Harvard Square Commemorates Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May 1st – 31st, 2021

The Harvard Square Business Association celebrates our Asian and Pacific Islander (AAPI) colleagues, neighbors and friends during AAPI Heritage Month. We honor their commitment to shaping the diversity and fabric of our community both locally and across the country.  

According to the AAPI official government website, www.asianpacificheritage.gov, Asian/Pacific encompasses all of the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands), Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia) and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Easter Island).

The article further explained, “Like most commemorative months, Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month originated with Congress. In 1977 Reps. Frank Horton of New York introduced House Joint Resolution 540 to proclaim the first ten days in May as Pacific/Asian American Heritage Week. In the same year, Senator Daniel Inouye introduced a similar resolution, Senate Joint Resolution 72. Neither of these resolutions passed, so in June 1978, Rep. Horton introduced House Joint Resolution 1007. This resolution proposed that the President should “proclaim a week, which is to include the seventh and tenth of the month, during the first ten days in May of 1979 as ‘Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week.’”

This joint resolution was passed by the House and then the Senate and was signed by President Jimmy Carter on October 5, 1978 to become Public Law 95-419 (PDF, 158kb). This law amended the original language of the bill and directed the President to issue a proclamation for the “7 day period beginning on May 4, 1979 as ‘Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week.’” During the next decade, presidents passed annual proclamations for Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week until 1990 when Congress passed Public Law 101-283 (PDF, 166kb) which expanded the observance to a month for 1990. Then in 1992, Congress passed Public Law 102-450 (PDF, 285kb) which annually designated May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. 

The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.”

Paul Lee and his mother, Buoy Lee, receiving the “Cornerstone Award” from the Harvard Square Business Association in 2014.

In addition to our dear AAPI colleagues and valued community partners in Harvard Square, the Hong Kong Restaurant has held a coveted space in the hearts of students, visitors and residents for the past 67 years. The ‘Kongs’ proprietors, the late Buoy (Mary) and Sen (Jimmy) Lee emigrated to the United States in the mid-1940s with little money but a formidable work ethic. “I came over here, I didn’t know nothing, I was so scared when I came,” Buoy Lee told the Harvard Crimson. “I was born in China poor—no money, no nothing. That’s why when I came here I didn’t mind working hard.”

Since then, the Hong Kong has become a cultural beacon in Harvard Square, a stalwart in an ever-evolving and changing world. It is because of that stability, people of different generations can fondly recall their own favorite Hong Kong experience, whether it be their first exposure to the ever-popular Scorpion Bowl or the pageantry of their annual Chinese New Year celebrations replete with a traditional dragon dance and all the tasty Chinese appetizers and cuisine that continue to attract patrons to their three floors of dining and event space 7 days a week. The Lees’ son Paul, a long-term member of the Harvard Square Business Association, keeps the traditions and ethos of his parents alive as the current proprietor. It is Paul’s commitment to his business and our neighborhood which elevates the status of the Hong Kong as a cornerstone located in the heart of our district.