Congratulations to the graduates of our Summer 2011 semester
1. Describe a moment or instance when you or someone you knew was treated unfairly as an immigrant in America. As a community advocate, what actions can you take to make sure that this does not happen again?
2. Describe the community you belong to. Who belongs to that community and why? What does your community need the most right now? Whose responsibility is it to fulfill that need or make that change?
On the last day, each student had an opportunity to choose one assignment they did throughout the semester to do a presentation on. To our students: You all did a wonderful job with your presentations. Your mentors are all very proud of you. Keep up the great work! Good Luck with school!
Here are the written final projects from the students:
I have been in this country for about two years. During these two years, I suffered a lot and also saw a lot of problems between American and our Asian immigrants. These problems didn’t just happen to immigrants or undocumented immigrants, but even to some American-born Chinese suffered some unfair things. It made me realize that people discriminate our whole Asian group, not only Asian immigrants.
One day I was in Flushing at a bread store. There was one black woman who was opening every bag and touching the bread. It was so rude and unclean and the customers made sick faces and felt sick but nobody said anything out loud. Maybe their English was not good, or maybe they thought it is not about their things, so it’s not their problem. Finally the shop assistant told the woman, “If you want to touch the bread, then you just can touch it from the outside of the bag. If you touch all the bread, how can we sell the bread?” The black woman replied rudely, “My hands are clean, you are discriminating against me. You Asian always are discriminating. You come to my country and take our money, you have to serve me!” The shop assistant said, “I am American! I was born in America, and I just have an Asian appearance. We all live in the same country. Why do I have to serve you? It is not about discrimination; it is about respecting each other. If you do not want to buy the bread, please leave.” The woman at last left, saying many bad words, but I could not forget this event. I feel studying English is very important in this country. Although here we can live in Chinatown, people say that as long as we live in Chinatown, we do not have to use English. However, I think now that we are in America; we cannot live in Chinatown forever. When we need others’ attention, we need to speak English, and let others hear our voices. Those black and white people are also immigrants too, how can they think they are owners of the country but we are not? Asian Americans need equal rights.
I always think about why Asian groups always play weak roles in this society. It is not because of our population, but because we do not speak out frequently. They see our face, but they do not hear our voice. They think we can suffer everything, but we can’t. We just suffer quietly, so the government does not give us attention. That is why others think we only can do lower-level jobs and they are the owners of this country.
Like Jose Antonio Vargas, he is such a great person in America society; he earned the highest prize in journalism. However, when he told people his story, people still insulted him and asked him to go back to his country. I feel pity; people did not judge him with reason, they just saw him as an undocumented immigrant and did not see his achievements for this country. His story makes us think; that this great person spoke out and then was insulted by Americans. It seems that as just an ordinary person, we have no power also. But actually we are wrong; although one person really cannot do anything for this community, if we are united together, then our voices will become five or six times louder. I heard a story somewhere that there was a person who wanted to organize undocumented immigrants to talk about their feelings about the country. But he found few Asian people and most of the people who came were from Latin America. During the meeting, most of the voices were from those Latin American people, Asians did not talk a lot. If we do not speak out, how does the government know what we want? If we do not speak out, how does the government help us? We always say the government does not care about us Asians. The truth is we are losing our chance. I think we should unite together and stand up; to let the government see us and hear our voices.
We need attention! But we don’t get attention just from complaining. We need action. We want the government to hear our voices, so we should learn English first and then use English to communicate with the government. We should join the country and enforce citizens’ rights. We are a part of America too!
Zhan Wen (Jasmine):
Community is an area where people live and communicate with each other. The people are the ones who built the community. They settle in a place and bring in their cultures. For example, Flushing is a community. Many Chinese-Americans moved into this area because there were good schools and good transportation. Then, they started to build restaurants, parks, libraries and supermarkets. These buildings and people attracted more and more Chinese to move into the neighborhood because people saw their developments and their common cultures.
There are many communities around the United States such as the black, white, Asian, teenage and the elderly communities. All of them have their uniqueness and they share common attitudes, traditions, cultures and goals. Everyone belongs to a community based on their culture or background. Community is a part of living and no one is alone. In my point of view, I belong to multiple communities because of my different personalities and interests. I belong to my birth place, the American and the swimming community.
I belong to my birth place, China, because I was born in China and I am fluent in Chinese. My parents named me Zhan Wen because they wanted me to become a knowledgeable person. The word “Zhan” means to grow, and the word “Wen” means to be polite and to have knowledge. When you combine the two words, it means to expand my knowledge in my path. Just like many other Chinese children, my name is my parent’s wish. In China, I can understand people, languages, cultures, foods and signs very well. I grew up with a few kids and we played together when we were in kindergarten. We worked on our homework assignments together when we were growing up. When holidays came, my family and their family members would celebrate in a restaurant or we would hang out in someone’s house. The adults would talk to each other about their lives and the kids would fool around and played hide and seek in the apartment. That was my childhood and the best memories I had when I was in Guangzhou, China.
I belong to the American community because I am getting educated in the United States and trying to adapt to the American culture. In the beginning, I didn’t feel that I belonged here because everything was unfamiliar to me and I didn’t have any friends here. But as time went on, I started to learn the language and got to know the people around me. In addition, I also got involved in the community as a volunteer in a Christian church, an intern in a Chinese school and a participant in programs such as Shared Stories at the Chinese Progressive Association and Big Brother and Big Sister. I enjoy the life I have in the United States because there are always people around and they are willing to help me with what I need. There are many organizations and clubs to help me get to know the communities, histories and the culture better. The people who belong to the American community are the ones who accept the people who come from different backgrounds, treat everybody equally and who are willing to participate in community events and services.
I have an English name and the name was given to me from my swimming coach, TC. He couldn’t pronounce my Chinese name from the first day of swimming practice so he later decided to call me Jasmine. This name is not unique but I like the fact that it sounds like my Chinese name. Another reason that I choose to use this name was because TC is more like a brother to me. He pushes me pass my limits in practice and cheers me on as I achieve my goals. He is the best coach I’ve had so far and he always teaches me to work hard and play hard as well in life. I enjoy having two names because I can keep my Chinese culture and also adapt to the American culture. Sometimes, I choose to use my English name because this is America and it is necessary to have an English name. Also, my Chinese name is hard to pronounce, especially for Americans. I felt weird when people kept asking me how to say my name and when my teachers got stuck on my name when they took attendance.
I also belong to a swimming community because swimming is more than a sport to me. It exposes me to a different aspect of my life. Whenever I face a problem or have emotional stress about school work, I swim out these stresses and problems. Swimming refreshes my mind and relaxes my body. In addition, I learned how to manage my time between sports and studies. The New York City Park and Recreation Center has been a second home to me. In the past three years, I woke up at seven in the morning every weekend and went to practice, and then after school as well. I realize that the power of a whole team is always bigger than the power of one person. The sport has given me the true definition of teamwork. My teammates push me pass my limits in practice and cheer me on as I achieve my goals. Without them, I would not have any victories in my swim meets. I enjoy being part of the swimming community because it is part of me and people on the team understands me. We went through a lot of things together.
It’s not easy to build a community because it requires a lot of people, time and effort. In order to make a community better and successful, everyone needs to get involved and let their voices be heard. Otherwise, there will be no government funding and no free programs. One severe problem that the Asian community is facing is budget cuts. Budget cuts has greatly influenced many Asian nonprofits in New York City. According to an article published on February 17, 2011, by Shuang Liu of the New York Community Media Alliance, Liu reported that there are 12 percent of Asian Americans in New York City‘s population; but many Asian American organizations get less than one percent of the city’s budget, which is unfair compared to other communities. City budget cuts has tremendously affected not only those who live in Chinatown, but also Asian Americans, students of color at all ages in New York City.
Budget cuts in Asian American organizations, schools and communities had huge effect on Asian American students of all ages, half fall into low income families. The budget cut in New Jersey is one of the examples. The state funding used to cover 4.2% of the budget for the Asian health services. It includes medical care, health education, insurance counseling and client advocacy to people. But now, the state decided to fund only .5% of its budget on health services. Many Asians are suffering from funding because they barely have money for their living expenses and they rely on these money for health services. Organizations can’t offer any programs and classes in the Asian community without all these funding, and soon, people will lose their voice because no one is representing them. Budget cutting will only create more problems. There was a report that showed New York City will receive $1 billion less in state education funding and that will create problems such as laying off teachers and increasing tuition for students.
There are many solutions to budget cuts in the city of New York. For example, on July 31, 2010, Chinese Planning Council (PCP), brought together thousands of Asian Americans for a fundraising Walkathon to bring awareness to the New York City’s budget cuts. CPC has hosted a theme of “Community Walks Today, for the Youth of Tomorrow” for the Family Day Fair. Although the city might not be able to provide the most support for Asian Americans, but together, organizations such as CPC has fund-raised over $100,000 to support family services in 2006, and $127,000 to senior citizen programs. Another solution is that people can protest so that the government will listen to their voices. Asian Americans need to unite together to bring up the government’s tension.
I think one important thing that the community needs is people giving back and contributing to their communities. There are many selfish people who only want to keep all the benefits in their packets. They act poor so that they can get health care, food stamps and cheaper apartments from the government. They never think about how to give back to the community. And the people who really need the help don’t receive what they need which I think is unfair. People should treat their community like a home. Everyone should take care and look out for each other. They can volunteer and help out in the community even for only one day a week or once a month. They should do something instead of letting it be there and act like they have nothing to do with it. Everything goes around like a circle, when people receive the help from others, such as donating food, these people will feel grateful and also try to give back to others when they have a better life.
"What did you just say?" My friend Oscar and I asked ironically. "How can you not know Cantonese if you live in Hong Kong?" I felt good for the moment because I wanted to make him feel insulted. The eight years old kid from some part of China who used to live next door to my apartment did not respond and kept burning Mid-Autumn Festival candles silently . Nobody liked the kid on that floor because he pooped on my sandals and peed on Oscar's door. Now, I think no matter how bad he was, I should not have said unfair things to him. Perhaps I was too young and too immature. We should not say everything that randomly comes to our minds. As I get more mature, I always think thoroughly before I talk, to make sure that most of the things I say are not offensive to others and do not involve racism because it can happen to me too.
Everybody should treat everyone nicely and equally. Being a different race is not an excuse to treat people unequally. Racism has been a huge problem in the world because we can see it in every country. Racism does not only happen in America but it also happens in other parts of the world. Racism has happened to me but I have also made it happen to somebody else. Everybody is responsible for the racism that happens every day in our daily lives. We should try our best to prevent racism, instead of turning a blind eye.
I had never thought of going to America when I was young because I lived in Hong Kong happily with my family and friends. The Hong Kong government gives children many opportunities to learn English, but I did not use these chances well. What I did was just fool around since fourth grade. If I had learned English seriously, it would be much easier for me to use my second language to communicate fluently in America and I could have prevented the racism that had happened to me. On August 1, 2008, I arrived at JFK Airport from Hong Kong by myself. I was very frightened because I was not accompanied by my parents. I followed the airport guide nervously. He kept asking me stuff in English, but I could only understand a little bit and he sort of gave me a frustrated look. After a short conversation between me and the guide, I followed a white woman who carried my luggage for me and brought me to my parents. I was afraid because I couldn’t communicate to anybody in English. My heart was constantly pumping rapidly and large amounts of sweat dripped from my forehead to my cheeks. As I was wiping my sweat and waiting for my dad and stepmom at the same time, some random images popped up in my mind of myself being a lost child in the future because I was afraid that my parents did not come to pick me up. However, all of my thoughts were unnecessary and I eventually got to see my parents. I walked out of JFK Airport with my parents and what I experienced that night emphasized that my life would be tough in the U.S.
Discrimination has been a big problem for me since I've came to the U.S. I always have to be aware of everything around me and the consequences of my actions because I don’t want to leave any flaws behind to let people make fun of me. I notice that being aware of everything around me and the consequences of my actions are not enough to avoid being a target to make fun of. Sometimes, people say things that randomly come to their minds and hurt people’s feelings unintentionally. Sometimes, people choose me as a target because I am an Asian who talks a lot in school. Therefore, I might pronounce improperly and lead to being made fun of. There are less than ten Asians in my high school, so they think that they can get away with playing jokes on me. It is fine to joke around with me, but you cannot say things that are offensive. I get frustrated when one kid calls me a dog-eater, but all I can do is shoot down what he says. But sometimes I get back at them by being silent. Silence can be more powerful than words because it frustrates people when they don’t get a response out of you and it makes them feel guilty since they know that they should stop doing what they are doing. I get teased all the time but I just forget most of the incidents because I am a joyful person and I choose to only talk to people who are nice to me.