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Celebrate Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month with These Shows on WTTW

Meredith Francis
A black and white photo inside Lee's Garden
A still from "Meet & Eat at Lee’s Garden." Credit: Meet & Eat at Lee’s Garden / American Public Television

May marks Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and WTTW has a variety of programming to celebrate. Discover essential historical moments and figures – including athletes, artists, and figures from the culinary world – who made contributions to and major achievements in their fields. This month brings exciting new programs, including stories about Indian monk Swami Vivekananda, who came to the first World's Parliament of Religions in Chicago, as well as photographer and activist Corky Lee.

Be sure to check the schedule for additional air times. Many shows are also available to stream via the PBS app or at any time.

Confucius Was a Foodie

Saturdays at 8:00 am starting May 4 on WTTW Prime
In Confucius Was a Foodie, celebrity chef and former Food Network host Christine Cushing takes viewers on a voyage of discovery, uncovering the fascinating traditions, philosophies and history of Chinese culinary culture and its surprising influence on food around the world. 

Asian Americans 

Sunday, May 5 at 11:00 am on WTTW Prime
Asian Americans is a five-hour film series that delivers a bold, fresh perspective on a history that matters today more than ever. As America becomes more diverse and more divided while facing unimaginable challenges, how do we move forward together? 

Before They Take Us Away

Sunday, May 5 at 4:00 pm on WTTW Prime
At the start of World War II, as the U.S. Government prepared to forcibly remove and incarcerate all Japanese Americans living on the West Coast, a small number of Japanese Americans took their fate in their own hands and fled the coast, becoming refugees in their own country, on a forced migration into the unknown. 

American Masters – Waterman-Duke: Ambassador of Aloha

Sunday, May 5 at 10:30 pm on WTTW Prime
Narrated by Jason Momoa, this American Masters film explores the inspiring story and considerable impact of five-time Olympic medalist Duke Kahanamoku. He shattered swimming records and globalized surfing while overcoming racism in a lifetime of personal challenges.

Lucky Chow

Wednesdays at 4:30 pm starting May 8 on WTTW Prime
A new season of Lucky Chow travels across the United States to explore Asian cuisine's impact on American food culture. The six-part series explores a wide variety of Asian food and drink, from a famous Japanese noodle dish to Korean kimchi to Chinese fusion – while meeting the new generation of chefs and entrepreneurs dedicated to keeping the traditions alive.

Shinmachi: Stronger Than a Tsunami

Friday, May 10 at 7:00 pm on WTTW Prime
This hour-long documentary shares the resilience of a unique Japanese community in Hilo, Hawaii. Their stories bring to life the once-thriving small business district founded by Japanese immigrant plantation laborers who made the bold decision to establish their economic independence from the sugar industry.

America’s First Guru

Sunday, May 12 at 3:30 pm on WTTW
Explore the compelling story of how Yoga, Vedanta, the deeper aspects of Hinduism, and an interfaith understanding first entered the popular American conversation in 1893 with the arrival of charismatic – yet almost forgotten – Indian monk Swami Vivekananda at the first World's Parliament of Religions in Chicago.

Meet & Eat at Lee’s Garden

Sunday, May 12 at 6:00 pm on WTTW
Filmmaker Day Lee recalls her memories of her family's restaurant, Lee's Garden – one of the first Chinese restaurants to open outside of Montreal’s Chinatown in the 1950s. As Chinese restaurants and the food they serve continue to evolve, it is these early restaurants and their cuisine that has captured the hearts and memories of people everywhere. Through interviews with former customers and families who owned other restaurants, this program explores how these early restaurants played an important role in the social history of Chinese and Jewish communities.

Photographic Justice: The Corky Lee Story

Monday, May 13 at 9:00 pm on WTTW



Using his camera as a “weapon against injustice,” photographer Corky Lee's art is his activism. His images of Asian American life empowered generations. 

Independent Lens: The Donut King

Sunday, May 19 at 11:30 am on WTTW Prime
An immigrant story with a (glazed) twist, The Donut King follows the journey of Cambodian refugee Ted Ngoy, who arrived in California in the 1970s and, through a mixture of diligence and luck, built a multi-million dollar donut empire up and down the West Coast.

Betrayed: Surviving an American Concentration Camp

Sunday, May 19 at 1:00 pm on WTTW
This film tells the story of a group of Americans and their mass incarceration by the U.S. government in the high desert of southern Idaho, purely on the basis of race. In the compelling voices of survivors of the camp, Betrayed explores the unconstitutional suspension of the civil rights of Japanese Americans in the Pacific Northwest and the intergenerational impact of the incarceration on their community.

The Vow from Hiroshima

Sunday, May 19 at 2:00 pm on WTTW
This film offers an intimate portrait of Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. The experience shaped her life forever and she endeavored to keep a pledge she made to her friends – that no one should ever again experience the same horrible fate. The film follows Setsuko through her decades of activism up to the current moment when she finally achieves her dream of a Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty.

Field Trip with Curtis Stone: Hong Kong

Monday, May 20 at 9:00 pm on WTTW
Curtis Stone heads to Hong Kong to discover the influences of tradition and a modern food scene that carries a deep respect for the past. He finds himself folding dumplings with a master, exploring jars of ancient ingredients, and training with a martial arts legend.

Armed with Language

Friday, May 31 at 8:00 pm on WTTW Prime
Minnesota was home to a little-known military intelligence school during World War II that trained Japanese Americans to be translators. Primarily recruited from concentration camps on the West Coast, these men and women served while many of their families remained imprisoned.