“He yelled hate at me and my grandma and no one did anything. I have to ride that bus tomorrow. My mom tells me to be safe, but how am I supposed to NOT be Asian?”
The young man’s tearful rage made the Zoom classroom fall silent. As I looked out at my students, every single one was looking away from their cameras. I took a breath and was about to engage the class when a single voice spoke.
“I ride the 28… Who else rides the 28?”
Suddenly, all eyes were looking directly into their cameras and hands went up in boxes across the screen.
“Just breathe, bro, we got you.”
I watched the young man take in a breath and turn toward the screen. As his eyes met his peers, smiles started to spread.
“We can fill that bus.”
“Yeah, grandmas love me.”
The class broke out in laughter. After months of teaching coping techniques and attempting to bond despite the distance, I sat in awe of these young activists as they listened, reached out, and encircled their peer in support. Their idea was warm, genuine, and created a community of care. In drawing him in, they created a powerful solution to the injustice around them. It is in these moments, it is an honor to be an educator.
The moment called to mind the words of iconic Asian American activist and educator Grace Lee Boggs: “We never know how our small activities will affect others through the invisible fabric of our connectedness.”
Throughout this latest rise in Anti-Asian Hate, Beyond Differences has been at the forefront of empowering youth across the country to “weave the invisible fabric of connectedness” and bring forth justice in their communities. Their Stand Up for AAPI Youth curriculum and campaign is giving young people and educators the opportunity to connect, be seen, and create change.
As we move forward into this new academic year, there are clear challenges ahead. We must uplift youth as they heal from the isolation and trauma of last year, face the anxiety and confusion of a “new normal” and grapple with America’s long-standing struggle for social justice. Beyond Differences National Teen Boardis ready to face these ongoing challenges. This group of dynamic young activists is starting off the school year by creating youth-led support systems to combat marginalization and isolation. They are working within their communities to rebuild cultures of belonging.
These fearless young activists are always looking for fellow young people who wish to uplift their communities. If you are interested in joining or know of a young person who is ready to take their activism to a national level, please contact SallyM@beyonddifferences.org
Author: Sally Matsuishi
Director of National Youth Programs
Beyond Differences’ mission is to inspire students nationwide to end social isolation and create cultures of belonging for everyone. We envision a world where all youth are accepted, valued, and included no matter their differences. Beyond Differences offers FREE SEL curriculum, lesson plans, and supplies to middle school educators all across the nation. Bring our programs to your school today!