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How to Celebrate Asian American heritage in Philadelphia - on SEPTA

May 12, 2023

This curated guide to the events you won’t want to miss comes via Heather Chin from Billy Penn.

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month which celebrates the people, cultures, and languages that make up the Asian American and Pacific Islander diaspora. 

Philadelphia has held events around everything from art on Black and Asian solidarity to three centuries of South Asian American history.

Philadelphians still have plenty of chances to explore and appreciate AAPI culture over the next few weeks.

Southeast Asian Market at FDR Park

A classic warm weather destination, the Southeast Asian Market at FDR Park is a must for anyone interested in food and/or Southeast Asian culture. 

Open every Saturday and Sunday from April through October — plus the three-day weekends for Memorial Day and Labor Day — the market has been an informal cultural and economic hub for refugees and immigrants from Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Cambodia, and Laos for over 35 years. It wasn’t until 2021 that a Vendors Association of FDR Park was established - ensuring the gathering of entrepreneurs and families will continue to thrive in the welcoming space they’ve carved out. 

Season 1 is from April to June and is found near the Broad Street exit (Picnic Area 17). Season 2 runs from July to October and is found near the Taney Baseball field (Picnic Area 11). 

And don't miss Philly-based Indonesian dance ensemble Modero & Company's Gamelan Gita Santi spring concert at the Southeast Asian Market in FDR Park on Sunday, 5/21. 

Get here on SEPTA. Short walk from NRG Station on the Broad Street Line or hop Route 17. Plan your trip here.

American Chinese Museum 

Launched in 2022 and open by appointment only - this fledgling (free) museum near Oxford Circle is home to a nationally recognized historical exhibit on the history of Chinese in America. It debuted at the New York Historical Society in 2014, moved to San Francisco’s Chinese Historical Society of America, and then was acquired by the newly formed American Chinese Museum in Philadelphia last year. 

The exhibit spans the 19th century to the present day, from gold miners and railroad workers to the Chinese American Exclusion Act, the history of Chinese food in America, and U.S.-China relations. To get here on SEPTA - take the Fox Chase Line to Ryers Station - it's a 12 minute walk from there or take the Route 18. Plan your trip here.

Revolution Remix: Philly Walking Tour

Join the South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA) on Saturday, 5/20 for this unique excursion full of stories you’ve never heard even as you walk familiar streets and see frequently visited sites. The 2.5-hour, 1.5-mile tour begins at the Liberty Bell and ends at Race Street Pier and spans history from the 1780s through the present. And no tour would be complete without a curated soundtrack which will include original music by Seti X, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Anju, Zain Alam, and Grammy-award winner Arooj Aftab. Made possible with support from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage - the tour is wheelchair accessible and includes stops for rest, a bathroom break, and water break. Purchase a ticket or join the waitlist here. So many ways to get to the Liberty Bell on SEPTA - it's a short walk from Jefferson Station or ride the Market-Frankford Line to 5th Street/Independence Hall Station. Bus Routes 5, 9, 17, 21, 33, 38, 42, 44, 47, 48, 57, and 61 also get you there or close. Plan your trip here.

Defining Success: Asian American Dream panel

This panel discussion at Rivers Casino on Wednesday, 5/24 is billed as a signature event of the Asian American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia and will highlight five Asian Americans sharing the story of their career and entrepreneurship journey. Speakers include leaders from Youth Philly Living, Results by Design Coaching, YD Fortune, Sunoco A Plus, and Secret Service. Purchase tickets here.

The casino is a short walk from Girard or Spring Garden Stations on the Market-Frankford Line. You can also hop the Route 15 Trolley or the Routes 5, 25 or 43. Plan your trip here.

Angel Dose’ documentary premiere: Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival 

The race to get expiring COVID-19 vaccines to homebound patients was a story playing out in cities and towns across the U.S. in 2021 and 2022. That experience is captured here in a short documentary about a Philadelphia nurse. The film - titled “Angel Dose” - is having its premiere as part of the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival. On Wednesday, 5/24 at 8PM - the PFS Bourse Theater hosts a FREE advance screening where director Sami Khan and film subject Tarik Khan will be speaking on the film and real life experience. RSVP required for seating

To get here on SEPTA - take the Market-Frankford Line to 5th Street/Independence Hall Station. You can also take Bus Routes 5, 9, 17, 21, 33, 42, 44, 48, or 57. Plan your trip here.

Creative Resilient Youth Takeover: Art and Mental Health Exhibition

Teen mental health collective Creative Resilient Youth (CRY) hosts a FREE week-long art exhibit featuring artist talks, panel discussions, and other youth-centered programming at Asian Arts Initiative during the last week of May (May is also Mental Health Awareness Month). The exhibit kicks off on Friday, 5/26 with an opening reception and features a closing panel discussion on Thursday, 6/1. The exhibit includes artwork created by emerging Philadelphia-area artists, self-portrait collage work about identity and social pressures in partnership with Asian Arts Initiative’s Young Artist Workshop, and artwork by CRY’s graduating cohort who dedicated two years to exploring mental health, artmaking, design, and political education. Registration / appointment required.

To get here on SEPTA - hop the Broad Street Line to Race-Vine Station or Routes 4, 16, 23, 45, or 61. Plan your trip here.

Happy celebrating!