Violence against Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) peoples has persisted for centuries in the United States, but it was not until a constellation of events in the 1980s that the Asian American Movement as we now know it emerged onto the public stage. A leading voice in this movement for many decades has been Helen Zia—a Chinese American author and activist working at the intersections of struggles for racial and LGBTQ justice, among other issues. Zia is the author of many works including Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People (2001) and Last Boat Out of Shanghai: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Fled Mao's Revolution (2020). Zia initially came to prominence in 1982 when she became the public spokesperson and a primary organizer of the campaign that sought justice for Vincent Chin—a Chinese American man who was brutally murdered in a hate crime in Detroit, Michigan. These events and others that followed would galvanize a pan-cultural Asian American Movement, providing an essential foundation for AAPI-led resistance to the racism and violence that continues to besiege the community into the present.
Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month each May is a great time to recommit to centering Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) experiences in the classroom. Check out the following resources from a host of cultural institutions including the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian American Experience, Japanese American National Museum, Smithsonian Institution, and California Museum to expand your pool of classroom offerings on the historical and contemporary experiences of AAPI peoples.
Though Asian and Pacific Islander American (AAPI) people have faced racist violence in the United States for centuries, the endurance of this racism became more visible in the last year as an uptick in violence targeting AAPI peoples entered the national consciousness. This virulent racism and the structures that allow it to persist demand response, and education is one of our most powerful tools for raising consciousness and taking steps toward repair.
For many educators who are eager to begin exploring AAPI history and contemporary experiences with students, it can be challenging to know where to start. We invite educators to use the following curricular resources and professional development offerings to begin a journey of reflection, dialogue, and learning in the classroom.
This May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. It is a fabulous time to ensure that we are actively engaging with the histories, literatures, and contemporary life experiences of Asian and Pacific Islander American peoples. Below are five new books released in the last year that range in format from historical scholarship to intergenerational memoir to novel. Spanning communities that hail from across the Asian continent, these accounts can be great learning companions for educators and other adults eager to deepen their engagement with these important themes.
This April during Genocide Awareness Month, eminent Holocaust scholar Lawrence L. Langer shared a number of provocative insights from his latest scholarship with Facing History staff. In Dr. Langer’s new book, The Afterdeath of the Holocaust, he raises critical questions about the prevailing narratives and language used to characterize the Holocaust and Holocaust survivorship. In particular, he poses challenging questions about the meaning of survival and urges his readers to face the losses and profound suffering of victims and survivors without the sentimentality that he feels predominates. As scholars throughout the field of Holocaust Studies continue to grapple with these complex questions, Dr. Langer contributes a challenging perspective that ultimately calls for commitment to unvarnished truth telling about the depth of loss and suffering borne by victims and survivors themselves. This April and all year long, we at Facing History are also sitting with these rich questions and commitments.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Julia Mayer, author of Painting Resilience: The Life and Art of Fred Terna—a new biography that explores the life of one Holocaust survivor after liberation and the skills required not just to live, but to thrive. In this interview, Mayer discusses the evolution of her lifelong relationship with Fred; vital lessons that she has learned from him about the power of lifelong learning and enduring in the face of suffering; and the continuing urgency of amplifying the stories of Holocaust survivors today.
On Tuesday evening, it was announced that former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been found guilty of all charges leveled against him in connection with the death of George Floyd in May 2020. The twelve-person jury reached the unanimous verdict that Chauvin committed second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter against Floyd nearly a year go. As we exhale in the wake of this decision, we must remain present to the unending stream of historical and contemporary violence that surrounds this guilty verdict.
Genocide Awareness Month each April is an annual period of remembrance that sheds light on the extremes of human behavior, surfacing the evil, altruism and resilience of which human beings are capable. As we sit with the strong emotions that this reflection elicits, there is also a rich opportunity to think critically about the specific historical and contemporary conditions under which genocide has occurred. Below are 10 classroom resources that educators can use to unite heart and head in their instruction on genocides past and present:
Teaching about genocide is challenging for a number of reasons. Each instance of genocide is unique to the historical, cultural, and political contexts in which it emerges, demanding sustained intellectual engagement. Simultaneously, however, educators teaching about genocide are also called to engage themselves—and their students—in a level of emotional engagement and ethical reflection not required by most other topics of instruction. Below are 6 virtual tours, exhibitions, and professional development opportunities that educators can use to navigate these challenges with greater support:
Genocide Awareness Month every April is an important time to draw our attention to the victims of genocides that are ongoing in the contemporary world, that may yet happen, and that have already taken place, leaving an indelible mark on individuals, communities, and nations. However, Genocide Awareness Month is also an opportunity to recover and amplify the stories of people who, despite being targeted by perpetrators, have refused to be victims and resisted against all odds.