May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and what better way to celebrate it than with the perfect GIF to punctuate your social media?
In honor of the monthlong tribute, Giphy, the popular graphic-making site, released this week a series of original GIFs that explore and celebrate those in the Asian American Pacific Islander community.
Similar to their Black History Month and Women’s History Month campaigns, Giphy’s latest project honors what AAPIs have contributed to the country. The website is also sharing individuals’ take on what it’s like to be an AAPI minority in this country through the “I Am” interview project.
“We’re mindful of ensuring Giphy portrays the diversity of America as much as possible,” content strategy director Yosub Kim told HuffPost. “I definitely felt we needed to drive conversation for other underrepresented communities, which led us to the AAPI community.”
To truly represent the community, Giphy Studios commissioned Asian-American artists to create a series of GIFs that spotlight a variety of trailblazing AAPI individuals who have made a lasting impact in the United States.
For example, David Ho, a Taiwanese doctor whose breakthrough research helped tens of thousands of AIDs patients live longer lives, is memorialized in a winking graphic, where he spins an atom on his fingertip. Kristi Yamaguchi, the former Olympic figure skater, has been turned into a Claymation figure twirling in her iconic blue dress and gold medal.
Other notable people featured include Patsy Mink, the first Asian-American congresswoman; Ellison Onizuka, the country’s first Asian-American astronaut; and Kamala Harris, the first Indian-American senator.
Kim and Jasmyn Lawson, Giphy’s culture editor, interviewed 25 New Yorkers who were Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders for the “I Am” project. Lawson says it was an opportunity for her to learn about the diversity within America’s AAPI communities and listen to what types of problems they face.
“Some people shared stories about having immigrant parents and what it was like trying to fit in when your parents can’t necessarily teach you that,” Lawson told HuffPost.
“Other people shared stories about dating and how their race and ethnicity has complicated that for them, whether it be fighting against blatant racism or not being aware if someone likes you for you or if they are only dating you because you’re Asian,” she added.
For Giphy’s Kim, a South Korean man who grew up in the U.S., this project felt personal and “incredibly important.”
“I’ve dealt with a lot of the insecurities of being Asian American,” he told HuffPost.
Kim recalled a time when he was an 18-year-old drama student and an Army recruiter asked him about joining the military. Kim said he told the recruiter that he’d rather be an actor, to which the recruiter replied, “Oh, you want to be the next Jackie Chan?”
“It hit me that his only reference for Asians in American media was Jackie Chan,” Kim said. “I will never forget that.”
Experiences like that fuel Kim’s passion for including a more diverse collection of identities on Giphy’s website.
“This is why we wanted to make GIFs of all the Asian Americans we brought in so we can start showing representation through reaction GIFs,” he said. “We’re taking on the challenge of original content that paves the way for minorities.”
If you want to honor Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with style, use any of Giphy’s graphics below to show your friends what diversity looks like.