January 2024 marks the first annual celebration of Americans of Chinese Descent Month. In May of 2023, Governor Jay Inslee signed into law legislation that made Washington the first state in the nation to honor Chinese Americans with this acknowledgement. Senate Bill 5000 is the culmination of advocacy by parents, students, educators and others throughout the state, including many individuals from BSD, who brought forth the measure and worked to see it passed. According to a news release from bill sponsor, Senator Keith Wagoner’s office, the new law also encourages public schools to “designate time for appropriate activities to remember and honor the many contributions and achievements made by the Chinese Americans.”

Adult standing with lion dance costumes

Honoring Americans of Chinese Descent

Lawmakers chose the month of January for the new acknowledgment due to its proximity to Lunar New Year, celebrated in locations throughout the world. The first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year typically falls within the month of January or early February on the Gregorian calendar. Linda Yang, of the Washington Asians for Equity, was quoted in the Spokesman-Review, “The designated month must be meaningful to Chinese Americans so that the community will embrace it every year. No other month fits better than January.”

Erin Wallace, a first-generation Chinese American illustrator and artist from Seattle created a series of images of prominent Americans of Chinese descent in honor of the month. On the images she states, “one person can’t capture our history and one person can’t embody our impact. The people featured in this series are illustrative of the many contributions Americans of Chinese descent have made in Washington. This is simply a starting point to learn more.” Her images include the following Chinese Americans.

Chun Chin Hock. The first Chinese settler in Seattle. He opened the WA Chong Company in 1868, one of the first businesses in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District. It was a prominent general store and contracting source for labor across the region.

Amy Yee. Raised on Vashon Island, Amy Yee was a tennis star, a coach and an inspirational teacher who brought the love of the sport to thousands. The U.S. Tennis Association’s Pacific Northwest section inducted Amy into their hall of fame as a tennis player, coach and nurturer of talents and minds.

Governor Gary Locke. The first Asian American governor in the continental United States. He also served as US Secretary of Commerce and as Ambassador to China, where he was the first American of Chinese descent in the role. He currently serves as President of Bellevue College.

The Bellevue School District acknowledges that we learn, work, live and gather on the Indigenous Land of the Coast Salish peoples, specifically the Duwamish and Snoqualmie Tribes. We thank these caretakers of this land, who have lived and continue to live here, since time immemorial.