Boldly illustrated, colorful tropical flowers

Asian, Pacific Islander, Desi
American Heritage Month

bright orange hibiscus flower over dark leaves


May is Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Heritage Month which uplifts and honors the identities, experiences, histories and cultures of Asian Pacific Islander and Desi-identified individuals.


Connected Roots, Collective Futures. Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Heritage Month

Tuesday, May 14, 2024
6:00–9:00 PM
Whatcom Community College
Syre Student Center

All are welcome to celebrate, learn, and be in community at the APIDA Festival 2024. The festival is a free event that includes dinner, a panel presentation, performances, local and community vendors, art, food, and more! This event includes fundraisers to support families displaced by the fires in Lahaina, Hawaii and a food drive to support the food pantries at WWU, WCC, NWIC, and BTC.

About this Celebration

Every May we reach toward the past, embrace the present, and move towards the future of Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) cultures.  APIDA represents a diverse community of more than 50 ethnic groups and includes people of Asian, Pacific Islander, and Desi ancestry who trace their origins to the communities of these geographic regions. This year, we honor the APIDA legacy by sharing stories, collaborating, and enjoying everything from our Connected Roots to our Collective Futures.

Connected Roots.

With roots in more than 20 countries, Asian, Pacific Islander and Desi Americans represent diverse cultures with strong connections to family heritage and histories that center community, endurance and celebration. For many APIDA communities in the United States, there is a shared parallel experience of racial injustice, xenophobia and lasting impacts of colonialism that continue to have an impact today.  As we connect our present to our past, we can look toward a hopeful future

Collective Futures.

Standing strong and holding tight to the wisdom of those who paved the path before us, we work in community to amplify our voices now and far into the future.

Festival Schedule

5:45 PM Doors Open, Food Available, Vendors Open

6:00 PM Live Mural and Silent Auction Begins

6:30 PM Program Begins

7:30 PM Performances, activities, and more!

9:00 PM Closing and Silent Auction Ends

Food Drive

From May 1st to 14th, as we gear up for the APIDA Festival, we’re committed to filling up the food pantries for students at Western Washington University, Whatcom Community College, Northwest Indian College, and Bellingham Technical College.

Go to India Mart, Ink Drop Tattoo Shop, BECU, or Naan and Brew to drop off your donations. Or bring your donations to the festival!

Questions? Drop a line to our amazing Community Engagement Liaison, Jacob O’Donnell, at

Let's make this food drive a true celebration of community kindness!

Live Muralist: Shogo Ota

We are excited about our live muralist, Shogo Ota. The final product will be available via the silent auction. The highest bidder will select one of our organizations and donate funds directly.

Shogo Ota, the talented artist behind Tireman Studio, is a captivating force in the contemporary art world. With a portfolio spanning diverse mediums and styles, Ota's work is a testament to his boundless creativity and keen eye for detail. Through his intricate paintings, sculptures, and mixed media pieces, he seamlessly blends traditional Japanese aesthetics with modern sensibilities, resulting in compositions that are both visually stunning and deeply thought-provoking. Ota's exploration of themes such as identity, memory, and the human condition resonates with audiences worldwide, inviting viewers to delve into the rich layers of meaning within each piece. Tireman Studio serves as a digital gallery, showcasing Ota's exceptional talent and providing a platform for art enthusiasts to experience his transformative vision firsthand.


Dr. Gerry Ebalaroza-Tunnell in a bright red scarf against a vibrant purple background

Dr. Gerry Ebalaroza-Tunnell

Dr. Gerry Ebalaroza-Tunnell, or Dr. G, is the essence of the Aloha Spirit, advocating for connection and compassion. She is the Founder and CEO of Co3 Consulting, which focuses on fostering leadership and systemic change for cohesive communities. With her Hawaiian roots in O’ahu and current residence in Bothell, Washington, Dr. G connects ancestral wisdom with her mission for a better world.

Holding a doctorate in Transformative Studies and Consciousness from the California Institute of Integral Studies, her academic work explores systemic change through personal transformation. Dr. G is also an award-winning author whose works aim to promote empathy and understanding among children. Her upcoming memoir, “The Evolution of AloHā: Awakening the Breath of Life,” is anticipated to be released in late 2024 and will offer insights into her personal and cultural explorations.

Uzma Ahmed in a gray cardigan against a gray background

Uzma Ahmad

Uzma Ahmed's journey started in Pakistan, where she grew up among seven siblings in a lively household. She attended Punjab University, earning an MS in Psychology. After teaching there for a short time, she moved to the US in 1988 to join her husband. She earned her second Master’s degree at Oregon State University and gained more experience teaching. She served her community in Oregon for over 20 years in mental health counseling and as the Director for Family Sexual Abuse Treatment. Currently, Uzma manages a community based program on positive parenting in Oregon and works part time in private practice as a Licensed Mental Health therapist for clients in Oregon and Washington States.

Uzma believes in volunteerism and giving back. She supports Community Outreach, offers comfort through Hospice Services, and supports female-identified people with Days For Girls. Additionally she volunteers at Western Washington University and the American Association of University Women (AAUW), serving as the Co-President for the Whatcom Branch.

Beyond the hustle, Uzma unwinds with watercolor and acrylic art, photography, and walking/hiking in nature.

Favio Guzman-Estrada wearing a woven reed hat, squatting on the ground and placing a small Flag of Guam

Favio Guzman-Estrada

Hafa Adai! Favi (he/they) is a queer Indigenous CHamoru/Mexican artist. Born and raised in the Diaspora, his art explores Indigenous futurity and restoring the indigeneity for diaspora identities. They are in their third year at Western Washington University pursuing a concentration in Law, Diversity, and Justice with an emphasis in Indigenous Sovereignty through Law and Art. Since his time at WWU, he has participated in being a Co-Chair for Blue Group, Social-Media Coordinator for PISA, political organizing, and community advocacy.

Mario Orallo-Molinaro against a split blue and burgandy background, with photos spread out in front of him

Mario Orallo-Molinaro

Mario Orallo-Molinaro (he/him) is a Filipino-Italian performer, teaching artist, arts administrator, former WWU Admissions Regional Officer, and Vice President of Shoreline Educational Support Professionals Association (SESPA), an education union based in Seattle, WA. He graduated from Fairhaven College at Western Washington University. As the Executive Artistic Director of Jet City Improv, he has been a guiding presence during challenging times, advocating for equity and inclusion in the Seattle arts community. Additionally, he served on the Whatcom Racial Equity Commission stakeholder committee. Finally, he also holds a position on the Board of Directors for the Washington Education Association, representing WEA CASCADE.


Syre Student Center is wheelchair accessible. ASL is available upon request. Please contact no later than three days prior to the event to request specific accommodations.

WWU APIDA Heritage Month Events

vibrant purple lotus flowers over colored circles

Transracial adoptees have unique experiences related to race and adoption that shape their identity development. Dr. Kim will talk about the ways transracial adoptees develop their individual and community racial and adoptee identities

JaeRan Kim, Ph.D., MSW, (she/hers) is an Associate Professor in the School of Social Work and Criminal Justice at the University of Washington at Tacoma, located on the traditional territories of the Puyallup peoples. Prior to completing her doctoral degree, she worked with foster and adopted children and families and with adults with disabilities in residential care. JaeRan’s research is focused on the wellbeing of adoptees, exploring disability, race, and transnational experiences for adoptees. As a public scholar, JaeRan is passionate about engaging in community-based projects; her blog Harlow’s Monkey, which focuses on the transracial/transnational adoptee experience, is one of the longest-running transracial adoption blogs in the United States. 

Effects of Climate Change on Pasifika Nations

Wednesday, May 15th, 2024 at 12 PM
MCC Lunch & Learn, VU 735

The Pacific Islander Student Association will present the effects and future impacts climate change poses to island communities of the Pacific ranging from Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia. Topics included will be rising sea levels, destruction of indigenous environments, and displacement of island residents.

APIDA Heritage Month Lunch Special

Thursday, May 16 11:00AM - 2:00PM
Viking Commons Lunch

Cookbook Raffle: "To Asia, With Love"

Featured Recipes:

  • Cumin Tofu Stir-Fry
  • Salt & Pepper Eggplant
  • Celery, Mushroom, and Leek Dan Dan Noodles
  • Tumeric Broth Noodles
  • Roasted Brussel Sprouts, Chickpeas, and Edamame with Ginger Scallion Oil
  • Pad Thai Salad with Shredded Cabbage and Kale
  • Everything Chili Oil


Our Stories, Our Resistance: APIDA Art Celebration

Thursday, May 30th at 6:00pm

Join us as we celebrate art in the APIDA community. We’ll feature many forms of art including visual art, dance, music, poetry, and more! 

Student Clubs

Support our student clubs as they celebrate their culture and community during their heritage dinners. Information for how to purchase tickets can be found on the WIN website.

April 20 - Vietnamese Student Association

May 19 -  Filipino American Student Association

May 25 -  Pacific Islander Student Association

June 1 -  South Asian Student Association

Purchase tickets on WIN

White Sampaguita (ginger lily) flowers over colorful circles

History of APIDA 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. Most of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants. Please visit the Asian Pacific Heritage website to learn more about this month.

APIDA is a pan-ethnic classification that intentionally includes South Asians (Desi) as part of the community along with those in the community of East Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander heritage. APIDA represents a diverse community of more than 50 ethnic groups and includes all people of Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander ancestry who trace their origins to the countries, states, jurisdictions and/or the diasporic communities of these geographic regions.

APIDA history is an important part of the American experience, and we encourage our community to celebrate and learn about the achievements, hardships and sacrifices of APIDA people that deserve to be explored.

About the Artist

Susan Puailiau Lindsey

She/Her - Entrepreneur. Graphic Designer. Tattooist. Upcyclist.

vibrant magenta orchids

Thank you to Susan Puailiau Lindsey (Pua), for bringing life to the beautiful design for our APIDA Heritage Month graphics.

Artist's Statement


Mahalo nui to all involved in this event. I am grateful for the opportunity to be a Graphic Designer in The Community Consortium for Cultural Recognition. The artwork for this event depicts the unity throughout the recognized cultures and throughout the planet. Our connected roots and collective futures; our ripple effect that spreads across our lands, our seas, and ourselves.  

I was born in Hilo on the Big Island of Hawai’i and am blessed to live in the Pacific Northwest in Bellingham, Washington. My mom moved from Seattle to the Big Island for college and met my dad, and raised my brother and I in both places. We have been a bridge between the mainland and the Big Island all my life, traveling back and forth as often as possible.  

I share the aloha spirit in everything I create and I embrace the entrepreneurial spirit in a variety of business endeavors with the support of my ohana. One of those being Ink Drop Tattoo Shop; a creative space that my business partner, Zim, and I opened in 2016. I have been tattooing since 2011 and have been an artist all my life. I graduated from Whatcom Community College in 2012 with my Associates Degree in Visual Communications. Owning a Tattoo Shop right across the street from the community college was both unexpected and destined. It is so important to myself and the Ink Drop team to further our art and education to artists and entrepreneurs; creating a more beautiful future for everyone. Ho’oponopono; do right within yourself and to others.

Let’s create together,


Follow Pua





Reading & Resources


These events were organized by a loving and caring community. Our gratitude goes to the Community Consortium for Cultural Recognitions for coordinating the APIDA Heritage Month Festival. Much appreciation to the Western Washington University’s APIDA Heritage Month Planning Committee. 

A Special Thank You to our Community Sponsors

Bellingham Public Schools logo
Peace Health Logo
Whatcom County Health and Community Services identity mark
Bellingham Technical College Logo
Whatcom Community College
Northwest Indian College logo
Western Washington University logo, a mountain with waves in front of it and the words Make Waves below it.
City of Bellingham logo
Bellingham Public Library yellow book logo
schedule of events from 2023's APIDA festival on a table with bright, magenta flowers
A group of people wearing black outfits and white/green leis, doing a traditional Polynesian dance

WWU’s Pacific Islander Student Association (PISA) performance

Rows of people sitting at tables for 2023's APIDA festival, held in Bellingham's Depot Market Square
People from 2023's festival sitting at tables, looking towards the stage