Black and Asian Pacific American Solidarity – a history of resistance

By Mecca McPherson, MD Middle School Program Coordinator

Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

In 1926, Black History Month was first established in by Carter G. Woodson to begin humbly as Negro History Week. The week began as a way of remembering the important contributions by people of the African diaspora. Black History Month (in the U.S.) first became a reality in 1970, eventually leading to the founding of other heritage months. Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (celebrated in May of each year) was established in 1977; Women’s History Month was established in 1988; Gay and Lesbian Pride Month was established in 2000; and Filipino American Heritage Month was founded in 2009. Woodson had asserted “If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.” Thus heritage months are not just a time to celebrate the accomplishments of a people, but also to ensure the preservation of their history.

I think the existence of heritage months provides a unique opportunity to acknowledge the oft-forgotten histories of a people, but in learning that history, there are often shining examples of cross-racial or ethnic history. During our Black and Asian Pacific American Solidarity lesson, youth learned about individuals and organizations that fought to create equality in their worlds.

Youth learned about people like Yuri Kochiyama, a Japanese American who advocated for reparations for Japanese American internment camp survivors as well as for the offspring of African American slaves. Bayard Rustin, a Black American who advocated for imprisoned Japanese Americans and traveled to India to learn more about nonviolent civil resistance from leaders of the Gandhian movement. The Dalit and Black Panthers, both were social groups that argued for justice and equality from often marginalized victims of their prospective societies. Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, an Indian freedom fighter, who when traveling to America was subjected to Jim Crow laws and who lived with Black American activists and artists. Sue Bailey Thurman, a Black American woman who traveled throughout Southern Asia on a Pilgrimage of Friendship, connecting with people through song (choir music and Negro spirituals). Finally, Jawaharlal Nehru, the First Prime Minister of India who supported Black American leaders fighting the reality of Jim Crow, likening Black oppression to the oppression of Indians by British colonialists.


While gathering the pieces to create this lesson plan, I learned about so many more activists, educators, and freedom fighters who used their separate identities to come together and make a greater change for the world. During my journey with AALEAD, I am reminded that there is far more commonality amongst people than what we are first shown. It was a nice feeling to get to show young people just a fraction of the individuals who paved the way for all of us to have a better world.

In the words of Fannie Lou Hamer, “The changes we have to have in this country are going to be for the liberation of all people — because nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”


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