May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, a time to celebrate our diverse Asian Pacific Islander communities and elevate the Y’s continuing journey to foster greater inclusion for all. Learn more about the Y’s connection to Asian American and Pacific Islander history below.
Did you know that the first Chinese American YMCA was founded in San Francisco in 1911? The Y held lectures on health, education, classes in English and Mandarin and even had a machine shop! To this day, the Chinatown YMCA plays a pivotal role in the community.
Duke Kahanamoku was a gold medal Olympic swimmer who trained at the Central Y in Honolulu, setting world records for the 400 and 500 relay races in 1916. Following his Olympic career retirement, Kahanamoku traveled and conducted swimming exhibitions—it was during this time that he popularized the sport of surfing in the United States, which previously had only been known in Hawaii.
Born in 1914, Fred Hoshiyama worked for the YMCA full time for 39 years—from 1941 through 1980—except for his time in a government internment camp during WWII. While in this camp, Hoshiyama created YMCA-based programs to help address the social, educational and recreational needs of the Japanese Americans held in the camp. He was also instrumental in revitalizing the YMCA student movement in the 1970s, and a scholarship in his name provides professional development for Y staff of Asian Pacific Islander heritage to this day.