By Ha Nguyen, Development and Communications Associate
Photos courtesy of AALEAD Staff
Every seven minutes, there is an occurrence of bullying. Every day, youth of all ages experience bullying in schools across the country. Bullying may inflict distress on the targeted youth including physical, psychological, social or educational harm. Youth are at a higher risk of being bullied if they are socially isolated, if they have a disability, if they are LGBTQI or if they are questioning their sexual identity.
For Asian Pacific American youth, this problem is often compounded by cultural, religious, and linguistic barriers that can make it harder for youth to seek and receive help. Recognizing the importance of keeping a dialogue around this topic, last month, AALEAD youth in the DC Middle & High School Program attended the #ActToChange APAHM Celebration event to talk about how we can fight bullying in our community at the Google DC office.
#ActToChange is a public awareness campaign working to address bullying among youth — including Asian American, Pacific Islander, Sikh, Muslim, LGBTQI, and immigrant youth
At this event, we met up with Actor Maulik Pancholy, who voiced Baljeet – the polite South Indian boy from Phineas and Ferb, and also best known for his roles as Jonathan on 30 Rock; Thomas Hong, who is the U.S. Olympian in Speedskating; and Jill Yu, who moderated the speaking panel and is also currently on #ActToChange Board of Directors.
Through this event, we learned about the personal stories and struggles of each speaker as they were growing up, how they encountered bullying in their lives and why it is so important to know that learn and talk about bullying so that we can put an end to it. The perpetual foreigner stereotype in America was also discussed, as no matter how long they or their families have lived in the country, Asian Americans are still persistently seen as foreigners – which provokes the question that many of us may encounter plenty of times throughout our lives: “No, where are you really from?”
Curious about what Maulik’s thoughts on playing Baljeet – a character who frequently experienced a level of bullying on the show, Ralanda, one of our DC youth, asked him if there was a time that Maulik’s identity came into conflict with a character he played during his profession as an actor and how he came about the situation.
We learned a fun fact that Baljeet was actually based on an actual Indian friend of the show’s writer with the same name. The importance is, Maulik elaborated, the writing team had conversations as well as consulted with the friend who inspired the Baljeet character in the show to make sure that the character is a three-dimensional character to be able to bring a lot of joy instead of detrimental trauma to the young audience
So, what to do when you experience bullying or know someone who is being bullied?
Celebrating our 20th Anniversary this year, AALEAD is proud to have provided culturally sensitive guidance, resources, and support so that low-income and underserved Asian Pacific American youth in the region will be empowered to pursue their passions, engage with their communities, and be the next generation of community leaders.