Reflecting on AAPI Heritage Month

June 20, 2021

In a time of recent uncertainty and a rise in hate – through rallies, protests, and social media campaigns – Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders came together in the Cherry Hill Community to celebrate their successes and right to be Americans. As Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month came to a close at the end of May, East students reflected on their culture and progress through perspective columns, artwork, and performances. Read along to view Eastside’s special: a showcase of retrospective culture.

East students reflect upon AAPI Heritage Month

I was stuck at my desk,for about an hour,wondering what AAPI Heritage Month meant to me, and every time I tried to fol- low different thoughts and ideas, my mind turned up blank. I truly did not know.As my mind churned and I began researching, even more questions surfaced.What does AAPI Heritage Month mean to the AAPI community? What does AAPI Heritage Month mean to someone not in the community? What makes AAPI Heritage Month any different from the other 11 months in the year?
In the US, we have 31 out of the 365 days in a year dedicated to the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, where we get some semblance of appreciation–that’s 8.5 percent of the whole year. 31 days to cover and appreciate the 178 years of US history where the US has stepped on the AAPI community; a community who has historically shaped the USA’s successes.A month ago, I had to Google what AAPI even stood for, and I don’t doubt that some of my classmates have too. Those four words encompass more meaning than what I can cover in one sitting.
When I think of May, I don’t think of the sacrifices and tribulations my parents made to achieve the American Dream. I think of my friends’ birthdays, flowers, and how it’s a month
before summer break. This alone was more informative to me than any of the Google searches I made in preparation of writing this.East has shown little to no effort in spreading information on how to show solidarity with the AAPI community, except via a small Instagram post saying how we celebrate with the theme “Advancing Leaders Through Purpose-Driven Service.” However, I don’t
see this in practice during class or explicitly brought up by the teachers.
A few weeks ago, I spoke at an anti-Asian hate rally to share my experience as a second generation. Another anti-Asian hate rally is occurring on May 22 in Haddonfield, and I have the privilege to speak at that one too. However, these events are all outside of school. Without
proper education on Asian American history, we are taught to accept prejudice and intolerance.At school,these 31 days feel like any other. AAPI Heritage Month means end of year projects and tests, but I know it’s supposed to mean connecting with my roots and sharing my culture.
To the AAPI community, we could think of this month as an opportunity to share our diverse culture, or it could be our call to action to fight for the justice of our brothers and sisters
who were victims of anti-Asian hate crimes. We can’t stay performative and continue with our lives pre-tending that we live in a society where our skin color is overlooked, that the equity
has already been fought for and served. We cannot be so ignorant as to think that once the pandemic is over that so will the hatred against the AAPI community cease to exist.Social and systemic racism has existed before COVID-19 and will continue to persist if we don’t change how we teach our children.
AAPI Heritage Month means nothing if we don’t give it meaning.

Featured writers, Gina Liu (‘23) and Crystal Yeh (‘24) give impassioned speeches at the Stop Anti-Asian Hate Rally. (Yena Son (‘22)/Eastside Photo Editor)

East students reflect upon AAPI Heritage Month

Organized+by+the+Asian+American+Alliance+in+South+Jersey%2C+community+members+congregated+at%0Athe+Cherry+Hill+Public+Library+to+march+against+anti-asian+violence.

Yena Son (‘22)/Eastside Photo Editor

Organized by the Asian American Alliance in South Jersey, community members congregated at the Cherry Hill Public Library to march against anti-asian violence.

From the red tassels that hang on my walls,to the calendar that is inscribed with “-good fortune.” From the homemade meals, its fragrance lingering in the air long after. To the morals and principles that makeup who I am.
“What does being AAPI mean to you, what importance does AAPI Month have for you?”
Such a question is hard for me to answer when every aspect of my life has been painted with the influence of being Asian. Is it my monolid eyes? My lack of a nose bridge? Perhaps it’s how I’ll say “Aiya!” when surprised or how that one bittersweet song reminds me of my childhood.
AAPI Heritage month helps to celebrate all those different aspects of me.However, some people see those differences and think we are outsiders. They spit on us. They attack us.
“Video shows stranger attacking Asian woman with a hammer in NYC”
“Man Arrested In San Francisco Stabbing Of 2 Asian Women.”
“EXCLUSIVE: Asian father brutally attacked while walking with a 1-year-old child in SF”
Each day comes with more articles, more Instagram posts, that fill up my feed. I feel jaded, I feel like escaping from the madness. But I had the honor to speak at the Anti-Asian Hate Rally in Cherry Hill.The strength that it took to reflect on what’s been going on, and to channel my emotions into words, it made me feel empowered to atleast try to do something.
And for many others as well, this time has been a time of hardship.Many feel as though we’re trapped— both hoping to do something to help, but not sure of what to do. We know we must acknowledge what’s been going on but,by doing so, we uncover immense pain. For some, even
a simple like, comment, or repost, can require over coming an insurmountable mental wall.
During this time, please acknowledge what has been happening to us and understand that this
isn’t the first time either.From the Chinese Exclusion Act to the keeping of indigenous Filipinos in zoos, the AAPI community has suffered injustices at the hands of America. As the AAPI community begins to awaken and realize this, we will and must drive the change that will ensure that our children and grandchildren will not experience the same discrimination that we do.
When you see our differences, don’t see us as outsiders. Celebrate those differences, and celebrate us as AAPI.

A young girl protests in the Stop Anti-Asian Hate
Rally on April 10th against anti-asian violence. (Yena Son (‘22)/Eastside Photo Editor)
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