After activism by the Make Us Visible campaign and AAPI advocates at Yale and across the state, the state legislature is preparing to pass the AAPI education bill.
This year, Connecticut is poised to become the first state in the nation to begin the process of including AAPI education in the state curriculum in its K-12 system with dedicated funding and the contribution of stakeholders to achieve this objective.
Connecticut was a forerunner in including BIPOC voices in its program. In end of 2020, Connecticut required all public high schools in the state to offer an elective course in Latin and African American history beginning in the 2022–23 school year. In 2021, AAPI History was added to the K-8 History Curriculum through HB 6619. Now, thanks to the work of Make Us Visible CT and other AAPI advocacy groups, HB 5282, a bill that would add AAPI’s history to state education laws, has passed the state legislature’s Education and Appropriations Committee. The bill has 89 co-sponsors from both major political parties and is expected to soon impact classrooms across the state.
“You get a pinch of internment or the presence of Chinese workers in the early and mid-1800s,” said Quan Tran, lecturer in ethnicity, race and migration at Yale and intern coordinator for Make Us Visible CT. “What we’re trying to do is broaden the conversation about civic engagement and the contributions of Asian Americans, the relationship between Asian Americans and other social groups in history of the United States and the important roles that Asian Americans play in the history of this country.”
According to Jeffrey Gu, members of Make Us Visible CT and other AAPI advocacy groups came together to create HB 5282 with support from members of the state legislature, including the president of education. of the house, Bobby Sanchez. Gu said the partnership began following a series of anti-AAPI hate crimes in Connecticut, including an insistence that a Milford man was asked to “Go back to China.
As a result of this experience and other instances of racial hatred, Make Us Visible CT turned to what they saw as the root cause of this hatred: education.
According to Tran, Make Us Visible CT sees education as the heart of the fight against anti-Asian hatred, as the organization believes that exposing children from an early age to the history of AAPI will help reduce discrimination and racist attacks against the group.
HB 5282 came before the General Assembly Education Committee in mid-February. On February 28, members of the Connecticut community, including Yale students and alumni, appeared before the committee to testify in support of the bill.
“As an Asian American, I didn’t learn about my family and community history growing up,” said aapiNHV co-founder Jennifer Heikkila Diaz ’00. “Students and families I have had the privilege of working with will tell you that working to make our learning experiences more culturally sustainable, specifically for Asian American students and families from the Pacific Islands, or any the above mattered and still matter to them and have shaped who they are and how they see the world in a powerful and positive way.
Besides lip service to the AAPI community, the bill includes a state commitment to fund the creation of curricula that include AAPI history, tradition, and cultures. The amount committed is not specified. This measure was unanimously rejected by the state appropriations committee, and the larger bill was rejected by the education committee with a joint favorable rating on March 7. According to Gu, the funding for this initiative will be $100,000.
Last Monday, the bill was put on the calendar of the state legislature. According to Gu, Make Us Visible CT has been in contact with the offices of House Majority Leader Jason Rojas as well as House Speaker Matt Ritter and all parties hope the bill will make it to the House for a while. full vote.
According to Gu, the bill has broad bipartisan support and the group is not worried about serious opposition to the bill.
In anticipation of its passage, AAPI advocates are gearing up to help fulfill the bill’s promise to meaningfully include community history in school curricula.
According to Tran, Make Us Visible CT has taken a three-pronged approach to achieving this goal, with passage of the bill being only the first step. The next step is to help create the curriculum for K-12 students.
“We’re really committed to creating a localized program because Asian American history is very West Coast-based,” said Kate Lee, organizer of Make Us Visible CT and teacher at Fairfield County Middle School. “We hope to find and elevate Asian American stories in every pocket of Connecticut…so we have engaged extensively in many conversations with community leaders and members to talk about their experiences and family backgrounds in the state. from Connecticut. ”
According to Lee, the group hopes to create a program for students of all ages. Under one proposal, young students would be exposed to Asian and Pacific Islander holidays, foods and traditions. The group also hopes to increase representation of AAPI peoples in picture books and other educational devices.
Lee said that under this proposal, as students age, they will be exposed to “more nuanced narratives” about the AAPI peoples of the country and how they have been historically marginalized as well as their interactions with other people in the United States.
Make Us Visible was founded in Connecticut in March 2021 and has now expanded to eight states across the country.