By Ha Nguyen, Development Associate and Liana Shivers, VA Middle & High School Program Coordinator
Photos courtesy of AALEAD Staff and GMU’s Asian Pacific American Coalition (APAC)
This past Saturday, AALEAD youth from the VA High School Program embarked on a field trip to George Mason University (GMU) in Fairfax, VA to attend the One APAC Fall Retreat, an event hosted by GMU’s Asian Pacific American Coalition (APAC). The theme of the retreat this year is Roots, aiming to “explore our collective roots as Asian American and Pacific Islanders through our history and issues, and to discover what keeps us rooted in our identities and community”
At the retreat, AALEAD youth and the audience were invited to watch a Youtube video named “How You See Me”, as the producer thoughtfully talked with people from a variety of Asian cultures about how they think the world sees them, and if they feel defined by their skin color, gender, or religion.
Throughout the day, youth learned about APA history since the 1600s till present through an interactive presentation of “AAPI 101: Identity & History”. With the lack of APA representation in mainstream educational curricula, most of the community members never had opportunities to learn about APA identity, history and issues. The activity paid tribute to the generations of APAs who have enriched America’s history, yet often being glossed over as insignificant or unimportant.
“I learned that the history of Asian American not widely told in public and not told in school. In order to not be ignorant we must continue to learn about our history”– AALEAD Youth
Youth also had thoughtful discussions with one another about Cultural Competency then shared with the whole group about the importance of their name, spoken language, religious & cultural holidays, and how they approached conflicts and stereotypes.
“I learned to speak and share my own thoughts in front of people”– AALEAD youth
Additionally, youth learned about the origins of the model minority myth and how it affected the Asian American community. Youth had the opportunity to read some work by Asian American poets such as Franny Choi and Chrysanthemum Tran to learn about the importance of narrative storytelling through poetry as well as learn how to write a poem from their own experience and identity.
“One word to describe my experience today is discovery – we were able to explore a lot of information that was not taught in school, and I was able to learn more about our history and connect with our community”– AALEAD Youth
Thank you to GMU APAC for hosting the event and inviting AALEAD Youth to learn more about the rich history behind our community!