Celebrating Asian Heritage Month in 2022: A watershed moment
Celebrating Asian Heritage Month has become increasingly vital in recent years, as the number of anti-Asian hate crimes has skyrocketed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. In the United States, anti-Asian hate crimes increased by 339% in 2021. In Canada, reports of racist incidents are also on the rise.
To combat anti-Asian racism, particularly in North America, there is a variety of measures we can take. This includes strengthening laws against hate crimes and increasing Asian representation in public office.
At MBAGRADSCHOOLS, we believe education plays a crucial role in driving progress. Education gives us the skills and knowledge to shape the way we think, introducing us to new perspectives and, ultimately, allowing us to drive positive change in our own lives.
Nancy Wada, Concordia University alumna and current Executive Assistant to the Vice-President of Advancement at Concordia, says, “The fact that all of these movements are coming to light indicates that we as a society have a lot more to do in terms of listening to each other.” (01:34)
Through reading, listening, and learning about each other’s experiences, we can unify diverse communities and build a better, safer, world.
Building brave spaces
“As a person of Asian origin – as a person of Indian origin – I think it’s important for me to be able to express that identity in multiple ways,” Vivek Venkatesh shares. (00:57) Vivek is an alumnus (and current professor) at Concordia’s Department of Art Education and the UNESCO Co-Chair in Prevention of Radicalisation and Violent Extremism. He is also the Director of Project SOMEONE, an online platform that uses multimedia materials to build awareness and promote pluralism.
Vivek elaborates, “What we wanted to do with Project SOMEONE [was] two things: sensitize the public to the ill effects of hate, but also build spaces for pluralism [and] dialogue.” (01:50)
In the classroom, fostering a safe and inclusive learning environment is key, where students feel the freedom to make mistakes and engage in critical and civil discussions. More recently, educators have advocated for “brave spaces,” challenging environments that encourage equal participation.
As Nancy puts it, “Education is really about challenging yourself to do and learn things that you might not have otherwise considered.” (02:11)
Carrying the torch
The theme of Asian Heritage Month 2022 is “continuing a legacy of greatness,” empowering current and future generations to continue the fight for inclusion, equality, and empowerment.
These are “the Asian people day-to-day pushing forward, opening doors for others, [and] setting the example for the next generation [and] showing what’s possible,” says Concordia alumnus Ian Selvarajah. (02:30) Born in Sri Lanka, Ian moved to Canada when he was two years old. Today, Ian is a Senior Manager in Technology Consulting at EY. He recently founded a charity called Someone Like Me to promote diversity in leadership roles.
There is still a long way to go. But, with schools like Concordia that prioritize diversity and the creation of inclusive learning environments, we are hopeful for the next generation who will continue to champion equality and long-lasting progress.