APA History, Activism, and Connections with the Black Community

APA History, Activism, and Connections with the Black Community

As you may have heard, May is Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Month and despite the CoViD-19 pandemic, there are many events and programs taking place all around the U.S. to commemorate this occasion, even if almost all of them are being conducted online. As one example, in conjunction with the Center for Asian American Media and WETA Television, PBS will be airing a five-part documentary series titled “Asian Americans” on May 11th (8pm-10pm eastern time) and 12th (8pm-11pm eastern time), so be sure to tune into your local PBS station to watch this extraordinary video series. Angry Asian Man also has a listing of different events and programs through the end of the month.

In the spirit of contributing to these collective efforts to commemorate APA Heritage Month, I was also asked to participate in two “Zoom-inars” (online seminars conducted through Zoom), and below are some video clips of my contributions. The first Zoom-inar was titled “Stand Together: Solidarity During Coronavirus” and organized by the Center for Multicultural Advancement and Student Success at my university, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. On this panel, I was joined by several of my distinguished colleagues at UMass Amherst including professors Amilcar Shabazz and Stephanie Shonekan (W.E.B. Du Bois Afro-American Studies department), Alice Nash (History department and Native American and Indigenous Studies Certificate Program), and Laura Valdiviezo (Teacher Education and School Improvement department and Center for Latin American, Caribbean and Latinx Studies). The panel discussion focused on issues related to how people of color and communities of color can strengthen our ties and connections during the CoViD-19 pandemic.

In this first clip (about 4 minutes long), I discuss recent incidents of discrimination faced by Africans in China since the start of the CoViD-19 pandemic and how they relate to historical and ongoing examples of anti-Blackness in the Asian American community:

In this second clip (about 3 1/2 minutes long), I discuss how the model minority image hurts the Asian American community and our efforts to form critically-important bonds of solidarity with the Black community:

I was very privileged to share this (virtual) space with my awesome UMass Amherst colleagues, to be able to share our academic expertise and our personal experiences with each other and with the audience, and to reinforce our commitment to collaborating with each other to mutually support our Ethnic Studies programs, during this present moment and throughout each moment in which our programs and our communities are being threatened politically, economically, or culturally.

The second Zoom-inar related to APA Heritage Month was organized by the Massachusetts Asian American Commission, titled “AAPI History: Debunking Stereotypes and Finding our Voice,” and also took place on May 4, 2020 (that’s why I’m wearing the same shirt). In this first clip (14 minutes long), I answer several questions related to (1) the history of activism among Asian Americans and how they first defied the stereotype that they were quiet and passive; (2) the origins and basic summary of the Model Minority image; and (3) why Ethnic Studies programs are important and how they contribute to greater understanding, equity, and justice in U.S. society:

In this second clip (less than 3 minutes long), I briefly discuss the need for young Asian Americans to get involved and to support Asian American Studies programs at their university, including the Asian & Asian American Studies Certificate Program that I direct at UMass Amherst.

A big part of APA Heritage Month is to renew the bonds of connection and solidarity within the Asian American community, and also between our community and other racial, ethnic, and cultural minority groups. This is especially true in times of crisis. As we individually and collectively continue our fight for justice and equality, let’s also remember to celebrate all of the positive and inspiring examples of our heritage, and to draw on the strength, resilience, and power of our families, our communities, and our allies.



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