By Jada Seto
On Saturday, April 17, 2021, New Hyde Park’s Asian American Community of Culture stood together to continue the conversation in hopes of addressing increased racism towards the Asian community and honoring the lives that have been taken by anti-Asian hate.
Source by Saanvi Mirchandani
To honor the lives of the those impacted by Asian hate, NHP AACC held a lantern lighting on the New Hyde Park Memorial turf showing their solidarity with the Asian American Community.
Prior to the lantern lighting, NHP AACC hosted an event to encourage all students and faculty to express their feelings and talk about the impact of hateful rhetoric. In the past year, the continuation of discrimination and racism has continued to affect the lives of all Asian Americans. For many of the students, being able to express their fears, emotions, and hopes for change brought comfort and solidarity in a time when so many are divided. Many students have never openly discussed these issues, so being able to share raw experiences gave everyone a chance to listen to the unique stories of Asian Americans.
Sources by Saanvi Mirchandani
Clockwise from the left, senior NHP AACC Founder and President, Jada Seto, lights the first lantern of the night; seniors Olivia Wong and Sophia Lin smile behind their masks while everyone prepares their lanterns; a Martin Luther King, Jr. quote is written across junior Emma Ouyang's lantern; holding up his lantern, junior Henry Kang poses for the camera.
“I feel extremely fortunate that we have such an open and supportive community. It is difficult to talk about violence and xenophobia, especially when it hits close to home, but it is a conversation that is necessary. I was really glad that I was able to voice my opinion and concerns while also listening to other people, learning about new perspectives, and finding comfort in solidarity,” said junior Samantha Chang.
“Despite the pain and violence, we choose to ignite the spark and make impactful change...”
Hearing the responses and heartwarming support from students and educators, NHP AACC continued the conversation by hosting a lantern lighting ceremony. Giving members the opportunity to join in person or through Instagram live, the experience, the testimonies, and the statement of unity shined through, lighting a path for future generations to come together in times of adversity.
Honoring the lives of those who were killed, including Soon Chung Park, 74 years-old; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; Suncha Kim, 69; Yong Ae Yue, 63; Vicha Ratanapakdee, 84; and sadly so many more, attendees wrote words of hope and love on their paper lanterns in remembrance of the tragedies.
Sources by Saanvi Mirchandani
Clockwise from the top left; junior Mahek Chaudry ties string to her lantern; more lanterns prepare to be released into the sky; junior Victoria Maciorowski shares her hope for unity among all people of color in the future on @nhpaacc's Instagram live.
Before beginning the lantern lighting, an exercise was done to guide everyone in a time of reflection of the impact of discrimination, hate, and violence. AACC officers asked everyone to sit on the field and stand up if they could relate to statements such as, “if you have experienced hate from the color of your skin, stand up,” and “if a loved one, family member, or friend faced discrimination due to the color of their skin, stand up.” The entire experience shed a light on the wide-reaching impact of racism, especially on young high schoolers.
“We were able to find comfort in solidarity...”
“I felt very emotional being a part of the lantern lighting, but in a good way. It is nice to see that we as a generation know that there needs to be change and awareness brought within every community and that we are taking those steps. I hope that others can realize that we too can make an impact and come together if we all believe in change,” said sophomore Debarati Chowdhury.
“It was thrilling to see everyone on the field enjoying the event. For those who were participating or watching, I hope that they gained a greater sense of community as a supporter of AAPI rights,” said junior Emma Ouyang.
On this night, the NHP community was strengthened despite the pain of the violence, and participants certainly found solace in one another. When the flame was finally sparked, everyone released their lanterns, symbolizing hope, love, and solidarity.