Asian-American students share experiences at AAPI heritage month assembly

Sean Lee, Staff Writer

In honor of Asian Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, Nate Chiang (9) and Louise Kim (10) hosted an assembly last week, giving the community insight into the prevalence of anti-Asian racism within the school’s community and spreading awareness about historical anti-Asian sentiment in the United States.
The assembly began with Erica Jiang (9), Peter Yu (10), Steve Yang (10), Rizaa Fazal (9), Sylvie Seo (10), Mekhala Mantravadi (11), Trish Tran (10), and Emily Sun (10) speaking about their experiences as Asian-Americans amidst the alarming surge in anti-Asian hate crimes caused by the pandemic. Jiang shared stories of anti-Asian hate crimes that she and her family have experienced, Yu spoke about the differences he noticed between himself and his non-Asian peers from a young age, and Mantravadi talked about her relationship with her hair and its connection to her heritage.
Speaking about her Indian-American identity helped Fazal better understand herself as an AAPI individual and the hatred around the world against these groups, she said. “As the Horace Mann community continues to learn about the injustices that are still going on today, we should grow and create accepting environments not only in school but also in our outside lives.”
Besides the large-scale and violent ways in which anti-Asian sentiments can manifest, Megumi Iwai-Louie (10) said the assembly’s focus on smaller, more normalized incidents of racism was important in helping students understand the less-understood implications of racism.
After students shared their experiences, Sapna Palla P ’20 ’24, president of the Asian American Bar Association of New York, presented on the xenophobia and anti-Asian sentiments present throughout American history and possible avenues to combat the hate surrounding these groups. “Ms. Palla’s presentation on the history of anti-Asian hate crimes gave me a new perspective on how we got to where we are today,” Jake Ziman (10) said.
“Even though violence has essentially been happening for centuries throughout the history of the U.S., there are individual and community actions that we can all be aware of and take to ameliorate the consequences of the violence, which is especially important right now,” Kim said.
Raising awareness about anti-Asian racism was an important goal for the assembly, Chiang said. “Some of the key takeaways were greater awareness or transparency about Asian-American racism in the U.S.,” he said. “The recent hate crimes are not something new — it’s been going on for a long time.”
Miller Harris (10) found Palla’s emphasis on finding solutions important. “Palla outlined several action points that we as a community can take to learn about the history of oppression and recognize the discrimination that Asian-Americans have faced in the past and are facing today,” he said.
The assembly amplified AAPI voices by talking about issues in complex ways, creating discourse around AAPI hate, and helping students feel safer, Kim said. “Hearing diverse experiences and also a very repeated message for more representation, visibility, and accountability — hearing that from fellow students was really moving,” they said.