Asian American and Pacific Islander Organizations in Athens, Ohio Records
Background on the Collection
During the COIVD-19 pandemic, there was an increase in reported hate crimes against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in the U.S. Three organizations were founded in Athens, Ohio to respond to the anti-Asian violence and create a safe and supportive space for the community in the summer of 2021: Athens Asian American Alliance (AAAA), Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islanders: Leadership, Education, Advocacy, and Development (AAPI-LEAD), and Asian American Pacific Islander Student Union (AAPISU). These organizations are the first of their kind at Ohio University and in Athens, Ohio to support the AAPI community.
About the Collection
This entirely digital collection consists of materials related to the founding of the three AAPI organizations and their first year of activities. The collection comprises five series: (1) Athens Asian American Alliance, (2) AAPI-LEAD, (3) AAPI Student Union, (4) Co-Hosted Events (Homecoming Parade, Lunar New Year, AAPI Heritage Week), and (5) Written testimonies in opposition to Ohio House Bill 322 and 327 and in support of Ohio Senate Bill 214.
Series 1-3 contain founding proposals, original constitutions, news articles written about each organization, meeting minutes and agendas, event photos, event flyers, fiscal reports, logo designs, and transcripts and recordings of oral interviews with the founders of each organization. These materials highlight the planning involved in creating each organization, the programming events hosted by each organization, and the individual stories about each founder during the pandemic and the process of creating each organization.
Series 4 contains photos and flyers for events hosted by all three organizations together. In the first year, AAAA, AAPI-LEAD, and AAPISU walked together in the 2021 Athens Homecoming Parade and celebrated the Lunar New Year in 2022 with the Chinese Learner’s Association and the Chinese Student Language Association. On 2022 April 11-15, the groups celebrated Ohio University’s first ever Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Week. Because AAPI Heritage Month is in May when spring semester classes are no longer in session, Ohio University historically has not recognized the importance of this month. To celebrate, the three organizations hosted a cherry blossom event, a movie screening of “Minari” at the Athena, keynote speaker Sahra Nguyen, an open mic night, and a panel on the founding of the three organizations. This series contains photos, flyers, a mission statement, discussion questions for each event, and an oral interview with Miracle Faller who organized the weeklong celebrations.
Series 5 contains opponent testimonies against Ohio House Bill 322 and 327. These two bills would limit the teaching of “divisive concepts” including systemic racism and gender fluidity in public school education. By not allowing teachers to discuss these topics in educational spaces, the bill would lead to the erasure of historically marginalized groups’ experiences in the U.S. Moreover, it would make it difficult for teachers to support diverse students in the classroom if they cannot discuss the experiences of POC, women, and LGBTQIA+ groups. Members of the Athens Asian American Alliance collaborated with Athens Parents for Racial Equity and the Racial Equity Coalition of Athens County to draft written testimonies in opposition to the bill.
In the spring of 2022, AAAA collaborated with the Ohio Progressive Asian Women’s Leadership (OPAWL) and the Honest for Education Coalition to draft written testimonies in support of Ohio Senate Bill 214, which would mandate the teaching of AAPI history in K-12 public schools. Leaders Fan Jiang and Yi-Ting Wang reached out to Alexis Karolin and Morgan Spehar to organize a campaign among AAPISU members and collect more written testimonies from students. These testimonies are housed in series 5.
Importance of the Collection
In line with the Robert E. and Jean R. Mahn Center’s mission to bring greater attention to materials related to people of color, LGBTQIA+, and women’s groups as well as prioritize the acquisition of similar materials, this collection highlights the experiences of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in Athens, Ohio. This collection contributes to a more holistic history of the pandemic in the U.S. Although many people were concerned about public health, Asian Americans were also concerned about physical and verbal violence as a product of anti-Asian racism. Moreover, as a racial minority in the U.S., their experiences are often excluded from mainstream public history and culture. This collection seeks to challenge that erasure and empower the community by representing their history and asserting their existence and belonging in the U.S.