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  • Writer's pictureJamie Noh

Jamie: "What sparked your interest in activism within Asian American communities?"

For me, I began to get interested in activism in high school, though I didn’t realize it at the time. I had always been interested in discussions of race and the intersections of race with socioeconomic status, but never did much practical work until the end of high school. A friend and I became the co-presidents of our Asian Students Association and decided to revamp the curriculum of the club to be more about Asian American history and to have a more social justice oriented framework. By doing the research to create a new curriculum, I began to learn more about the history of Asian American organizing and resistance. This gave me more of a conceptual understanding of how our ancestors have participated in advocacy.

While I was co-president of the club, students approached us about continuing the advocacy of past Asian Student Association presidents in trying to establish school break holidays for Asian diasporic holidays such as Lunar New Year, Eid and Diwali. Our school, although NYC public schools at the time had these holidays off, still did not have a break or any sort of support for students who celebrated these holidays. We started a letter writing campaign and spoke with the school Board of Trustees about getting these holidays off for students. Ultimately, we were approved and, though I never got to have those holidays off, it meant a lot for the students at my school after I graduated that the institution honored their cultural holidays.

After that, I realized that challenging authority and institutions to advocate for students was something I found very invigorating, even if it was just a small thing like getting a day off of school to focus on cultural enrichment. I brought that interest with me to college where I expanded my passion for Asian American studies by pushing for an Asian American studies department at my college. As I now am in my last semester of college, I realize that those initial small inklings of standing up for myself and my peers were the spark of my interest in advocacy and community care. I love learning from our activist elders and seeing how they have shaped the path for future API activists.


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