Uniting to Raise Awareness

Safa+meets+with+the+club+members+across+three+different+cultural+clubs+discussing+anti-Asian+hate.

Alicia Hamm

Safa meets with the club members across three different cultural clubs discussing anti-Asian hate.

Shortly after the last class of the day on April 7, close to 60 participants gathered in one Zoom room to address the issue of anti-Asian hate. As the last few attendees trickled in, the virtual space teemed with anticipation. There seemed to be a shared sense that everyone in attendance was taking part in something difficult, yet absolutely necessary.

Hosted by the Chinese Club, Japan Club, and Korean Club, the joint meeting lasted nearly 45 minutes. The majority of the meeting consisted of a presentation by Arya Safa, ESL teacher at NVOT and NVD. According to Safa, she is particularly sensitive to ethnicity-based discrimination because of her career, which involves working with immigrants from all over the world.

Her presentation outlined the problem of the increase in anti-Asian violence and discrimination since March of 2020, and it also covered the history of anti-Asian discrimination, the actions of politicians and Asian-American activists, the response of the school community, activism through art, and how to safely intervene in a racist incident.

According to Safa, the latter part of her presentation was the most important. “That’s my final concern: training our students to be aware and to do something about it at some level.”

Similarly, Chinese Club President Sarah Na believes that “every member of our school community should acknowledge the fact that racism against Asians does exist and that it has to be addressed.” She also recognizes the importance of education and believes the school should provide the community with as much information as possible about anti-Asian hate.

Following Safa’s presentation, the meeting was opened up to comments from the attendees. Gina Restivo, Wellness Coordinator, and Lydia Greco, Student Assistance Coordinator, encouraged students to use the Wellness Center as a resource in addressing anti-Asian hate.

At the end of the meeting, Chinese Club advisor Lily Lee left Zoom participants with a final message: “We have to stand together, and speak up.”

Moving forward, the clubs aim to continue highlighting anti-Asian discrimination. Yoko Fukuda, Japan Club advisor, plans to hold a discussion with club members about their experiences with anti-Asian hate.  Nicholas Peterkin, Japan Club officer, says this will allow others to better understand discrimination since “stories of attacks do not mean as much when there is no name or face correlated to the victim.” He believes “we need to reaffirm our stance as a school that racism has no place anywhere, especially within NVOT.”

Na is thinking about starting an online movement to spread awareness within the community. She says, “I hope that more people are conscious about what Asians in America are going through right now, and the fact that one of our students can be or could have experienced it.” She believes the root of the problem lies in the fact that stereotypes have become ingrained in everyday life and are often used to make assumptions about the Asian community.

Safa also plans to continue raising awareness about anti-Asian hate. She hopes the school administration will take tangible action, and she calls on students to do their part in combatting discrimination. As she emphasized in her presentation, “the most important thing is if you see something, say something.”