Western Mass Listening Session Recap

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Main Takeaways

  • Many people feel that they do not know what resources exist for AAPI communities and organizations in Western Massachusetts, including who to contact to learn more about what resources are available
  • Importance of representation in schools and curriculums: strong desire for mandated AAPI ethnic studies courses/curriculum throughout the Commonwealth
    • How do we get the administration to respect us and create structural changes to protect and support AAPI students and staff?
  • Anti-AAPI discrimination in schools, work, government, and other public spaces
  • It is critical to deal with the root issues, not just individual symptoms of the underlying problems

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Chinese Association of Western MA

  • Main challenges: safety, communications with schools, and racial encounters in locally provided leisure spaces
  • Safety: there has been a recent string of break-ins in Longmeadow which targeted Asians, especially Asian business owners
  • Communications with schools: Asian parents and students do not always know how to effectively communicate with school administrators to challenge school decisions, even when the parents are highly educated themselves. There is also a lack of cultural understanding among school administrators, leading to misunderstandings and discrimination
  • Racial encounters in locally provided leisure spaces, including schools and sports: staff lack training in how to deal with racism, or are simply unwilling to. There also is no clear path to file complaints and track responses, which is made worse by a lack of government support

Bayanihan Association 

  • Main issues: discrimination at work, school, public life; finding jobs, especially for people with limited education; Asian hate; inflation and rising prices

Nam’s Taekwondo School 

  • Main issue: did not know where to start with licensing process, did not know who they could contact about resources, especially once licensing process seemed to drag on in a discriminatory way
    • Licensing process that was supposed to take six months took over two years, people doing the licensing were not knowledgeable about taekwondo which led to misunderstandings and snide remarks from the licenser
  • Main issue: their children were discriminated against, called slurs, at school
    • Teachers did nothing when they were contacted about their children being called slurs

Amherst Regional High School – AAPI Club 

  • Inaugural AAPI club in Amherst Regional High School
  • Student 1: a big issue is bullying and being isolated
  • Student 2: main issue is lack of representation in curriculum, especially history and literature. There is a positive correlation between curriculum representation and: class engagement, GPA, graduation rates, post high school education
    • Last year was the first time he saw south asian representation in book he read for english class, and that was a book he chose
    • Solution: in addition to more diverse stories told in current history and literature classes, add mandated ethnic studies courses
  • Student 3: fetishization of Asians prevalent in schools and the rest of society, and there is little diversity in education that could remedy this
  • Student 4: main issue is lack of representation in curriculum
    • Also would like there to be more connections and unity among AAPI students across Massachusetts

UMass Amherst Asian American Student Association (AASA) 

  • The largest cultural organization at UMass Amherst and one of, if not the largest student organizations on campus
  • Was founded with the purpose of being a safe space on campus for students, and this has been an absolute success, but they want to expand more into advocacy
  • Issue: does not know how to learn about advocacy resources and whom to reach out to for support, including related to dealing with bureaucracy
  • Wants to connect with broader AAPI communities in Western Mass rather than just on campus

Vira Cage, former Commissioner

  • Main issue: there is not the infrastructure connecting communities with resources and leaders
    • Chicken and the egg: they cannot get the resources because they do not have anyone to advocate for them
  • Wants more representation from Western Mass on the AAPI Commission
  • There needs to be more advocates to help students and parents interact with schools and teachers

Asian American Law Student Association of Western New England Law School 

  • Brand new organization
  • It has been lonely being Asian American in Western Mass, in schools, and in life
  • Wants to work with the AAPI community in Western Mass to provide resources and legal aid

Download the complete notes here

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