An Important Fight for the Inclusion of Asia, Asian, and AAPI Content

By Chamiya Carnathan and Penelope Morris

We are DC high school students who have been studying Japanese with Globalize DC since summer 2021. Back in 2021, in the depths of the pandemic, a group of students from our online Japanese program (including the two of us) advocated for the new DC social studies standards, which were soon to be updated, to be more inclusive of Asians and Asian Americans. During and after the pandemic, anti-Asian hate crimes rose substantially. In order to combat anti-Asian hate and violence, we concluded that people need to be taught about Asia, Asians, and AAPI content in order to feel compassion and understanding for these communities.

In June 2021, Penelope, alongside other students from Globalize DC, testified before the DC State Board of Education (SBOE) to discuss the improvements that the new standards needed. In December 2022, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) released the first draft of the new standards. We were extremely unsatisfied with the draft, because OSSE did not respond to our suggestions at all. In fact, the standards regressed in the amount of content for Asia, Asians, and Asian Americans. After we discussed what could be improved, the two of us (now in Globalize DC’s afterschool Japanese Plus program) testified before SBOE in January 2023 to again demand that the standards include more Asians and Asian Americans. We advocated for standards that include specific AAPI and Asian content and the introduction of Asian/AAPI content in earlier grades. After a very strenuous rewriting process, OSSE released a revised draft of the new social studies standards on March 29th, 2023, and we were deeply pleased by the outcome.

After reading this latest draft, we compiled a list of all the standards that explicitly mentioned Asia, Asians, and Asian Americans. We were especially happy about the specificity and amount of this content. In grade 6, OSSE revised the standards to analyze cultural elements of a country located in Asia and its significance for and influence on other societies. Although the standards analyze cultural elements of only one country located in Asia, it is a very important step to add cultural aspects of Asia. We were also pleased to see that OSSE modified the standards to name some specific elements of Asian culture, such as Sikhism and the philosophical writings of Wang Yangming, compared to the vague nature of the previous draft.

In World History 2, OSSE included a lot more standards that discuss a variety of countries such as South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, China, Cambodia, and many more. More people related to Asia are also discussed such as Ibn Battuta, Marco Polo, and Zheng He. In Government and Civics, United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind, United States v. Wong Kim Ark, and Korematsu v. United States are included, which are cases that helped shape America. Overall, OSSE has most definitely added a lot more countries and specific people to the social studies standards.

Instantly, we recognized that OSSE fulfilled our suggestion of introducing Asian/AAPI content in earlier grades. In grade 1, the standards introduce Asian communities as well as other communities to explain how they have shaped and defined Washington, DC. The standards also introduce specific community leaders, including Lee Yick and Liliʻuokalani. In grade 2, OSSE expanded Asian history in the periods between 1100 and 1400. In grade 3, OSSE included greater representation of AAPI history in Washington, DC. In grade 5, OSSE included all Asian immigration during this time period, as well as additional standards about the impact of the Chinese Exclusion Act.

In conclusion, these new standards are what we wanted to be included. They highlight the impact that AAPI communities have had on Washington, DC, as well as expanding Asian history, which will build understanding and compassion among the younger children. Our greatest hope is that teachers will make great use of these standards and incorporate field trips and create other opportunities for children to learn about Asian/AAPI communities firsthand. These standards pair well with excursions to learn about many different communities that make up our city and nation.

We want to give special thanks to Dr. Sohyun An, a professor of social studies education at Kennesaw State University and an expert reviewer for these new standards, for using her expertise to advocate, alongside Globalize DC, for the inclusion of Asia, Asian, and Asian American content. We would also like to thank the members of the State Board of Education and OSSE for listening to our suggestions and taking them seriously.  

You can find the latest full draft of the K-12 social studies, along with other background information on the revision process, here.


By Penelope Morris

On Saturday, February 11, Japanese Plus students went to the Hirshhorn Museum to view an exhibit on Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. For me personally, it was the second time I’d seen Kusama’s work, and it was an amazing experience to revisit.

Upon walking into the gallery, visitors are greeted with several panels of information about Kusama’s life – from her psychological condition, to her time in the United States, to her current global recognition. Then, you enter a room dominated by a gigantic yellow pumpkin covered in black polka dots – one of Kusama’s most well-known works. Visitors are allowed to walk around the pumpkin and observe the intricate work up close.

One of the most amazing parts of the exhibit for me were Kusama’s two mirror rooms. Although these chambers appear small from the outside, when you enter the space seems to go on forever, thanks to the mirrors covering all four walls plus the ceilings and floors. The first room is reminiscent of a psychedelic garden, with the floor covered in white-with-red-dots abstract cloth forms. The second room reminded me of a spacescape into which Kusama had again incorporated her signature polka dots – this time in the form of luminescent neon circles on spheres of varying sizes floating in an otherwise pitch-dark room.

Exiting the exhibit, I felt calm, despite the bright, busy nature of Kusama’s work. I found that her use of space and recurring patterns lulls the mind into a trance. It was a pleasure to experience the work of this amazing artist again.

Visiting DC’s Japanese New Year Festival

By Penelope Morris

Last Saturday, Japanese Plus students went to the Japanese New Year celebration at the Metro Center Marriott to celebrate the beginning of the Year of the Rabbit. At first, I was a little nervous about the festival because I knew there would be lots of people speaking Japanese and my language abilities aren’t yet at the level where I can make conversation easily. However, once we arrived at the venue, the festive spirit dispelled my anxiety and I began to explore the activities: there were lots of different things to do, like calligraphy, Japanese card games, and mochi-making.

One aspect of the festival that stood out to me was the food. Attendees had access to a wide variety of delicious Japanese food, like takoyaki (spheres of octopus), Ramune (a Japanese soda), yaki udon (noodles), and onigiri (filled balls of rice). My personal favorite was dango, which are rice flour dumplings served on a skewer and coated in a mixture of soy sauce and sugar. They were a perfect snack as we explored the festival and immersed ourselves in Japanese culture. The celebration was a great opportunity to learn more about how Japanese people celebrate New Year, and to practice the Japanese we’ve been learning in class!

Kakehashi Exchange and Visiting All Souls Church

By Penelope Morris

Yesterday, Japanese Plus students got to meet Japanese high schoolers participating in the Kakehashi exchange program. The two groups met up for lunch at Z-Burger in Tenleytown, then went to All Souls Church in Columbia Heights, where we got to view images created by Japanese schoolchildren after the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan during World War II.

Before the exchange, I was a little nervous to interact with Japanese high schoolers because I wasn’t sure if my Japanese would be good enough to communicate with them. We were able to communicate just fine though, and we bonded over topics ranging from food to school to extracurriculars. It was really fun to be able to learn what life is like as a Japanese teenager! The students were able to communicate well in English, and one girl that I talked to said she had been studying the language at school for eight years, which I found really impressive considering I’ve only been learning Japanese for a few!

Another highlight of the exchange was being able to see drawings created by Japanese schoolchildren in the aftermath of the atomic bombs dropped during World War II. The images were created using art supplies sent by the All Souls Church community to schools in Japan, and seeing the images was a deeply moving experience. It was hard for me to imagine how these Japanese children could have created such beautiful art following such a terrible event. But as I looked at the pictures, I saw that the children were using art as a medium to express their hope for a better future. At first I was surprised by the hopeful aura of the pictures: many of them depicted children playing, sunny days, and people going about everyday life, which was likely not the reality of most of the young artists. However, as I continued looking it became clear that the students weren’t necessarily drawing what was around them, but what they hoped would eventually grow back.

I really liked the program and it was amazing to meet Japanese teenagers. I hope we will keep in touch in the future!

How are we doing?

From the Director:

Learning Japanese isn’t easy. Listen to our Japanese Plus students to get an idea of what it’s like – the ups, the downs, the triumphs, and the challenges.

By Margarita:

Hiragana. One of the three Japanese alphabets. I thought it would take me years to learn it, but I was wrong. Hiragana actually sounds a lot like Spanish, so it was easy to remember the pronunciation. Every time we would learn a new character, it felt like art class, drawing the long and curvy lines actually felt calming. Writing the simplest word in Hiragana made me feel like I was making a masterpiece though I’m still memorizing some characters, it will never not be fun.

By Chamiya

I have always wanted to travel to anywhere and everywhere ever since I traveled to Thailand. And of course, Japan is on my bucket list. But ever since I started learning Japanese, I’ve been wanting to go more. I like the aspect of learning a new language and immersing myself in a completely different culture from my own. And I especially like converting names to katakana. If you look on my phone contacts, half of the contacts are in Japanese. Katakana is so cool to look at, to read, and to figure out what the word is in English. My own family can’t figure out what the words mean but once I say it to them, they can understand it completely fine. It’s really cool immersing myself in another language and I can’t wait to travel to Japan one day.

By Thalia

For me learning Japanese has been such a fun experience. I’ve met new people who I can connect to. I think trying to learn all the Hiragana at once has been a struggle because some letters look similar. I was having a hard time with M-N but once I got it, it was so easy and made it easier to read.

By Penelope

I’m still really enjoying Japanese class. Recently, we started learning about family and kinship terms, and I like this because it’s fun to be able to ask about other peoples’ lives and to have longer conversations. Something I find particularly interesting is that there are different words for your own relatives and for others’. This is because politeness is very important in Japan, so you have to use a more respectful term if you’re inquiring about someone else’s family. I find it interesting how language and culture are intertwined and how they affect each other, and this is a cool example of that.

By Zitlaly

Japanese . . . is a whole obstacle course you have to go through these hurdles just to go through the same hurdle, and another one and . . . another one. But through time you start to comprehend and memorize the hurdle and get through them way easier than the time before. But if you don’t adjust, you’ll only start to get tired and stressed from how many times you keep falling/failing.

By Mei

During these last few months of being in Japanese class I learned so many things about the Japanese language. One of the things that stood out to me is the different terms to have a conversation with someone. Having a conversation or even addressing someone depends on your relationship with that person and if that person is older than you. In English, people almost always talk in a casual way to their friends, teachers, family, and even to strangers. But in Japan, this shifts into a formal manner when addressing someone older than you. For example, in English we only have one way to thank someone no matter their age or status and that’s by saying “thank you.” But in Japan when thanking someone close like a friend or family they will say “arigoto,” but when thanking a teacher, co-worker, boss, stranger, or just someone older they will say “arigato gozaimasu.”

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

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

If you’re interested in learning more or want to get involved, please email

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.