On April 29th, Sandra Ung was joined by public school parents and students to rally for the inclusion of Asian history in New York public schools. The rally took place outside PS 022 in Flushing.
With the rise in hate crimes, there has been an increased focus in examining the best ways of tackling racism and xenophobia, both in the aftermath of the crime and to prevent hate crimes in the first place.
After hate crimes occurred in Bowne Playground and by Kissena Park, Sandra Ung led the call for prosecutorial reforms to make it easier to charge individuals with hate crimes and for a multilingual hate crime hotline to make it easier for local residents to report hate crimes.
But Sandra Ung noted that we must at the same time work to repair the root causes of racism. Together with a representative from the Asian American Association of CSA (Council of School Supervisors & Administrators), parents and public school students, Sandra rallied in support of both passing the New York State Senate bill S6359 and to call for national reforms to include Asian history in curriculums.
Also present were parents from MS 158 who authored an open letter titled “Asian-American History Education in NYC Public Schools” to Mayor De Blasio and Chancellor Meisha Porter.
Standing alongside parents and students, Sandra Ung said, “Racism is a social disease. A pandemic just like any other, it spreads from one person to the next through media and word of mouth. But there is a cure, and it is in our education system. It is in the halls of schools like PS. 22, my alma mater, that we develop an engaged citizenry who are invested in our community and in society. Justice starts in the classroom.”
Sandra said, “That’s why we are here today to express our strong support for including Asian American studies in our public school curriculum. I want to thank State Senator John Liu and State Senator Toby Stavisky for championing this issue and introducing S6359, which would require all New York state public schools to teach students the historical and civic impact of Asian Americans. Asian history is American history. Asian studies isn’t just the history of one group - it’s the history of us, of all Americans, of our nation’s shared past.”
Sophia Yu, a student at Benjamin N. Cardozo High School said, “I was raised in Queens by two immigrant parents from China and Taiwan. I am proud of my parents who worked hard to give me and my brother a better life in America. I’ve witnessed firsthand the struggles and sacrifices that they have had to go through to achieve their dreams. However, my friends, their families and my classmates are scared amidst the surge in hate crimes.” Sophia added, “I believe that education will help us foster mutual understanding between communities to tackle racism. We need to make sure that all students learn and recognize the contributions of Asians to the United States, that Asians were here building America alongside others, that we belong. Asian American history is American history.”
Sophia Yu also spoke about how important this would be to her on a personal level, “It’s important to me to see myself and my family represented and reflected in our curriculum, and to ensure that we recognize the contributions of all Americans. History teaches us about the past but it also helps us imagine the future.”
Yitong Wang, a parent from MS 158, read from an open letter written by the parents of MS 158, “We believe that by learning about the history of each member of our community--how we arrived at this land and how we helped to build this nation and city together--we will be more united, empathetic, and respectful to each other; we will be better able to fight racism, discrimination, and inequality. We look forward to collaborating with you to achieve racial representation and equality in our schools for all children.” (The open letter can be found here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeQv87KVmRsqW5-WkPaAG1kp1XLnBlRsd_BqojsrfdREjaNbA/viewform)
Lois Lee, a representative from Asian American Association (A3) of CSA which represents school principals and administrators, said “There is no national curriculum that requires Asian American History. If our story is not told, then the atrocities suffered throughout history will repeat themselves.” She also noted that only 2% of teachers are Asian, and expressed her hope for “systemic change in rewriting the core US History curriculum.”
Lois Lee also brought examples of a coloring book that could be used for young children to learn the history of Asian Americans in the United States, including famous figures and about the building of the transcontinental railroad.
Zhiyong Kuang, a parent of a student in MS 159 in Bayside, also expressed that he hopes all our schools can include lessons on Asian history.
Deepti Sharma, founder of FoodtoEat, a corporate catering service that empowers immigrant, women and minority owned restaurants to grow their businesses, said, “While growing up, I never felt like I was seen. The history books I read in class told stories of the founding of our country and the democracy founded by the European descendants. When I got home and would watch TV, I'd see a similar narrative - pop culture, entertainment, and the news all told the stories of people that didn't look like me. To this day, even my parents' and grandparents' generations still don't know the story of how the first South Asians came to this country, emigrating from the land Columbus actually thought he "discovered" over 500 years ago. The hate we see today toward Black, Brown and Asian Americans is nothing new. But our descendants left their respective homelands just as the Europeans at the start of this country for much the same reason - to build better lives. Our history is intertwined with the past and future of this nation just as theirs is, and our stories deserve to be told, both inside the classroom and out.”
State Senator John Liu and State Senator Toby Stavisky this week introduced S6359, which would require all New York state public schools to teach students the historical and civic impact of Asian Americans. Sandra voiced her strong support for the two Senators’ bill, and thanked them for their strong advocacy for the community.
Sandra Ung is a candidate for City Council in District 20. She has been endorsed by the UFT, which represents 75,000 teachers and 19,000 classroom paraprofessionals, and by the CSA, which represents 6,100 Principals, Assistant Principals, Supervisors and Education Administrators who work in the NYC public schools.