AAPI Heritage Month: Artists I Admire Deeply
May 1st marks the beginning of AAPI Heritage Month, a period lasting the entire month of May dedicated entirely to the recognition of the contributions and overall excellence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans. Given the recent surge of anti-Asian hate crimes characterized by the virality of the hashtag #StopAsianHate, it is essential that Americans pay respect to the accomplishments of AAPI visionaries. As an AAPI woman myself, it is often most disheartening to see our joint communities regarded as a monolith. Intersectional and dimensional identities are incredibly important to uplift and amplify; dark-skinned, queer, neurodiverse, and otherwise minoritized AAPI individuals should always be at the forefront of digital and in-person platforms. Here are three lesser-known AAPI artists whose intersectional identities, activism, and dimensional perspectives have positively impacted me this past year.
Avant-pop musical artist Rina Sawayama can be found on nearly every one of my Spotify playlists. Both British and Japanese, Sawayama lists the 90s and 2000s female artists Britney Spears, Avril Lavigne, and Evanescence, as well as electro-pop icons like Utada Hikaru as some of her influences. Her debut album Sawayama was released on April 17th, 2020, and received universal critical acclaim. It features tracks such as “Comme des Garçons (Like the Boys),” which is a “homage to early 2000s dance tracks,” as well as “XS,” which is praised heavily for its stance against consumerism and capitalism.
Rajiv Mohabir’s poetry has helped me through so much this past year. His identity as a queer, Indo-Guyanese poet is evident through his tactile and haunting words. To describe him is futile; he describes himself so excellently through his work. Here is a line of his from his collection The Cowherd’s Son that has stuck with me during quarantine: “It shocks me to dream my body as a cut pomegranate.”
Melemaikalanimakalapua McAllister is a biracial, Polynesian TikToker whose hula dancing, amplification of native voices, and informative content have helped her to amass over 800,000 followers. As she stated in one of her most viewed videos, “Hula is a religious practice. It is sacred. It tells a story.” She often speaks out against cultural appropriation, as well as the damaging effects of colonization on homophobia and transphobia.
This AAPI Heritage Month, make sure to follow and amplify the voices of AAPI activists and artists. To my fellow AAPI friends and family, let’s continue to celebrate our accomplishments as well as strive for change.