Sandy Spring Friends School



OIEJB Update: AAPI Heritage Month 2024

OIEJB Update: AAPI Heritage Month 2024

From the Office of Institutional Equity, Justice, and Belonging (OIEJB), welcome to Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Month!

This month, the penultimate in the OIEJB History and Heritage Month series, celebrates people who share heritage from a number of countries and honors their contributions to American life and culture. The U.S. Census Bureau classifies people of Asian descent as “having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent,” including, but not limited to China, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Korea, India, Cambodia, Vietnam or the Philippines. Pacific Islanders are people who descended from the islands of Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia. This classification includes, but is not limited to people from Native Hawaii, Samoa, Tahiti, Guam, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea.

Filipino people first began migrating to California in 1587, and waves of immigrants from Japan, China, and other countries followed in 1843. Commemorating that immigration and recognizing the completion of the transcontinental railroad–which would not have been possible without the labor of over 15,000 Asian workers, many of then Chinese–was the goal of “AAPI Heritage Week,” a ten-day celebration signed into law by President Jimmy Carter on October 5, 1978. As with other heritage and history months, the week was later expanded to a full month, when President George H.W. Bush signed a bill on May 14, 1991, leading to the official designation of the full month in 1992.

Nevertheless, it is impossible to acknowledge the presence in this country of people with Asian and Pacific Islander heritage without noting both the government-sanctioned exclusion and isolation of those people and more recent examples of racism. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and the Japanese Internment Camps that were established in 1942 are just two examples; more recently, people with Asian heritage have been centered in negative reactions to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, with hate crimes against Asian people rising 167% in 2021, according to The Marshall Project. Resources for getting involved in countering that negative energy can be found here and here.

In addition to creating displays in all three academic divisions and other campus buildings, engaging in activities with advisories, and curating reading lists, SSFS will mark this year's iteration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the following ways:

In Lower School, 5th Grade will lead the way with their turn for the Community Art Project. They will learn about Japanese American artist, Ruth Asawa. Ruth Asawa is known for her wire sculptures, public fountains, and her commitment to arts education and community. Students will examine Ruth's experience in the internment camps that the United States created to imprison Japanese Americans during World War II. Students will explore printmaking, paper folding, and the power of community as they create hanging sculptures inspired by Asawa's artwork. 

Other LS grades will be given access to resources to examine the varied cultures and experiences of East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Children's books will be selected based on developmental readiness and representation needs of the classroom. Databases, art exhibits, biographies, and more will expand students' understanding of the diversity of histories and experiences. 

The Middle School will use advisory lessons created by students during Immersion Week to educate their peers about AAPI Heritage Month. This resource will be shared with teachers for the purpose of including lessons and activities such as writing haikus, folding origami, and learning about inspirational Asian American Women in music. The Middle School and Upper School AAPI Affinity Groups are planning a joint lunch. Off campus, several events are happening in our area to celebrate the month; Terrell will share these resources with the MS to provide opportunities to support Asian American students and celebrate their rich heritage. 

The Upper School AAPI student affinity group is taking the lead on celebrations for our oldest students, crafting a trivia-based advisory lesson, planning an assembly for late May, and as mentioned above, joining with the MS affinity group in fellowship. Artwork by boarding student Kevin Mao will be displayed in the 3rd-floor commons, and these resources will be shared with Upper School teachers.

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