For the last 6 months, my colleagues and I have been working on a project. We’ve partnered with 8 campuses across the U.S., had 13 college leads on board to gather Asian-American Pacific Islanders students to recreate photos of their favorite inspirational leaders in the community. The reason why we started this independent passion project is because we wanted to create a voice in the AAPI community.
A lot of the times, AAPI’s were seen as the “model minority,” and along with that title came racial stereotypes, such as being nerds, unathletic, smart, submissive or exotic. Many Asian-American students, like me, have had at least experienced a lunch-box moment. We grow up in an American society as Asian-Americans, never being fully assimilated into the society that birthed us. No matter how many A’s we get in school or how flawless our English may be, we are always placed on the other side of the line that bounds us from being accepted as “Americans.”
The reason why AAPI Heritage month is so important to me was not only because I felt this community needed a strong voice and a leader that spoke out, but because I was exhausted carrying different stigmas about my identity that were completely irrelevant.
Despite what most people thought, I wasn’t that great in school, I never ate dogs, and I could see perfectly fine with my eyes. But overtime, it became natural for me to stray away from the culture that outlined me against my peers, and to throw away parts of my identity so that I could seamlessly fit in with the others. Yes, it was terrible not being able to fully expose myself to others because of this insecurity, and yet, I was more afraid of the consequences that came after being my true self.
Sometimes I ask my Mother, “Aren’t you mad that some people are so racist?” This is a question I often ask after crossing a social injustice piece on the newspaper. Mother’s reply is always so simple, “Yes, but it was always that way.” I ask her if we could change, but she doesn’t believe in such thing. She believes the best thing to do is just to endure the waves that rock your boat and to continue on with your way. I could have listened to her advice, but I was rarely a good child.
My life was filled with rebellions, life so far turbulent for someone to take control over. I found my own way of things, and I was never apologetic about it. I thought that as long as the requirements were met, I could do whatever I wanted to. This meant bending, sometimes breaking the rules. Like I’ve mentioned above, the project I was working on for the past 6 months is essentially an accumulation of all my rebellious outbreaks. My position as an Asian-American is very powerful and especially being a college student, I have the potential to influence thousands of others who will soon shape the future.
To share a little bit from my project, I want to bring to you an excerpt from the website. First, down below is the trailer we put together for our project, AAPI:BeSpoken.
We have also created bunch of profiles of students who have recreated some of their inspirational AAPI leaders.
A majority of the students who participated were in the Greater Seattle area schools ranging from UW Seattle to Seattle U to UW Bothell. There are also lots of students across the U.S. who have participated in this project and it is still growing.
We also had couple response back from the leaders we have chosen.
We've had some few responses from various leaders. One of them is the supreme court justice of Washington state, Justice Mary Yu.
and the other is
...one of the others is Arden Cho from the series Teen Wolf.
There's so much coming this way, so if you are interested, please make sure to check out Facebook and/or Instagram @aapibespoken You could also find us on our website http://www.aapibespoken.com .