Young activists create Asian American history lesson to fight racism

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“Education is so important to creating change and fighting racism,” said 14-year-old Mina Fedor. “But there are so few [taught] in schools about AAPI [Asian American and Pacific Islander] the history and contributions of Asian Americans.

An organization founded by Mina last year called AAPI Youth Rising aims to correct this. She and several other middle schoolers from Oakland, Calif., started the group “to take small steps to bring about positive change in our communities.” Those who are part of it – AAPI youth and their allies across the United States – have been involved in speaking out, supporting legislative action, arts activism – and more recently, a program free courses on the history of the AAPI.

Mina and three other teens launched the program this month to coincide with Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Since March, they have researched and designed their slide presentation. Their hope is that over time, more schools nationwide will offer at least one such lesson during the school year.

The debut took place at the Chandler School in Pasadena, California. Mina, Siwoo Rhie, Charlee Trenkle and Max Wong traveled from their homes in the San Francisco Bay Area to speak to fifth and eighth graders.

The team spoke about the diversity of the Asian American experience, with more than 20 million Asian Americans, representing more than 20 countries, living in the United States. They shared information about the first anti-Asian laws and the rise of the AAPI civil rights movement 40 years ago.

“I was a little nervous at first [about the presentation]but I had a great time,” Mina told KidsPost by phone from Pasadena.

“The students seemed really interested,” Max said.

The past two years have seen an increase in attacks against Asian Americans.

This is related to the coronavirus pandemic. Some people mistakenly blame China, the site of the first cases, for the pandemic, and some have responded by lashing out at anyone of Asian descent. The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism reported that 369 anti-Asian hate crimes occurred in 21 major US cities in 2021. This represents a 224% increase from 2020.

Even when anti-Asian actions are not criminal, they can be hurtful. Mina and Max were bullied, including mean jokes about whether they had covid-19 or ate certain animals. Mina was also disturbed early last year by a racist gesture directed at her mother, who is Korean.

To speak out against the hostility and violence, Mina planned a rally in Berkeley, California in March 2021 that drew more than 1,200 people. Young activists carried signs that read “I am not a disease” and “Stop Asian hatred”. AAPI Youth Rising was created soon after.

“We wanted to raise the voices of young people,” Mina said. “Young people have opinions and ideas, but we didn’t see any of that” made public.

Since the rally, the organization has sponsored an art exhibit for young people of diverse voices, contributed to a mural of Asian American heroes in San Francisco’s Chinatown, and spoken to other social justice groups.

Their work has been widely recognized. Mina recently received the Changemaker of the Year award from the anti-bullying group act to change. In January, American Girl partnered with AAPI Youth Rising when the company announced its doll of the year: a Chinese-American doll named Corinne Tan. In February, Mina was named a finalist for Time’s 2022 Kid of the Year.

Plans for AAPI History Video

Mina is not focused on rewards, but on next steps. Schools have signed up for the AAPI History Lesson, which will be offered virtually and in person through the end of the school year. This summer, the team plans to adapt their lesson in video format. It will be available on the organization’s website.

“That way we can reach more schools because we won’t need to be there” to present, Mina said.

The team’s lesson in Pasadena inspires greater understanding and change, according to Jill Bergeron, principal of Chandler’s middle school.

“By raising awareness, [Mina and her team] help reduce stigma in our communities,” she said. “Our students see people their own age doing work often attributed to adults, and they get an idea of ​​what is possible and how they could be involved. »

To get involved, children and teens can contact AAPI Youth Rising via aapiyouthrising.org. There are chapters in California, Maine and Michigan.

To schedule an AAPI history lesson for students in grades 4-12, teachers can contact aapiyouthrising.org. It’s free.

About Bernice D. Brewer

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