Assemblymember Grace Lee and Senator John Liu Hold Press Conference in Support of Bill to Integrate Aanhpi History into New York’s Public Schools

Albany, NY Yesterday, Assemblymember Grace Lee and Senator John Liu gathered with colleagues and advocates to rally in support of A06579/S05963, a bill to mandate the inclusion of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) History in New York’s public school curriculums. Assemblymember Grace Lee and Senator John Liu were joined by the R.E.A.C.H. (Representing and Empowering AANHPI Community History) Coalition to organize this event, a state-wide group of more than 60 community-based organizations formed to fight for inclusive AANHPI education measures, including S05963/A06579.

Currently, there are no requirements for public schools in New York to teach AANHPI history, resulting in underrepresentation of AANHPI history in New York’s classrooms. This environment has helped spread dangerous misinformation and stereotypes about New York’s AANHPI community that have fueled the dramatic rise in Anti-Asian hate they have suffered since the pandemic. By including AANHPI history in New York’s public school curriculums, this bill will educate New Yorkers about AANHPI culture and heritage and will encourage greater acceptance and inclusion of New York’s AAPI community.

“Education is the best antidote for hate,” said Assemblymember Grace Lee, sponsor of A06579. “What we teach translates to what we believe and value as a society, and when we exclude Asian Americans from our telling of American history, we teach people to see Asian Americans as foreigners or outsiders, making them easy targets for hate and violence. Protecting our AANHPI community starts in our classrooms, where we can teach the public to recognize them as equal and valuable members of American society. I am proud to join Senator John Liu and the R.E.A.C.H. Coalition to introduce legislation to protect New York’s AANHPI community by teaching AANHPI History in our public schools.”

“This legislation is vital for both supporting the identity formation of our students and combating the resurgence of anti-Asian violence,” said Senator John C. Liu, sponsor of S5963. “While our Asian American communities have always been an integral part of our nation, for too long, our history and experiences have been excluded from the curriculum in our schools. The reality is Asian Americans are a part of the fabric of this nation, and Asian American history is American history. Teaching Asian American history will make sure that our students are afforded the opportunity to learn a more inclusive history. With the passage of the state budget this week, including a record $30 million for AAPI community-based organizations, our combined advocacy is stronger than ever, and I thank the R.E.A.C.H. Coalition and all the students, families and educators who are working to make sure our voices are heard, our histories are learned, and our experiences are understood."

“AAPI history is American history,” said Senator Iwen Chu. “Cultures and traditions survive the passage of time when knowledge is passed down. Learning the rich and diverse cultures that make up the AAPI diaspora will be a great benefit to public school students, and in the long-term fight against anti-Asian hate; we must educate our students about the history and contributions of Asian Americans. Thank you to my colleague, Senator John Liu, for introducing S5963 to teach the contributions AAPI Americans have made in building this great country.”

“The AAPI community has been steadily growing in New York State, it is time school curriculums truly reflect our state’s diversity,” said Senator Jeremy Cooney. “It will be invaluable for the next generation of AAPI New Yorkers to see themselves in textbooks, and beneficial for all students to learn and better understand the contributions of the AAPI community here in New York and nationally. I thank Senator Liu for his continued advocacy, and proudly support S5963.”

“By embracing the teaching of Asian American history in New York public schools, we can empower our students with a deeper understanding of the rich contributions and experiences of the AAPI community,” said Senator Kevin Thomas. “Teaching these stories will foster inclusivity and cultural appreciation for future generations.”

“I wholeheartedly support A06579,” said Assemblymember Steven Raga. “This groundbreaking legislation is a profound stride toward truly inclusive education, acknowledging and celebrating the rich and diverse histories of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities here in New York State. As we strive to cultivate an inclusive educational environment, let us remember that our history is not complete unless it reflects all of its participants.”

“In an era where anti-AANHPI hate crimes in New York City have increased a staggering 820% since the pandemic, the time has come to teach people how to love,” said Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar. “Integrating the AANHPI experience into our school curricula will give our children a true understanding of our community’s history and contributions in America. Students will graduate with a love and appreciation of the AANHPI community, knowing that Asian Americans are their fellow Americans. As the first South Asian woman elected to New York State Office, I look forward to passing this historic bill that will make our community seen and heard. We will continue to empower the Asian-American community when we pass my historic bills to make Diwali a New York City school holiday and to create the first ever Asian American and Pacific Islander Commission.”

“For generations, Asian Americans have made tremendous contributions to our state and our country,” said Assemblymember Edward Braunstein. “Unfortunately, as we saw during the pandemic, Asian American prejudice still endures in the United States. Teaching Asian American history, heritage, and culture in New York’s public schools will help stem the tide of hate and intolerance and foster respect and understanding in and out of the classroom. I thank Assemblywoman Grace Lee and Senator John Liu for championing this important issue.”

“AAPI history is our history, and when we fail to integrate that into our curriculum we continue to 'other' an increasingly marginalized population,” said Senator Kristen Gonzalez. “When young people do not see their identities represented in the curriculum, it can have profoundly negative effects on their self-perception. As we continue to contend with white supremacy, elevating whiteness in the classroom comes at a great cost to all students.”

“Embracing our AAPI Heritage Month, we stand united as a diverse tapestry of voices, advocating for inclusivity and understanding,” said Senator Robert Jackson. “Joining forces with passionate students, devoted parents, dedicated educators, and tireless advocates, we empower the next generation by supporting Senator John Liu and Assembly Member Grace Lee's bills S5963 and A06579. Together, we strive to illuminate the rich tapestry of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander history within our public schools, fostering a society that cherishes and celebrates the vibrant stories that shape our collective identity.”

“As Asian Americans experience unprecedented rates of hatred and discrimination, it is vital that AAPI history is integrated into the curriculum in public schools,” said Senator Shelley B. Mayer. “Education is critical to ending the ignorance and stereotypes that can lead to such acts of hatred. The time has come for schools to affirmatively acknowledge these acts--and take steps to end them.”

“Asian Americans have played a critical role in the growth and enrichment of our state and our country,” said Senator Toby Ann Stavisky. “The significant impact of the Asian American community should be taught in our schools. It is time we create a more well-rounded and inclusive curriculum that better represents everyone who helped build this country and move our society forward.”

“Children need to identify with the heroes and leaders they read about,” said Assemblymember Gina Sillitti. “This bill will ensure AAPI history and contributions will be taught in our classrooms to help break down barriers and build mutual respect. I understand that education may not bring about the fastest results, but it will bring about the longest lasting ones.”

“From marching in the streets of Manhattan to advocating in the halls of the State Capitol in Albany, the OCA-NY chapter is proud to participate in the R.E.A.C.H. Coalition's first Day of Action during our 48-hour Advocacy-thon for inclusive AANHPI history,” said Brianna Cea, President of OCA-NY and Co-Lead of the R.E.A.C.H. Coalition. “In our first Advocacy Day as a coalition, we look forward to celebrating our heritage and honoring the legacy of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders who have contributed to our rich history and collective struggle for a better country. This is just the beginning!”

“Throughout history, AANHPI communities have stood alongside other historically marginalized groups in the pursuit of justice and equality,” said Kulsoom Tapal, Education Policy Coordinator, CACF and Co-Lead of the R.E.A.C.H. Coalition. “Yet, these stories of alliance and shared struggle often go untold. AANHPI curriculum dismantles the model minority myth by challenging the prevailing stereotypes and misconceptions and recognizing the vast diversity and complexity within AANHPI communities. The integration of AANHPI curriculum is not a mere academic exercise; it is an act of justice and recognition. It is an affirmation that AANHPI history is American history, and our stories deserve to be told.”

“It is heartwarming to see community advocates, volunteers, coalition groups, and elected members mobilize and come together for a full day of action,” said Harman Singh, Education Director of the Sikh Coalition and member of the R.E.A.C.H Steering Committee. “While AANHPI month comes only once per year, our advocacy and fight for our community’s inclusion in the education system must be a sustained effort.”

“Indo-Caribbean history is Asian American history. New York State is home to the largest Indo-Caribbean foreign-born population in the United States, many of whom live in immigrant communities like Schenectady, Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park in Queens, and Castle Hill and Wakefield in the Bronx,” said Mohamed Q. Amin, Founder and Executive Director of Caribbean Equality Project. “In the US diaspora, "Indo-Caribbean" is also used to speak to community-defined terms that produce local notions of identity, ethnicity, history, and memory. Teaching Indo-Caribbean history is critical in honoring the legacy, struggles, and resilience of thousands of indentured laborers and their descendant's cultural contribution to the diversity of NY, which fosters cross-racial solidarity, building political power, and electoral representation.”

“My cousin Vincent Chin was murdered because of the myth that he was a perpetual foreigner, because he looked a certain way based on his skin color, and the myth and false belief that he did not belong in Detroit or in America,” said Annie Tan, former special education teacher and writer. “By teaching about solidarity movements, such as how Frederick Douglass and Wong Kim Ark fought for the right to citizenship for all Americans, about Yuri Kochiyama and Malcolm X's friendship, and how Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow Coalition aligned with my family for justice for Vincent Chin, we teach all of our students that they belong here and that our communities will fight with them. I have seen first-hand in my over a decade of teaching special education students that students not only have increased engagement, but they learn how to read and speak and advocate for themselves and others, and not just in our classrooms. This bill will help all students, and especially our AANHPI students, to combat the violence and harassment that has happened toward our students and people, especially during this pandemic. It is a moral imperative to teach our stories that move through and past trauma so we can all create better, more imaginative, and sustainable futures for our students and society.”

“As a son of Vietnamese refugees, I support the AANHPI curriculum bill because the experiences of Southeast Asian Immigrant communities should be highlighted in the classroom,” said Jonathan Lam, Senior at Benjamin N. Cardozo High School and Student Leader at the Teen Activist Project at NYCLU. “Our family stories are rarely amplified and our culture is not recognized within the classroom. Being a youth leader and a part of the Teen Activist Project, I’ve been able to lobby on the AANHPI Bill and organize for a more inclusive classroom throughout New York state!”

“It took me years to accept myself as both Asian and American,” said Chloe Liang, Student Leader at the Teen Activist Project at NYCLU. “And I know I am not alone in this battle as many others struggle with their identities, facing discrimination from their peers and being looked at as different by society. Having a place, such as in school, to learn about our culture is crucial in developing our own identity. Representation matters!”