Jason Fong, a high school student in California, created the hashtag #MyAsianAmericanStory in August of 2015 in response to Republican presidential candidate, Jeb Bush, referring to Asian children as “anchor babies” that undocumented Asian immigrants count on for status. A storm of stories that represent the diversity of Asian America followed. In my SJSU Asian American Studies 33-B course, I wanted to populate this hashtag with the important stories of my Asian American students as we connected their daily lives to the course material–the history of Asian Americans in the US and the role they play in the development of the US.
The semester-long project #MyAsianAmericanStory was a process-oriented pedagogical tool that engaged students in multimedia technologies such as images, video, audio recording, creative software apps such as Storehouse, Adobe Slate, Adobe Voice, iVideo on iPads. They collected stories from their elders, friends, communities, classmates to examine present day issues in Asian America.
Students at work at Little Saigon: Oscar Candelas, Christopher Nguyen, Kyle Wong
In our class, course content is centered on studying U.S. history in the 20th century through a race, class, gender, sexuality lens and with special attention on Asian Americans in the U.S and the role they play in the shaping U.S. politics and the American racial order. When I asked students to explore their own first, second or third generation Asian American experience, I challenged them to situate them in longer historical arcs in the Asian American experience in the US. We used Shelley Sang-Hang Lee’s new text A New History of Asian America to explore themes of imperialism and diaspora leading to Asian migrations (not only just to the US), strategies of survival and thriving and histories of racism that has linked Asian Americans in this country.
Helpful to the project of learning about Asian America was our backdoor sites (literally SJSU was a site of evacuation during Japanese internment!). I encouraged students to connect course materials with the racial and ethnic geographies in San Jose.
Richie Chan, Kyle Wong, Darien Yong, Christina Cao and friend exploring the history of the Issei Memorial Building
Discovering a Filipino Community Center, Cindy Yorza, Jonnel Alcantara and friend
Dylan Truong, Janelle Duong and Peter Reyes discover a local desert shop owned by Japanese American SJSU professor Steven Doi
The ethnic geography of San Jose at times obscures the long history of Asian Americans and the indelible mark they have made on the culture and ethnic communities of this city. The story telling project allowed students to venture outside of the classroom and note sites and experiences of Asian Americans in San Jose. Although most of their projects did not directly relate to their ethnic background or history, they were able to learn and deepen their understanding their narratives of Asian Americans and immigrants in their projects.
Video producers: Alyanah Alcantara, Janae Ajel, Janelle Duong, Peter Reyes, Dylan Troung
Sites such as San Jose’s Japantown and Little Saigon became place rich with stories in which students could examine the cultural and practical uses of this ethnic spaces and what types of meaning-making processes occurred there.
Video producers: Oscar Candelas, Richie Chan, Kyle Wong, Darien Young
Yet others, took to their own friends and networks to recast the narratives of young people win Asian America. Battling the model minority myth, students created projects that offered a different view of their racial identity in the American racial order.
The full video (below) highlights different leadership positions Filipino American students hold in the university and their motivations for taking up those roles despite the normative narratives about Asian Americans.
The digital story telling project exceeded my expectations for students and the learning objectives for the class. These creative projects brought Asian American history to life in their projects. They were immensely thoughtful and really fun.