum. Get to know local AA&NH/PI small businesses and artisans, support their businesses, and find incredible handmade goods. Vendors include jeweler Element by Artchestra, artist and illustrator Noodle & Co, and CHamoru stationary artist Yardia. Members of the museum get 10% off of purchases, and if you join, you will receive 20% off of all market purchases.

New Artist in Residency Lourdez Velasco at flower flower

June 1 
Location TBD

The queer and trans, Asian- and Pasifika-owned artist space flower flower is introducing its new artist in residency at the beginning of June. Lourdez Velasco (they/them) is a queer, non-binary, Indigenous CHamoru parent, artist, and facilitator. Their work combines storytelling, illustration, poetry, collage, dance, and performance, and their residency will reflect screenprinting as a way of storytelling, particularly stories of community organizing in the CID. They will be supporting ChuMinh Tofu Deli’s Eggroll Mutual Aid collective (@chuminhtofu), WASHMASKS (@washmasks), and Super Familia (@superfamilia_kc) to create a screenprint to support farmworkers in community.

Lourdez’s work will be shared at a flower flower showcase on June 1, with more information to come on flower flower’s Instagram.

This article is published under a Seattle Human Services Department grant, “Resilience Amidst Hate,” in response to anti-Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander violence.

Amanda Ong (she/her) is a Chinese American writer from California. She is currently a master’s candidate at the University of Washington Museology program and graduated from Columbia University in 2020 with degrees in creative writing and ethnicity and race studies.

📸 Featured Image: Michael Wu, Tim Hyland (Member of Actors Equity Association), Stephen Sumida, and Rachel Mae Guyer-Mafune in “Hometown Boy.” (Photo: John Ulman Photography)

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