Check out Evanston’s Asian, South Asian, Pacific Islander Heritage Month events


Illustration by Eliana Storkamp

Last year, former Mayor Steve Hagerty proclaimed May Evanston Asian, South Asian, Pacific Islander American Heritage Month. Here’s a short list of local events celebrating the month.

Yiming Fu, Print Managing Editor

For local artist and activist Melissa Raman Molitor, organizing the Umbrella Arts Festival for Evanston Asian, South Asian, Pacific Islander Heritage Month strikes a personal chord. Growing up as the daughter of Filipina and Indian immigrants in Michigan, she said she rarely felt visible or represented.

Molitor has been planning an Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month arts festival for six months. She said she wants the event to create the visibility she lacked growing up. 

“My own lived experience informs and inspires the work that I do,” Molitor said. “(My identity) means a lot to me, but it also means a lot to me to be able to create space for that for my own kids.”

AAPI Heritage Month is an annual celebration recognizing the historical and cultural contributions of individuals and groups of AAPI descent in the U.S. Local politicians nationwide began advocating for an Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month as early as 1977, and Congress passed a law designating May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month in 1992. 

Last year, former Mayor Steve Hagerty proclaimed May Evanston Asian, South Asian, Pacific Islander American Heritage Month. 

Here’s a short list of local events celebrating the month. For more, check out the Evanston Asian, South Asian, Pacific Islander American month community calendar

May the 4th Be With You: Drawing Star Wars Characters with Justin Castaneda

Wednesday, May 4, 1 to 2 p.m. 

Virtual event

Justin Castaneda, a Filipino-American artist, will be drawing Star Wars characters and speaking about his process at a Chicago Public Library event.

Castaneda is a comic artist and children’s book creator from Chicago’s south side. His newest book, “The Murder Balloon,” is a horror comic disguised as a children’s picture book about a clown who creates a killer balloon to exact his revenge on those who wronged him.

Interested families should register for the Zoom event at least 24 hours in advance. 

Oakton Asian Night Market

Thursday, May 5, 5:30 to 8 p.m. 

7701 Lincoln Ave., Skokie

Oakton Community College will host its first Asian Night Market Thursday, with live performances from Oakton student groups and about 12 Asian-owned vendors participating. 

Umbrella Arts Festival

Sunday, May 14, 1 to 6 p.m.

Fountain Square, 1601 Sherman Ave.

The Umbrella Arts Festival is a cultural celebration of Evanston’s Asian, South Asian and Pacific Islander American communities. The umbrella symbolizes the ASPA diaspora, which includes ethnicities from over 40 countries around the world. 

The event is the city’s second annual arts festival to celebrate AAPI month and will feature performances from groups such as Chicago-based band Funkadesi and community arts events including paper crane making and bookmaking. 

Illinois Libraries Present: An Evening with Michelle Zauner

Wednesday, May 18, 7 to 8 p.m. 

Virtual event

Musician and author Michelle Zauner will discuss her music career and her beloved best-selling memoir, “Crying in H Mart” with Chicago-based music critic and producer Jessica Hopper. Zauner is also the singer and guitarist of indie-pop band Japanese Breakfast. 

Interested participants can register online. 

Not Quite: Asian Americans and the “Other”…

Thursday, May 19, 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Virtual event 

Ada Cheng, an educator-turned artist, storyteller and creator, will present a performance exploring the meanings of home and homeland, racial profiling and the image of the perpetual foreigner and anti-Asian racism under the pandemic. Cheng is currently a visiting associate professor of Asian American Studies at Northwestern.

Interested participants can register online. 

Lantern Floating Ceremony

Tuesday, May 31, 6:30 p.m. 

Arrington Lagoon, 1647 Sheridan Rd. 

Kids Create Change, a local nonprofit arts and social justice organization, will host a lantern festival inspired by traditions found across Asia and the Pacific Islands. This event aims to offer a gathering space to honor losses during the pandemic, including losses of loved ones, relationships and celebrations. Lantern making workshops will be held throughout the month. 

Participants can register online.  

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Twitter: @yimingfuu

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