AYR Interview continued
Saanvi Mukkara at Frisco ISD | AYR
Saanvi, join the conversation!
Saanvi: Hola! I'm a high school student from Texas. I decided to join AAPI Youth Rising after my family in California and Texas were continuously sending warnings and prayers in our family group chats. The culture of fear we were suffering from due to the steep incline in AAPI hate made me feel powerless and angry, and I wanted to join and lead within an organization that fights for change.
Johanna Anita Villanueva (4th from the left) & collaborators showing love in front of a slide from the ONE DAY OF AAPI HISTORY lesson | AYR
Amazing! What made you join, Johanna?
Johanna: Hello, I’m a Filipina-American sixteen-year-old living in Tempe, Arizona. There really wasn't one moment that drew me to joining AAPI Youth Rising, but was the accumulation of microaggressions and stereotyping. I thank God that I have not been the target of flagrant or violent racism, but my experience with being an Asian American is littered with: "You're smart because you're Asian.” or "What the heck are you eating? It smells!" or "Where are you actually from? Like, seriously?" It was all of these small moments that, I realize now, made me feel pretty bothered.
Mimi and Mina | AYR
And last but not least, why did you join AYR, Mimi?
Mimi: A lot of the time youth are shut out [of serious political conversations] because “we are just kids,” so having this platform to speak out, as well as teach other youth about AAPI history, is such an amazing opportunity.
What is your favorite AYR initiative?
Johanna: So far I've mostly been affiliated with teaching an AAPI history lesson, so that is my favorite because I've seen the direct impact it has had on my community. However, I hope to get more into assisting with the Creative Corner, because so much of what I wish to express and how I wish to act lies within the arts.
Saanvi: My favorite initiative was preparing a presentation for Mattel, for the creation of an AAPI doll.
Mina: That’s a hard one! There are so many—our art activism, teaching our history lesson to kids, and spreading the word to speak out. AYR believes that education is the key to pretty much everything.
Mina: We realize that the rise in xenophobia targeting our communities is really due to stereotypes and misconceptions of Asians in America. Myths like the model minority and the perpetual foreigner myth negatively impact the way we are treated. If the histories of Asians in America are not told in our classrooms, we are forever meant to feel like foreigners in our own country.
So how have you addressed those myths?
Mina: That’s why one of our first initiatives was to write the ONE/180 Pledge. Out of the 180 instructional days we receive, we believe that classrooms should incorporate at least one day of AAPI history and culture.
Next we launched our ONE DAY OF AAPI HISTORY lesson campaign that Johanna mentioned earlier. We wrote a short lesson about the history of Asians in America that our 70+ chapters volunteer to teach. We’re making a difference one day, one student, one lesson at a time.
What do you hope kids get out of the lesson?
Mina: In the lesson, we unpack those myths mentioned above. We also talk through some important events in AAPI history that are rarely taught, like the Chinese Exclusion Act and the murder of Vincent Chin, which was a turning point for modern day AAPI activists. [Note: an amazing young adult book about Vincent Chin is From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry by Paula Yoo.] We also celebrate modern day AAPI heroes! We hope this lesson gives an introduction to kids about how diverse the Asian American experience is.
Saanvi: When we learn about America's history, the narrative is so non-inclusive, when its actual history is very vibrant and diverse. I really hope that kids can look at the curriculum and see themselves in it.
Do you recommend great children’s literature that focuses on AAPI experiences? (I’m thinking about, for instance, the amazing new anthology You Are Here or the incredible works of Erin Entrada Kelly. We could go on and on!) Do you focus at all on book banning? It’s such a huge issue right now, isn’t it?
Mina: Wow, that's so true. We have a resource list of AAPI books and media on our website, but it’s constantly evolving. Adding a write-up about book banning is a great idea. I’m sending this idea to my Editor-in-Chief, Anna, and we’re going to blog about it!
Mimi: Some amazing literature pieces featuring AAPI are Juna’s Jar, Inside Out and Back Again, and A Step From Heaven.
Johanna: One great children's graphic novel that focuses on AAPI youth experiences is American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. It is humorous with a great message!
Saanvi: We're always hearing about different districts trying to get rid of books about critical race theory, and it's so important for communities to mobilize to prevent bans because censorship takes away valuable parts of our history that we have every right to know about.
What would you like to tell other kids about adventuring?
Mina: Adventuring is the best! It’s important for us kids to grow and learn about ourselves through adventures and try out new things! Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone means adventuring in social situations too—like trying to talk to new people and those from different backgrounds.
Mimi: Don’t be afraid to take a risk and follow your journey wherever it takes you. Don’t let your own fears hold you back from all the experiences and memories you have left to make.
Saanvi: If there's something you want to see or something you want to change, don't wait for someone else to do it. You are a powerful adventurer in your own right. Put yourself out there, pursue your passions, and always remember that your life is an adventure.
Johanna: Adventuring is different for everyone, but what stays the same is that an adventure is not always comfortable. I think the space between comfort and something new is an adventure. And to always be looking for something new is an everlasting adventure.