Our Call to Action

By Chamiya Carnathan and Penelope Morris
On behalf of Globalize DC’s #Stop Asian Hate Project

In the spring of 2021, amidst rising rates of anti-AAPI hate, some students from our after-school Japanese Tamago program testified before the DC State Board of Education (SBOE) to demand more inclusion of Asian and Asian American content in the DC social studies standards (what all DC public school students in DCPS and DC charter schools are required to learn).

What students learn in school is key to reducing anti-Asian/AAPI hate, and DC’s current social studies standards are not adequately addressing this issue.

Here are just some of the issues we noticed when we reviewed the standards back in 2021:

  • The inclusion of Asian and Asian American content starts far too late in the curriculum – around sixth grade.
  • Most mentions of Asia and Asians are political and fail to explore other aspects of Asian history and culture.
  • Asian history is often explored in relation to American history, not as its own story.
  • Most importantly, there simply isn’t enough Asian and Asian American content in the standards!

You can read more about our findings and recommendations HERE.

Luckily, the DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), with guidance from the State Board, is currently in the process of rewriting the social studies standards. We expect draft standards will be out in mid-December for public comment.

We need to get ready!!

So we at Globalize DC are inviting other DC students and recent graduates (as well as other interested community members) to join with us to review and critique the new draft standards and give meaningful feedback to OSSE and the Board to get the best standards possible. This can make a huge difference in how DC students are educated in the future.

If you or anyone you know is passionate about Asian/AAPI culture and social justice, fill out this simple Google Form so we can keep you updated.

As soon as the draft standards are released in mid-December, we will schedule an open meeting on Zoom to share information and strategy ideas with interested persons (both students and adults). Our online meeting previously scheduled for December 8 is being postponed until that time.

If you have questions or immediate thoughts, please email sally@globalizedc.org.

Thank you.

Jumping into Japanese


Our SY2022-23 Japanese Plus program has begun, and that means intense Japanese classes twice a week. Here are some quick reflections from some of our students about starting out to learn one of the world’s most challenging languages.

Kayla:

So my name is Kayla and I joined my Japanese class almost a month ago and it has been one of the best things I’ve done for myself. Learning Japanese has expanded my intelligence. I don’t only know Spanish but I also am learning Japanese and as a young black lady that is wonderful and my family is very proud. Something that I really like about this class is the diversity. There are many different people trying to learn a new culture and language, that is very beautiful to me. I will continue my classes and I hope to learn so much more with my wonderful teachers and classmates.

Jahshawn:

I’m a little bit worried about keeping notes and keeping the knowledge I learned in each class in my head. The three alphabets also scare me a bit, especially because of the chance I’ll feel overwhelmed. I’m honestly scared of feeling overwhelmed and falling behind, but I’m excited to see all the amazing things we’ll do in this program, and the amazing and unique people I’ll eventually meet.

Margarita:

With Japanese classes I am surprised on how much we are learning so far. I feel that when we interact with the teachers and other classmates we learn more which I also find very fun. I like it when we talk to each other, because it makes us all feel closer as friends and/or a community. It’s also fun to see other people learn with you.

Chamiya:

Since I have started learning Japanese 2 years ago, the beginning lessons are reviews for me. I know the hiragana and katakana alphabet and a few phrases. But, there are still a few phrases that I have learned. For example, “Anoo, onamae-wa?” which means what is your name. I am really excited for future classes for this 2 year program.

Aaron:

I’ve been enjoying the classes so far. I feel like I’ve been keeping up well. I find it interesting how everyone is referred to a different way, depending on your relationship with the person. For example, you would always call your teacher sensei even when you leave school.

Thalia:

I think learning Japanese will help me grow – to try new things. So far I’ve had a nice experience. I’ve met people who have the same interest as me. I think the lessons are just right and if I practice and study, it can really help me.

Penelope:

I’m really enjoying Japanese Plus so far. I’ve studied Japanese before, but never in person, and I find that I’m learning new vocabulary much faster this way. One thing I find challenging is knowing when to use each level of formality, for example  おはよう versus  おはようございます. I’m looking forward to learning more during the next two years.

Stop Asian Hate – Picking up where we left off


By Penelope Morris

As Globalize DC’s Japanese Plus program starts up again after two years, we are excited to get back to our #Stop Asian Hate Project that we began in the spring of 2021. The project began as a way for us to give back to a community that we, as DC high school students of Japanese, are interested in. We feel that because Asians and Asian Americans have contributed so much to American culture, it is our responsibility to help fight against the rise in anti-Asian/AAPI hate that has taken place since the start of the pandemic.

So as a group, we reviewed the DC social studies standards and made note of places where Asians were mentioned (unsurprisingly, there weren’t many), and places where we believed more content about Asian/AAPI history could be added in order to increase knowledge and understanding of Asians and Asian Americans among DC public school students. Then, we testified before the State Board of Education in June 2021 to advocate for the implementation of these changes, because we believe that the best way to combat hate in the long-term is to educate others about Asian and AAPI history. Now, as we finally resume work on this project, we are looking to organize programming to connect DC students with experts in the field of Asians and Asian Americans in education, such as Professor Sohyun An of Kennesaw State University and Allister Chang, a member of the DC State Board of Education, as well as other members of the Asian and Asian American community here in our own city. We are excited to continue this very important work!

We hope interested DC students and others will join us. You can learn about our work so far at www.japaneseplus.org/jt-stop-asian-hate-project/.

If you’re interested in learning more or want to get involved, please email sally@globalizedc.org.

Penelope’s Reflection

By Penelope Morris

Before I applied to Japanese Tamago, I had been studying Japanese on my own for about a year, and in joining the program I hoped to find a community that was as interested in Japanese language and culture as I was. I definitely found this, and participating in the class has been a great experience. I’ve learned about Japanese culture and heard from guest speakers who talked about their experience in Japan, which has made me think about how continuing to study Japanese could open doors in my own future. I’ve also really enjoyed working on the Japanese Tamago anti-Asian hate project. It’s not something I expected to do when I joined the program, but I believe in standing up for things that mean something to you, and because I really care about the AAPI community- I have Asian family, I consume Asian media, and of course I have an interest in Japanese language and culture- it feels like standing up for the Asian community is the very least I can do after all that they’ve done, not only for me personally, but for our country and collective culture. Overall, Japanese Tamago has been a great way for me to start deepening my study of Japanese and to make connections during a year when we were all separated.

Activism in Japanese Tamago

By Penelope Morris

When I first joined Japanese Tamago, it was strictly for the language; after studying on my own, I wanted to start learning Japanese in a classroom setting. However, I’ve learned that the program is much more than just a language class, and I keep coming back just as much for the lessons on Japanese places, culture, and history as I do to further my study of the language. One thing that I was not expecting when I joined the class but really appreciate is the program’s involvement in current events, such as the recent anti-Asian hate crimes.

In Japanese Tamago, we have been discussing the recent rise in hate crimes against Asians and Pacific Islanders due to the pandemic’s origins in China, and possible courses of action we could take as a class to stand in support of these groups. Because there are not many youth organizations, either independent or within the public school system, that are actively connected to Asia, we feel that it is important that we make the voices of people like us heard. Especially because we are studying Japanese culture, I feel that we have a responsibility to stand up for the people we are learning about. It is a way to further inform ourselves and others of what Asians are going through, engage with the community around us at a time when many of us are isolated, and make our voices heard in a way that will create change.

History and Culture of the Ainu

By Penelope Morris

One common misconception many people have about Japan is that the majority of its culture consists of anime and other pop culture trends; however, with even a small amount of further research, one can see that one of the most beautiful things about Japan is its juxtaposition of old and new, of traditional and modern, of secluded temples and bustling cities. While these two elements seem to coexist peacefully, there is one part of Japan that has been somewhat left out of the balance: the Ainu. 

During class in Japanese Tamago, we have been learning about different regions of Japan and their subcultures, and recently we “travelled” to the land of the indigenous Ainu people. The Ainu are descendants of migrants from what is now Mongolia and are the original inhabitants of Hokkaido, the northernmost of the major Japanese islands. Similarly to Native Americans’ experience in the United States, they have gone through harsh discrimination from the government: after the Jomon period, Japanese began to expand their territory northward from western Japan, and the Ainu were forced to either assimilate or be displaced to Hokkaido. More recently, during the Meiji period, they were granted the status of “former aboriginals,” but were still not treated equally. In the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, a series of progressive steps have been made, including a 1997 law for the provision of funds to promote and research Ainu culture, a 2014 manga featuring Ainu characters, and finally in 2019, the formal recognition of the Ainu as an indigenous people of Japan.

Although the Ainu have been discriminated against, they have maintained a unique culture. To start, their language is quite different from Japanese, and is classified as “nearly extinct” by the UN. Additionally, Ainu craftsmen are known for their beautiful wood carvings and traditional robes, which are made from the inner bark of elm trees. 

One aspect of Ainu culture that I found particularly interesting was the practice of women tattooing their lips. The marks, called shinue, are started when a girl is young with just a small spot on the upper lip and are added to with age. While the reason women began applying shinue is unknown, some theories include that they are viewed as a symbol of beauty, a means of protecting the body after death, or even a way to prevent being kidnapped by Japanese. Unlike modern tattoos, they are created by rubbing soot of burnt tree bark into an incision in the skin. During the Meiji era, the practice was banned, and though it never recovered its former popularity among the Ainu, some modern women like Ainu artist Mayunkiki (see first link below) wear shinue to show and connect to their cultural heritage.

An Ainu woman wearing shinue and traditional clothing. Image credit to Sora News.

Despite the many struggles they have gone through, the Ainu still fight today to be acknowledged for the recognition that their unique and endangered culture deserves. If you’d like to learn more about the Ainu, here are some articles and videos:

https://dajf.org.uk/event/the-meaning-of-tattoos-for-ainu-women

https://www.tofugu.com/japan/ainu-japan/

https://soranews24.com/2016/02/23/everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-the-ainu-with-photos-and-video

3-11: Ten Years Later

To mark the 10th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake on 3-11-2011, the students in our online Japanese Tamago program used video and other resources to learn about the horrific events that unfolded that day. The goal was to help our DC students connect with the experience and the residents of Tohoku, and to try to imagine themselves in the moment. Here are some of their immediate responses.

By Zoe Roell

Ground splits
Black waves
Homes fall
Lives collapse
Wreckage
The world grieves

By Hallie Munsat

In 2011, an earthquake and tsunami occurred on the pacific coast of Tohuku in Japan. The magnitude of the earthquake came to be 9.0-9.1. This terrible tragedy turned out to be the most recent deadliest earthquake. It left almost 16,000 people dead, about 6,000 injured and 2,500 people missing. Now ten years after the fact it’s still left many people unstable emotionally and financially. I cannot even begin to imagine what being in that situation is like. It’s bad enough to experience it in the moment, it’s worse to live with it for the rest of your life. This was an event that couldn’t really have been prevented. It’s terrifying to go through things you can’t control and it takes time to process things like that. We have to be gentle to ourselves and others during hard times and we have to be there for each other to listen, and to support. Because of the severity of this event, many people in the same community went through the same thing. There’s always someone to listen to or understand because no one is alone.

By Penelope Morris

At first, I almost couldn’t believe that three events that would by themselves have been horrific to deal with, all happened simultaneously and hurt so many people. But the damage was right there in front of my eyes.

By Kourtney Beauvais

My initial reaction to the film of 3/11 was shock. I wasn’t aware of how fast the devastation occurred, and couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to be there. With the recurring earthquakes, I assume that the residents of the area had very conflicting emotions, flicking back and forth between hope and desperation and fear. It makes me wonder if they were thinking about what was happening in the present, what the future consequences would be, or a mixture of both. It was also saddening to think of the feeling of loss, not only of belongings and a familiar landscape, but of their family, friends, and community.

By Sakarrio Moore

I’ve never experienced any tragedy of this magnitude, and I literally can’t imagine the physiological response of people who lived there. I just feel so sorry. I imagine that in the instant, people would have just felt as if the world itself was against them.

By Akesh Mallia

My reflection on 3-11 is that it was really heartbreaking to see so many lives impacted by something as uncontrollable as nature. I thought it was especially scary when the tsunami hit the people trying to escape by car, those people couldn’t even evacuate. And the impacts of the natural disasters are very much still present today, especially with the nuclear meltdown which I think shows the scale of the earthquake. I hope safety measures and public awareness measures are being put in place to prevent this type of event from happening again. 

By Owen Strasberg

I found it interesting how initially even though the situation seemed very chaotic, people were handling it calmly (like when everyone was evacuating). It was sort of scary though to think that whatever high ground people stayed at was where they would have to be for the whole thing, and you would just have to hope it was safe enough.

By Dara Lira

If I previously lived in Japan, I would probably not pay much attention to the earthquake at first. However, as the day progresses, I would become more scared, confused, disturbed, and shocked at the events unfolding before me. A matter of life or death such as this terrifies me, and I can hardly imagine what this was actually like, especially seeing as I’ve never been in an earthquake before. 

By Chamiya Carnathan

The amount of earthquakes that appeared continuously during March 11 was mind blowing to me. I can’t imagine how scary the situation must have been for everyone inhabiting that area. Earthquakes are common in Japan and I wonder if the inhabitants living in the affected area thought that it would be a regular occurrence. I truly cannot imagine the fear of earthquakes that were that large being struck down on me. The biggest takeaway that I gained from watching the video and map is that you have to go to high ground. Don’t worry about taking pictures and videos or watching what’s happening. Worry about your own safety and go to high ground.

By Camila Marryshow

If anyone had known March 11, 2011 would have submerged entire towns in water along with thousands of other civilians fighting for their lives, there would have been preventative action to protect the people along Japan’s east coast. But there was no way of knowing the events that would unfold within those 24 hours. 

Employees worked to earn their pay to support themselves and their families. Graduations occurred. Earning diplomas, congratulating friends, and celebrating achievements of other students would soon be replaced with sheltering in place under desks, evacuating school and office buildings, and rushing to higher ground to ensure safety. Some walked away with missing friends while others without families to provide for. Some could not walk away from their cars with water impeding their ability to escape while others would never walk the Earth again. The tsunami stripped towns of commerce, buildings, history, and many of its residents. 

Within 24 hours, several earthquakes evolved into a 9.1-magnitude earthquake that generated waves many meters high devastating hundreds of square miles of Japanese land. Over 120,000 buildings were destroyed. More than 100,000 people lost their homes. Nearly 20,000 people died. 

The Tohoku region of Japan along with other coastal areas have worked over the past ten years to rebuild Japan and provide housing to those who are in need. The survivors who witnessed the events of that day will be able to not only recount the suffering numerous people endured, but can speak of the recovery and progress the Japanese people have made from the rubble of the tragedy.