Smithsonian Culture: Celebrate Asian-Pacific American Heritage

An interesting podcast to listen to and watch for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is Smithsonian Culture by the Smithsonian Institute. Staff members from nine Smithsonian museums contributed to create a series of podcast episodes that examine a broad range of topics relating to Asians and Pacific Islanders. These topics include science, history, culture, and the arts. Certain episodes are video recordings which allow you to watch traditional dance and interactive discussions about cultural practices. This podcast is both educational and very interesting!

The first episode that I listened is titled “Box Jellyfish”. In the episode, Angel Yanagihara, a biochemist, describes her scary experience when swimming in Hawaii. While going on a morning swim, she was stung by a box jellyfish. At first she did not know what attacked her, so she dove to have a look and was stung twice more. Angel had a burning sensation throughout her body and she had trouble breathing.  Yanagihara managed to swim to shore where she was given medical attention by EMTs on the beach. For days afterward, she was bedridden and developed a severe rash. Rather than be angry at the box jellyfish, she chose to learn more about them and researched treatments for jellyfish stings. Listeners will be fascinated by Yanagihara’s story and admire her grace in respecting nature.

Another episode, titled “Asian Pacific American Heritage Month”,  was created by teens from the ARTLAB+ of the Smithsonian Museum. They interviewed participants about their favorite Asian and Pacific Islander dishes. Everybody shared interesting stories about eating their favorite food and preparing it. Listeners will relate to the people in the video when they describe their childhood memories of eating specific types of food. Using video for this episode was a wise choice because it allows you to see facial expressions of interviewees as they share their memories.  

The episode “Tibetan Skeleton Dance” is a video recording of Tibetan monks performing the Tibetan Skeleton Dance at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Before the performance begins, there is a description of the event so you are given an understanding of what you are watching. After that is displayed, there is nothing else in the episode but the video of the dance. This allows you to focus on the dance and music without interruptions from commentary. From watching the episode, you are given valuable insight into Tibetan cultural traditions.

In the episode “Japanese American Internment and World War II”, Grant Ichikawa talks about how he and his family were sent to an internment camp during World War Two. Though Ichikawa and thousands of other Japanese- Americans were raised as Americans, their loyalty to the United States was none the less questioned. To show his loyalty to the United States, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. One of his notable actions during the war was convincing 250 Japanese soldiers to surrender without firing a shot. In 2011, he and other Japanese Americans received Congressional Gold Medals for their actions during World War Two. To hear Ichikawa talk about his life is fascinating and deeply moving.

The makers of Smithsonian Culture did an excellent job of creating a list of interesting podcast episodes for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Though this series was created a decade ago, the content is just as relevant then as it was today. These podcast episodes will give you valuable insight into Asian and Pacific Islander cultures. 

This podcast can be watched and listened to on the Apple Podcast website or the Apple Podcast app.

Michael Walsh

Reference Library 

Will Branch