As we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, there is a group of middle schoolers who are embracing their own heritage and making a difference. AAPI Youth Rising is about a year old and we have a feeling their work has only just begun.
On their website, their mission statement reads:
“AAPI Youth Rising is an organization founded by middle-schoolers. Our mission is to take small actions to make positive change in our communities. In March 2021, AAPI Youth Rising organized a 1,200+ person rally to bring awareness to the increase in xenophobia against Asians in America.”
Our society has a history of racism against Asian cultures and in underestimating the power of representation in our arts and media. Now the next generation is taking charge. The founding group hails from Berkley, California and attends Black Pine Circle School. The head of the group, Mina said, “Originally I had a little idea to hang a sign in support of the AAPI community over the I-80, one of the busiest intersections in CA. This small idea evolved into the AAPI Youth Rising Rally.” She had hoped for at least 70 participants and over a thousand ended up attending.
Since then, students from across the United States have joined in as ambassadors and the group has a new project this year. They have brought attention to the fact there are very few Asian and Pacific Islander stories taught in schools.* The organization created a one hour lesson plan for schools to use to introduce the incredible history that they’re missing out on. You can sign up to commit to one day of celebrating AAPI Heritage and they’ll send you all the resources you need.
If you happen to be in the Bay Area, AAPI Youth Rising also has an art gallery, Our Diverse Voices Youth Art Showcase, going on at the E14 Gallery in Oakland, California. The work is made up of over 40 young artists who were inspired by the AB101 Mandate, that was passed last year and makes California the first state to require ethnic studies for students before graduation.
These kids give us hope that maybe we’re going to be okay. Generations of hate and lack of education have gone on for too long. It’s left a heaviness on people of color that is difficult to dismantle. However, changes are being made. Eyes are being opened and AAPI Rising is part of that shift.
To learn more, participate, and find out how you can help them out, check out their website here.
* For more kids speaking up and asking for representation, here’s a video from AAPI high school kids and The Very Asian Foundation: