May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month! In honor of this month, as well as the release of more items for Girl of the Year 2022 Corinne Tan, I interviewed AAPI Youth Rising, an organization founded by middle schoolers that American Girl partnered with for Corinne's release.
AGDN: AAPI Youth Rising was started last year after the rise in anti-Asian hate. What are the things you have achieved in the year since you started the organization?
AAPI Youth Rising: AAPI Youth Rising is an organization founded by middle-schoolers. Our mission is to take small actions to make positive change in our communities. In March 2021, AAPI Youth Rising organized a 1,200+ person rally to bring awareness to the increase in xenophobia against Asians in America. We were just a bunch of 12-year-olds who came together at the time. We expected a few families to show up and instead, the rally drew over 1200 people. That day over 15 kids stood bravely up on our makeshift podium (it was made out of a workout jumping box from a gym) and they raised their voices asking for change. We were inspired by everyone and we realized that even as kids, our voices matter.
So, we launched the ONE/180 pledge in support of at least one day of AAPI history + culture during the school year because we realize that education is the key for all youth. Why aren't some stories told in our classrooms? Many of us have never learned about Asian American history, and we hope that our pledge raises awareness that these stories are missing from our classrooms. We also love making art, so last Fall we organized the Our Diverse Voices youth art showcase in support of learning about our diverse histories. So many kids made art for our show! It was truly inspiring to see our show come to life.
Now, for AAPI Heritage Month 2022 we are excited to announce our ONE DAY OF AAPI HISTORY Lesson Plan! After launching our pledge to raise awareness about the missing stories of Asians in America, we started learning about our own histories and we developed an Intro to Asian American history lesson that we are volunteering to teach! We have spoken out at a lot of events this year and we are hoping to reach more kids with our story. Please contact us if you would like us to present our lesson to your school, organization, or student group!
AGDN: How did AAPI Youth Rising get involved with American Girl and Corinne?
AAPI Youth Rising: American Girl reached out to us last summer after hearing about our rally in Berkeley, CA. At the time, Corinne was top-secret and we didn't even know that 2022's Girl of the Year Doll would be Asian-American. It was so cool to hear about her story from the American Girl Team! We then worked on how we could collaborate with the launch. It's been awesome.
AGDN: What is your favorite part about Corinne’s story?
AAPI Youth Rising: We love the fact that Corinne is FEARLESS! She a pro at skiing! She trains rescue dogs! And she knows how to stand up for herself and her community when she is bullied for being Asian. Her story is an inspiration to all youth to be brave and courageous in all aspects of your life!
AGDN: Corinne is the first fully-Asian American Girl of the Year doll and only the sixth American Girl doll with full or partial AAPI heritage. Why does American Girl making more steps to be inclusive matter to society?
AAPI Youth Rising: AAPI are the fastest-growing ethnic group in the United States. Did you know that by 2040, our population will have doubled in size? Representation means everything and it's time for Asian Americans to be included. We all hope for a better, brighter, more inclusive world and that's exactly what Corinne represents.
AGDN: What does AAPI Youth Rising hope to achieve in the future?
AAPI Youth Rising: Well we hope to achieve so much! And at the same time, we realize that youth have the power to take small steps to make the world a better place. You can read a diverse book, you can learn about a culture other than your own, you can be an ally, and you can stand up for issues that matter to you. We all have a voice and our group is proof of that! At our rally, our youngest speaker was 6 years old and she addressed the crowd in Mandarin and English. It was pretty powerful! If she can do something like that, all kids can.
If you want to support AAPI Youth Rising, visit their website at aapiyouthrising.org or go to American Girl's website and make a donation.
Thank you so much, AAPI Youth Rising!