SOMA celebrates AAPI Heritage Month

SOUTH ORANGE / MAPLEWOOD, NJ — South Orange Village and Maplewood Township, together with SOMA Cross Cultural Works and the AAPI community, unite to recognize and celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month 2021 with family-oriented events during the entire month of May. As the national conversation veers toward racial division and polarization, and as anti-Asian hate crimes are on the rise, it is imperative to build understanding and bring communities in New Jersey together by telling the stories of the heterogeneous AAPI community, according to a press release.

“We stand in solidarity with our Asian American and Pacific Islander family, friends and neighbors as we honor their rich and diverse cultural heritage and traditions; bring awareness to current events and issues; and spread love, light and joy with the lion dance, Holi festival of colors, wishing tree, the hula dance and a myriad of other unique events,” village President Sheena Collum said.

The month kicks off and ends with wishing trees in Maplewood’s Ricalton Square, Maplewood Memorial Libary’s Main and Vauxhall branches, and South Orange’s Spiotta Park; visitors are encouraged to make a wish for a future without anti-Asian hate and all forms of racism. On May 7, lion dancers will parade down Maplewood Avenue, mimicking lion movements in elaborate costumes to chase away evil and bring good luck and prosperity, followed by a Bollywood dance party. Hula, the Polynesian dance from the Hawaiian Islands that portrays and dramatizes stories through undulating gestures in dance, will take place with Pua Aliʻi ʻIlima on May 22 in Spiotta Park, along with live music from the PAʻI Trio. On Sunday, May 23, in Maplewood’s amphitheater, Holi, the Indian festival of colors, will be a spectacle to behold through a vibrant celebration of spring and love. Other in-person or virtual events include book discussions, storytime, workshops, artist spotlights, youth features, self-defense training and an AAPI family heritage pool party.

“The township of Maplewood is proud to sponsor and participate in Asian American Pacific Islander month,” Maplewood Mayor Frank McGehee said. “Thank you to our community services team as well as the SOMA organizations and individuals that worked tirelessly to bring us these amazing events in the month of May. Please engage, experience and enjoy!”

Visit for a full list of events, updates and links. All in-person events require masks and social distancing.