2024 Bystander Intervention to Stop Anti-Asian/American and Xenophobic Harassment Webinar

The 60-minute interactive training will teach you Right To Be’s 5Ds of bystander intervention methodology. We’ll start by talking about the types of disrespect that Asian and Asian American folks are facing right now — from microaggressions to violence — using a tool we call the, “Spectrum of Disrespect.” You’ll learn what to look for and the positive impact that bystander intervention has on individuals and communities. We’ll talk through five strategies for intervention: distract, delegate, document, delay, and direct; and how to prioritize your own safety while intervening. We’ll have time at the end for practice, and you’ll leave feeling more confident intervening the next time you see anti-Asian/American harassment online or in person.

Episode 1: Exploring Hidden Histories of Asian American Farmers in Watsonville, California

Roots Reclaimed - Episode 1

Joanne Rondilla and Kathleen Wong(Lau) lead a discussion uncovering the historical narratives of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities, focusing on the Watsonville riots and Filipinx farm workers’ contributions. They tackle xenophobia, the model minority myth, and intergenerational trauma, urging individuals to reclaim their heritage for healing and empowerment. The session culminates with a call to access culturally-centered resources for mental health support, emphasizing the importance of acknowledging hidden histories for community resilience and self-discovery.

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In this session, we delve into the hidden histories of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities, aiming to provide healing and strengthen cultural pride. Joanne Rondilla and Kathleen Wong(Lau) lead a conversation in Watsonville, California, reflecting on the Watsonville riots of the 1930s and the significant contributions of Filipinx farm workers in the region. The conversation highlights the xenophobia and hate faced by these communities, emphasizing the impact of historical trauma and intergenerational experiences.

The discussion expands to explore the complexities of Asian immigration narratives, debunking the model minority myth and shedding light on the hardships and sacrifices made by early immigrants. Joanne Rondilla shares a personal revelation about her father’s immigration story to Guam in the 1950s, showcasing the intricacies and challenges faced by professionals in a post-World War II rebuilding context.

The conversation emphasizes the importance of understanding specific immigration histories and recognizing the systemic tensions, class dynamics, and resilience within these communities. Joanne Rondilla and Kathleen Wong(Lau) advocate for reclaiming these narratives through family photos and documents, urging individuals to explore their roots and connect with their heritage to address mental health issues rooted in historical trauma.

As the dialogue unfolds, the speakers highlight the vital role of recognizing these hidden histories in fostering a sense of belonging, resilience, and empowerment within Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities. The session concludes with a message from Roots Reclaimed, a production of the AANHPI Ohana Center of Excellence, encouraging individuals to access culturally-centered behavioral health resources and support to navigate their unique journeys of healing and self-discovery.

[0:00] It’s always surprising to me that we, especially in a place like California, you know, we still have a K-12 education system that still negates the experiences of Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, Asian Americans. And I feel like that’s by design, right? Because when you have young people who grow up thinking that they don’t belong or that their existence somehow is wrong or you know what I mean like or that you’re forever foreign yeah simply because of you know your appearance right yeah so yeah it is it surrounds you sometimes right yeah I can ambush you in the most unbelievable everyday circumstances.

Join us as we explore the hidden histories of Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander people together we hope to provide healing and strengthen cultural pride. This is Roots Reclaimed.

[1:03] Hello, I’m Dr. Joanne Rondilla, and in today’s episode, Dr. Kathleen Wong(Lau) and I engage in a conversation about the importance of sharing and reclaiming the hidden histories of Asian Americans. The discussion took place in Watsonville, California, and here we remember the Watsonville riots and urge people to know and understand the vital connections between knowing one’s history as a way of improving one’s mental health. We hope this episode inspires you to explore and center your own voices and experiences. Enjoy.

[1:45] So here we are in Pajaro Valley. It’s very beautiful. Who knew that this gorgeous

coastline was here in Watsonville? Because for me, when I think of Watsonville, I think of strawberries. We talked about that. But also the Watsonville riots in the 1930s.

[1:58] Do you want to talk more about that? Yeah, I think it’s important to think of our collective histories, right, when we’re somewhere, and that’s the reason why we talked about the land acknowledgment of Native Americans, but also of the history of the Watsonville riots and I think the contributions that Philippinex people, farm workers, made in particular to this region, but also throughout California. And I know that it was a, not just, I think a lot of times history sanitizes it talks about, oh, the farm workers contributed a lot, but they also did it under a real cloud, right, of xenophobia and hate, right? Yeah. Historically. So I know that you know a lot about that because this is what you teach in Asian American Studies. So would you mind talking about sort of the historical backdrop of the Watsonville riot? Something that is important to understand is at this time, Filipinos are classified as nationals. So we’re not considered, the terminology is alien, right? We’re not considered alien, we’re considered national. And what that means is Filipinos have a little bit more mobility in terms of being able to leave the Philippines, come to the United States, and not be subject to certain laws. So something that Filipinos were able to do at the time was actually intermarry because filipinos were classified as melee as opposed to asiatic right.

[3:27] When you have like a brown population of mostly men who are able to you know who date because people will date on their own no matter what you know the legislation says but who can legally marry you know this causes panic especially especially among you know white people at the time right because intermarriage is seen as something that is disruptive to you know the white family white institutions you have that coupled with Filipino seen as being cheap accessible labor right and so there’s this idea that Filipinos are taking up all the jobs and then also you’re having you know it’s against the, backdrop of poor economics, right? So that’s essentially what causes the Watsonville, the Watsonville riots. And I wanna comment about sort of the conditions under which Filipino men were dating and marrying, right? People who were not from their community. Part of it was also the laws that strictly prohibited the immigration of women and children, designed, of course, so that Filipino workers could not settle here, right? So if you can’t bring your family, then the belief was that you would work and then return and go back home and no longer be here. So I think that’s important to also emphasize because I think we have these.

[4:51] Often we have these stereotypes of migrants and brown, black and brown people of being over-sexualized, especially men, right?

[4:59] Even in women, of course, especially Asian American women. but it’s important to understand that history too so it’s really it’s it’s really a systemic sort of conditions right where men were lonely men were here there’s they might be sending money and resources back home and the only way to support their family was to remain here so that was a huge sacrifice yeah and I think too we forget that these men these are men who are in their late teens early 20s they’re young and they’re at this exciting time of their life but they’re also subject to really hard excruciating work right so when there’s leisure time they’re going to you know mix and mingle and you know i yeah yeah just the way that these like filipino men would dress to the nines for as poor as they were right like they would try to pool money and have like these incredible suits and they would you know mix and mingle with people because again like they’re young men right like anybody else at that age they’re looking for love they’re looking for companionship and you can’t you know just because you’re here as a laborer or they’re they’re they’re conceived as a laborer or perceived as laborers it doesn’t mean that they’re not like real people who have like actual aspirations and you know and dreams and so So, you know, when we think about the type of violence that they had to, you know, encounter.

[6:25] Not just the lead up to the Watsonville riots, but just the type of violence that was very.

[6:31] That really defined their experience as like Filipino immigrants. And this is not exclusive just to Filipinos, right? You know, all the other different Asian ethnic groups experienced this, right? Rock Springs, Wyoming. Yeah. Chinese.

[6:49] Yeah, yeah, you know, because and I think these histories are important to reflect one because again, when we are here at a place like this, we’re along the coastline. It’s very beautiful. We forget that places like this.

[7:03] Have history, right? And they also have very unsavory histories, histories of violence. And when we think about anti-Asian violence, you know, especially contemporary anti-Asian violence, I think it’s a mistake to think that, oh, this is just something that happened because of the pandemic, when in fact, this is something, this is part of a much larger historical experience and historical narrative that has come to define what it is to be Asian in the United States, what it is to be, you know, a member of the different ethnic groups, Filipinx, Chinese, Korean, etc. Right. There are all these like hidden histories of violence. And when I think about that in relation to what we do here at the COE, so much of mental health issues, Right. Especially from what we’re seeing, from what we hear from members of our community. So much of that is rooted in not knowing these history of violence. Right. Not knowing how to place historical trauma, intergenerational trauma, because I think that’s such a buzzword now. Right.

[8:12] Intergenerational trauma. But I feel like we don’t know exactly what that means as individuals.

[8:19] If we don’t understand like the historical nature in which that trauma is housed, right? And when you don’t know that history. Right, I often think our families also are ill-equipped to process them, right? So I think that when you think about.

[8:34] Agricultural labor in California, particularly in the West. Much of California’s, I think, its success in terms of being an agricultural region that feeds the United States, I mean, up until the arrival of Asian immigrant farm laborers, including Filipinos and Chinese Americans.

[8:54] Well, they weren’t Chinese Americans then, Chinese immigrants, Japanese, Korean, and other groups, California could barely feed itself, right? And so people may not know that you know Chinese migrant laborers planted about 95% of the vineyards in Napa Valley 3.2 million vines right at a time when Napa Valley was really struggling so many people brought their horticultural experience from Asia throughout Asia from different groups there’s the reclaiming of marshland and you know brackish brackish water land in the Stockton area and parts of the Central Valley that was done by hand by Asian immigrant labor, right? The reclamation land that people didn’t want. And so people weren’t allowed to own land, but they could certainly lease it, right, and improve it. And then what we know is during World War II, that the internment and incarceration of Japanese Americans, many of those irrigated lands were reclaimed by their landlords, or if they had bought the land in the name of their children, because there were alien land laws at that time for Asians, those lands were taken, And so California really benefited in terms of being an agricultural powerhouse from Asian immigrant labor in particular, and labor that’s still unrecognized. And for many of our.

[10:11] Our community that has been here many many generations many people have ties to agricultural history that their families maybe don’t talk about very much because they’re either embarrassed or ashamed or they feel like i wanted better for my children and so now let’s not talk about it so i think that one of the purposes like you said of our of our center of excellence is to really, help providers as well as help individuals from asian american communities recognize a framework to understand some of that invisible to themselves maybe invisible historical trauma that exists like why why doesn’t my family talk about history we know that families don’t talk about their history of internment for Japanese Americans but families also don’t talk about the history of poverty sometimes yeah right to their children or their grandchildren yes they’re concerned and then children don’t recognize some of the dynamics in their family yeah even as adults and so our hope I know for our Center is to be able to provide that framework for people to process and have a sense of belonging and being a part, an integral part of society. Yeah, because I think that that sense of belonging, especially broad belonging, right, because so for me, I’ve been in Asian American studies for over 20 years.

[11:20] And, you know, I’m always surprised at how much students don’t know. I’m always surprised at how we continue to not share the stories of like the places that we come from and things like that. Like, you know, The only way for me, for example, to know anything about my family, it’s because I’m a scholar, right? So I have the, you know, like I have the skill set to do some of the research, to do research on my family, but also to do some of the research in terms of what was happening, you know, in our respective communities, you know. And so it’s always surprising to me that we, especially in a place like California, you know, we still have a K through 12 education system that still negates the experiences of Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, Asian Americans. And I feel like that’s by design, right? Because when you have young people who grow up thinking that they don’t belong or that their existence somehow is wrong or, you know what I mean? Like, or that you’re forever foreign, right? Simply because of you know, your parents, right? Yeah. So yeah, it is.

[12:34] It surrounds you sometimes right yeah it can ambush you in the most unbelievable everyday circumstances yeah and then people don’t know how to process that right except for maybe just pure anger or discomfort and they don’t really have the framework to understand what their basis of strength is from their community in terms of resilience and survival yeah exactly because to me for a lot of asian americans it really comes down to the simple fact of like the reason why California is able to feed the country is because of that legacy of Asian immigrants, right? Like, these are early immigrants who took the most uninhabitable land and, you know, tilled the soil, made it, created these rich farmlands that not only allowed California to finally sustain itself, right?

[13:23] But also to feed the country, right? Something, you know, something as like beautiful and nourishing is that like my wishes for students to to know that right you know like because even though they may not be a direct descendant of these early immigrants right like they’re very much tied to these early immigrants whether it be the food that we eat but also like the legacies that we share right so yeah so I think it’s important that that piece of like seeing yourself in the history, right?

[13:56] Seeing yourself in the place, seeing yourself in the story. I think that when people are able to experience that and understand that, that can help with managing certain mental health and behavioral health issues, right? I think there’s still a lot of research that has been done and continues to be done in terms of like how our histories and and our experiences are like literally embodied, they’re embodied in our bodies and in our minds, right? So, yeah. Yeah, so I think something too that.

[14:29] I think makes it hard for asian americans to to process a lot of this information or to to do it and feel like it’s legitimate i think that’s part of it too is the model minority myth right so so immigration i mean there’s a story of you know the immigrant that comes and works really hard comes with 50 and survives and i think we probably have heard some of those stories in our families and stuff but what we may not think about in detail for example with farm workers immigrating they were immigrating under very specific very restricted circumstances right right, cannot bring women, cannot bring children, you know, could only live in certain areas, right? The reason why there’s a Chinatown in San Francisco is because people, Chinese, were beaten and restricted to the most hilly, unattractive areas of San Francisco, which became Chinatown, right? And then also they weren’t allowed to own land, right? Because they were considered Oriental aliens, right? And so I know that Filipinos were considered Malay, but the rest of Asian groups were considered aliens, right? And so it was something they had to lease. They had to do whatever they could to be able to try to make a stronghold. And they couldn’t go back to visit because they would not be able to reenter.

[15:38] And so the sacrifice that people made to give up their families and those connections, I think it was something that I’m sure caused a lot of anguish and suffering. And I think that it’s important for us to recognize that immigration was not this very homogenous sort of, oh, you came here and you made your way and you have this heroic figure, right, of someone who’s made it, the Horatio Alger

[16:01] story, right? Yeah, yeah. That’s really not the true story of Asian immigration, particularly in the 1800s and 1900s. Yeah, yeah. Immigration stories are just much more complicated than like the model minority.

[16:13] That model minority narrative, right? And, you know, you know if there’s something that I wish like our audiences or even like our students would do is like understand like the specificities in which either themselves or their families were here because so I did not learn until 2008 which I know sounds like a long time ago it’s not that long you know I did not learn my own family’s immigration history until 2008 when I started looking at one I was in the Philippines and two I was looking at my father’s old photo albums and And I assumed that like a lot of Asian-Americans, my parents came here in 1965 because of the Immigration Act, you know, and that’s a history that I teach. And then when I started looking at his photos, because my dad was the original like Facebook tagger, I actually think Mark Zuckerberg owes us some money. Because when you look at his photos, like this is the time of the square format photo with the white border. So there’s names, dates, locations on all these photos. And so I learned that my dad actually immigrated from the Philippines to Guam in 1955, 10 years before I, you know, 10 years before I thought he had immigrated. And he, very similar to early farm laborers, but he came as part of the post-World War II rebuilding of Guam. And so he worked for the U.S. military.

[17:35] The U.S. military, I learned, recruited a lot of engineers to work for the Navy. And so my father was part of that and then 10 years later or like like nine years later came out my mom through letters and then they eventually got married in the philippines and he brought her over so it’s a very different it’s a very different immigration story right and and and for me the reason why something like that is important is because you’re looking at the specificity of a place like guam you’re looking at post-world war ii um the rebuilding of guam uh we forget that, it was Guam’s relationship to the United States that made it so that Japan was going to bomb it. So technically, the United States didn’t save it. You know what I mean? Like, there’s all these complicated histories. And then you have these early immigrants who came as professionals.

[18:25] And so one thing that I learned in my 20s about my dad was he took martial arts classes. And I had no idea. He took martial arts classes. is and my mom explained that he had to because him and the engineers would regularly get jumped by the locals right either Filipino locals or Chamorro locals because there was this class tension right you know and again like people look at this as like oh these are like people fighting against each other and it’s like well actually these are systemic tensions that are are created when you look elsewhere to recruit labor and you don’t look at a local population for that labor first right so yeah so it’s interesting um because i i don’t know of like a lot of this history being told or being shared i know i’m.

[19:18] But, you know, because like the when I look at my dad’s like photo archive alone, you know, it’s it really is a story of like the different landscape of the island of Guam, how it went from, you know, you know, it’s like a territory and like just the different ways that Guam was was referred to. He has photos of like parts of Guam before like the military built it, you know, built it up.

[19:45] So it’s it’s fascinating. Right. And you need to write a book one day. But I my wish for people is like to look at something as like mundane as like your family photos. Right. Because especially older generations. My dad was not the only person that did the name date location on the back of the photo, because that was, you know, this is before the camera phone. Right. You know, when all of that data is sort of embedded, people did that on their own. When when people say I have no history and I’m like you can look at something as simple as a photograph and like go from there right you know oftentimes like our family photos are the places where our family stories and histories you know start right so if you come from a family where the story wasn’t necessarily given to you there are these documents these things that you can actually look to. Yeah, right.

[20:45] Roots Reclaimed is a production of the AANHPI Ohana Center of Excellence, a culturally-centered behavioral health resource center aimed to empower Asian-American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities. To get access to resources, referrals, trainings, workshops, and so much more, visit us at aanhpi-ohana.org. Mahalo.

Introducing Roots Reclaimed Podcast

Introducing Roots Reclaimed

We are happy to announce the launch of Roots Reclaimed Podcast!

Roots Reclaimed is a podcast that explores the hidden or often untold histories of communities that identify as Asian American, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander. Roots Reclaimed is a podcast that aims to reclaim hidden histories and shed light on the contributions and importance of AANHPI populations that are often written out of history. Through reclaiming the roots of these diverse cultures, we hope to provide healing from historical trauma, and strengthen cultural identity and pride.

Join us for explorative conversations with guests and hosts with diverse backgrounds and stories.

Listen on Spotify

Watch on YouTube

Listen on BuzzSprout

Burmese History, Cultural, and Mental Health Support

For several decades dating back to the 1940s to present-day Burma has been suffering numerous conflicts such as wars and coups within the country causing uprising tension and problems for the people young and old fearing for safety, not being able to live flourishing lives whether it’s obtaining everyday resources, bringing in a good amount of income and opportunities and also children lacking education as it comes in the lowest forms of qualities. Due to these issues naturally, people seek safer lives for themselves and their families. These people have no choice but to flee with nothing on them to neighboring countries such as Thailand, China, and India. Some can go to third countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia, etc., When these people arrive here, they are faced with many new problems that are quite different from their homeland. They are faced with a language barrier; it is a huge adjustment as they leave everything they know behind.

Burmese refugees and immigrants must take the blocks and rebuild a new life here and learn all about the U.S. system and laws thus we feel the need to help all these people learn to adjust well and maneuver around the trauma. The Burmese Community Services was established in 2013, Buffalo NY as a nonprofit organization and a Certificate of Incorporation with the Department of State to exactly assist this growing community providing resources and services such as interpretation, assisting with housing, health care projects, funeral services, education, transportation, food and consumers, labor and employment opportunities and much more.

What will participants learn?

  • A deeper dive into the benefits our organization has to offer
  • The history, traditions, and rich culture of Burma
  • Different ethnic groups and languages spoken
  • A deeper understanding of specific social issues and problems regarding Burmese refugees and immigrants

Who is this workshop for?

  • This is for all service providers and researchers including government agencies.

Looking to receive continuing education contact hours?
Papa Ola Lōkahi (NASWHI-CEP-13) has been designated an approved provider of social work continuing education contact hours by the National Association of Social Workers Hawai’i Chapter. The Papa Ola Lokahi maintains responsibility for the program. This program is approved by the State of Hawaii Department of Health’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division (Approval# ADAD-24-085) for up to 1.5 contact hour(s). NOTE: Participants are responsible for submitting proof of attendance to their respective certification or licensing board. ʻOhana CoE & Papa Ola Lōkahi do not submit this information on behalf of training participants.

Participants will receive a link to verify attendance at the end of the workshop.


Download slides here

Download the Burmese Community Behavioral Health Survey

This event has passed. You can watch the replay on our YouTube, or here on the website.


Workshop Presenters

Mr. Steven Sanyu was born in Burma/Myanmar and now resides in Buffalo since 2000 Mr. Steven founded the Burmese Community Services, Inc., (BCS) in 2013, and it became 501(C)(3) the first Burmese people to lead an Independent non-profit organization in WNY to assist refugees and immigrants with issues they are facing including but not limited to language barriers, cultural adjustment and to provide other services and resources.

As a community leader, Mr. Steven have been involved with many organizations and Institutions in the Buffalo Region such as Colleges and Universities, the Buffalo Police Department’s Language Access Plan, the WNY Refugee Health Summit Planning Committee, Community Advisor for the University at Buffalo Food Systems Planning and Health Communities Research Lab (UB Food Lab), the Buffalo Region Refugee and Immigrant Roundtable’s Steering Committee and the Advisory Board Member of the City of Buffalo Common Council’s Police Oversight Committee, etc.

Mr. Steven share experiences and give Cultural Competency training and give presentations to the Court, Colleges and University, Law Enforcement Training Academy, Schools, and Health Care Agencies including the IRS and more for better services, and understanding of refugees, and the immigrant population including interviews and radio shows. Mr. Steven also assist the Buffalo Police Department to develop the “Language ID Card” for non-English speakers in the city of Buffalo and lastly working together with County Legislators and partner organizations to pass the Language Access Law in Erie County.

Mr. Steven currently serving as a President of Burmese Community Services, a Member of the WNY COVID-19 Vaccine HUB Advisory Committee and Ambassador to the New York State Vaccine Equal Task Force, Member of the Erie County’s New Americans Advisory Committee, the Buffalo State University President’s Community Advisory Committee, and the Buffalo State’s AFP Advisory & Engagement Committee.

For those reasons, the Burmese Community Services (BCS) received the Community Leader Organization Award from the NFJC and also from the NYS Senator Timothy Kennedy and the Erie County Legislature in 2018, and recognition from the U.S. Census Bureau in 2020.

Mr. Steven also received awards and recognition for “Extensive Work and Leadership in the
Development of the Buffalo Police Department’s Language Access Plan” by the City of Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown in 2016, the “Standardized Patients in Inter-Professional Education” by the University at Buffalo, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in 2017, “First recipient of the International Community Day Award Winner” by the City of Buffalo Mayor and the BPD Commissioner in 2021 (BPD C-District), and the recently, the City & State media has recognized as a “One of the Asia American‘s most Influential 100 leaders in New York State” in 2022.

Problem Gambling: A Hidden Addiction among Asian American Communities

Flier for Problem Gambling

Gambling encompasses diverse cultural practices and modern forms like casino gambling. In the Asian American community, factors like cultural acceptance and targeted marketing contribute to its prevalence. Problem gambling, as defined by DSM-5, affects individuals despite adverse consequences, with neuroscience revealing addictive pathways similar to substance use disorders. Treatment options include behavioral therapies, cognitive interventions, and pharmacological approaches tailored to subtypes like behaviorally conditioned and emotionally vulnerable. Resources like helplines, state-funded programs, and support groups offer assistance. A case vignette will prompt discussions on the challenges of gambling addiction, emphasizing the need for comprehensive support systems and empathy in addressing this complex issue.

In this workshop, participants will:

  • Gain an understanding of problem gambling, with a particular focus on its components within the Asian American community.
  • Gain an understanding of the neuroscience behind gambling addiction.
  • Explore treatment approaches for gambling problems among Asian Americans
  • Learn about ways to support Asian American families and individuals who may be struggling with gambling addictions.
  • Learn about different resources available.

Looking to receive continuing education contact hours?
Papa Ola Lokahi (NASWHI-CEP-13) has been designated an approved provider of social work continuing education contact hours by the National Association of Social Workers Hawai’i Chapter. The Papa Ola Lokahi maintains responsibility for the program. This program is also approved by the State of Hawaii Department of Health’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division (Approval# ADAD-24-075) for up to 1 contact hour(s). NOTE: Participants are responsible for submitting proof of attendance to their respective certification or licensing board. ʻOhana CoE & Papa Ola Lōkahi do not submit this information on behalf of training participants.

Participants will receive a link to verify attendance at the end of the workshop.


Download the slides here

This event has passed. You can watch the replay on our YouTube, or here on the website.


Workshop Presenters

Michael Liao’s career in social work has spanned various settings—including child welfare, domestic violence prevention, supervised visitation, mental health, and substance abuse treatment. Michael is currently the Director of Programs for NICOS Chinese Health Coalition. Since 2004, Michael has been providing cultural responsiveness training on a wide range of topics, including implicit bias and widening our personal lens, cross-cultural communications, Asian American cultural issues, LGBTQ+ issues, and anti-oppressive practices, for a wide variety of audiences.

How Lunar New Year is Celebrated Among Asian Cultures

Lunar New Year is a diverse and beautiful holiday that is celebrated among many Asian cultures and families. In celebration of Lunar New Year, the team at the AANHPI ‘Ohana Center of Excellence has several stories of the significance of Lunar Near Year, and how we each celebrate this time of year.

On Feb 3rd, from 6-8 p.m, at Milpitas Civic Center Plaza, the local communities celebrated the Lunar New Year with live performances by the Aimusic School, VietYouth, Cantrelle’s Martial Arts, and Tina Dance School. The local communities were immersed in the festivity during this two-hour cultural feast. We enjoyed songs in ethnic languages and the music played with traditional musical instruments. The kids were happily engaged in creative crafts including making a dragon and calligraphy (see the picture of the word Dragon written in calligraphy by my 6-years old daughter). It was a great opportunity to inspire her to learn Chinese words and Chinese culture.

The word Dragon written in calligraphy
The word Dragon written in calligraphy by my 6-year old daughter.
Play Video

The lion and dragon dances were the highlights of the joyful event (see the video), which ended with a thrilling round of firecrackers. The firecrackers reminded me of all the Lunar New Year holidays that I spent in China before I came to the U.S. Many years ago, before the ban on firecrackers due to air pollution, almost every house in China lit firecracker on New Year’s Eve, while the family members get together to enjoy delicious traditional food and toast for a new year!

Ni and daughter at Milpitas Civic Center Plaza Lunar New Year celebration

Now let me make a toast to you: wish you a happy new year of Dragon, be as energetic as a dragon, and everything goes well for you. But don’t drink too much at parties. 😊 祝大家龙年,龙虎精神,万事兴“龙”!聚会时请不要贪杯哦。

Final appreciation to all the volunteers, community members, and local governments that made this event with free admission for all the communities happen. Thank you and happy new year!

The first day of the Asian Lunar New Year in 2024 is February 10, 2024. For many Asian families around the globe, New Year’s Eve, is the most important night with a tradition of gathering for a special dinner with family and preparing specific traditional foods. Many of the traditions have a spiritual aspect with a recognition of connection to ancestors, the elderly, and a celebration of children. This year New Year’s Eve is February 9th. The celebrations will continue for 15 days with visits to family and friends and the exchange of gifts of food and fruit along with red envelopes of lucky money for children. In my family, we spend days preparing food for New Year’s Eve dinner and buy gifts of food, plants, and lucky peach and plum blossom branches for neighbors and friends to be shared in the coming 15 days. We also clean our homes and family shrines to welcome the new year in good luck, health, and fortune. It is a time of renewal, a connection to the past and to the future.

Kyoung Mi Choi is a Professor in the Department of Counselor Education at San José State University, Program Specialist at the AANHPI ‘Ohana Center of Excellence. She is a regularly contributor to Psychology Today, Courageously and Boldly.

Memories of Seollal, Korean Lunar New Year

Having grown up in South Korea, I enjoyed the excitement surrounding the Lunar New Year, also known as Gujeong (구정) or Seollal (설날). Although I didn’t fully understand why we celebrated twice – once on the first day of January based on the solar calendar and again on the first day of the lunar calendar, which changes each year, I have fond memories of all the delicious dishes we had, such as Tteokguk (떡국, rice cake soup, a popular holiday dish symbolizing the gaining of a year in age), Jeon (전, savory pancakes), mandu (만두, dumplings), Japchae (잡채, a stir-fried dish made with glass noodles), and Bulgogi (불고기, thinly sliced marinated beef).

Family gatherings were filled with laughter and traditional games like Yutnori (윷놀이, a board game played with sticks). For children, it was common to wear traditional Korean clothing (한복, Hanbok) and fly kites (연날리기) with other kids in the neighborhood in the crispy cold air.

Children with Hanbok (Korean traditional cloths)
Children with Hanbok (Korean traditional cloths). Photo courtesy of Pixabay
Traditional Korean Food for Seollal courtesy of Korea.NET
Traditional Korean Food for Seollal courtesy of Korea.NET

During Seollal, we observed the special traditional bowing ceremony called Sebae (세배), where younger family members bow to their elders as a sign of respect and to receive blessings for the new year. In return, elders give blessings and money to the younger generation. I often saved the money, Sebaedone (세벳돈), received during Sebae to buy school supplies and books I desired but couldn’t afford.

Since immigrating to the United States over 20 years ago, I’ve sought to maintain my cultural connections and traditions, much like many other Korean Americans. Celebrating Seollal allows me to gather with Asian and Asian American friends and families, sharing our ancestral foods and reflecting on our immigration journeys. This sense of community and belonging is palpable among many Asian American friends and families.

I discovered that the Bay Area hosts numerous cultural events and community celebrations, providing opportunities to reconnect with my childhood memories and cultural identity. If you’re in the Bay Area, I invite you to join me in celebrating this special month with our families, friends, and communities as we honor our diverse traditions and heritages.


Here are some events you might consider attending:

The Lunar New Year is a significant celebration that holds a special place in the cultural heritage of various Asian communities, such as Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Mongolian, Malaysian, Indonesian, Singaporean, and more. This vibrant festivity is based on the lunar calendar and begins with the first new moon and ends on the first full moon. It symbolizes the start of a new year filled with good fortune and happiness.

This year, 2024, marks the Year of the Wood Dragon that symbolizes strength and the fulfillment of aspirations. The celebration begins on February 9th, and it is a time of cultural reflection and festivity (source).

The Lunar New Year is celebrated in various communities throughout the United States, particularly among Asian American communities. According to a Pew Research Center study, around two-thirds of Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese Americans participate in Lunar New Year festivities (source).

Although not an official federal holiday in the United States, the Lunar New Year is gaining recognition. This is exemplified by California’s recent acknowledgment of the event. In 2022, the state, which boasts the largest Asian American population in the country, officially observed the occasion. Governor Newsom signed AB 2596, designating the Lunar New Year as a state holiday. This allows state employees to take the day off in honor of this culturally significant event (source).

Similar strides have been made in major cities like New York, where the Lunar New Year is recognized as a school holiday (source).

The Lunar New Year has a deep cultural and social significance that goes beyond just the festivities. It has a positive impact on emotional and psychological well-being. The celebration helps to foster family bonds, social connections, and a sense of cultural identity. The engagement in traditional customs and rituals also fosters a shared cultural experience that reduces isolation and enhances social cohesion. This is especially important for first-generation immigrants, like myself, who have limited family support in the United States.

During this time, I find comfort and connection by reaching out to loved ones in South Korea and the United States, inviting friends over, preparing traditional Korean dishes, and participating in community events. All these activities help me stay connected to my cultural heritage, which enhances my emotional and psychological welfare.

Lunar New Year on the Westside of Kaua‘i

I have rather fond memories of learning cultural traditions in Hawaii, the island of Kauai specifically. I was raised on the westside of the island in a town of primarily Filipino, Japanese, and Chinese immigrants. Starting in elementary school, we regularly learned about cultural traditions of Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, and the Asian immigrants that worked in the sugar cane plantations. One of my vivid memories is learning about Lunar New Year, then referred to as Chinese New Year. We learned the Cantonese greeting for Lunar New Year (Gong Hay Fat Choy) and created either decorations or accessories in celebration of the holiday. I loved learning about the lunar zodiac and feeling immensely proud (and lucky) to be born in the year of the dragon. You could feel when the holiday was approaching as the Buddhist temples and local restaurants began adorning red and gold for the holiday. Naturally then, it only feels fitting to share these memories as we are about to ring in the year of the dragon again!

Now, learning about Lunar New Year was great. But what really got me excited was the food and the lion dancers. I remember the first time I encountered lion dancers. I was probably in kindergarten at the time and so our class was seated closer to the stage. It was thrilling to hear the drums and chimes begin the performance and to see the lion on stage. Its comically large head, brilliant red and gold body, and beautifully adorned face and mane will be forever an image that I remember. I remember the tricks and comedy that happened on stage and thoroughly delighted at watching the performance. What happened next will also be a lifelong memory. To my surprise, lion came down from the stage! No longer was I a spectator but now I was an active participant. Imagine my panic as one of the performers on stage announced on the microphone, “If the lion snaps or tries to bite you, that’s okay. That’s lucky!” Little five-year-old me could not comprehend how anything biting you could be lucky. I joined my classmates in the screaming and laughing that ensued as the lion made its rounds around the students.

When the assembly was dismissed, I breathed a sigh of relief and reminded myself that the best was yet to come, food! During this time, many foods got associated with Lunar New Year but the typical roster of dishes that I remember would be: manapua (steamed pork char siu buns), Chinese pretzels, kimchi, manju, stir-fried noodles (fried saimin and pancit), and dumplings (fried wonton). These foods were always around but were especially consumed at least in our house around the time of Lunar New Year.

Besides food though, my family did not do much else to celebrate Lunar New Year. As Filipino immigrants, they came from areas of the Philippines that did not celebrate Lunar New Year. The Philippines does have a significant Chinese community that observes the Lunar New Year. The influence of Chinese culture in the Philippines dates back centuries, with the arrival of Chinese immigrants who settled in the archipelago long before the Spanish colonization. Over time, these immigrants integrated into Filipino society while retaining their cultural practices, including the celebration of Lunar New Year. Today, Chinese-Filipinos, also known as Tsinoys, play a significant role in preserving and enriching these traditions.

As the holiday quickly approaches, I am excited to continue on enjoying the festivities and foods of Lunar New Year!

2024 AAAS Annual Conference: Asian American Studies in the 2020s

Asian American Studies in the 2020s: Disciplinary, Ethnic, Diasporic Identities

There are myriad examples of marginalization and decentering, but to elaborate on two, social scientists from underrepresented fields – namely, psychology, political science – were heavily involved in the formation of the association, Amerasia Journal, and Asian American Studies more generally, and yet those fields (as well as anthropology, communications, economics, sociology, etc) have not been centered – discretely or interdisciplinarily. Without claiming that these underrepresented social sciences are unproblematic, still, how might they and their methods help us shift our scholarly, pedagogical, and public-facing work as well as the broader discipline? Similarly, how might a more focused and intensive treatment of South Asian American Studies, placing South Asian Americans and South Asian nations at the center of our (inter)disciplinary inquiries, shift our understanding of the raced and gendered global economic order, of transnationality and diaspora, of the post 9/11-COVID era, of Asian American Studies?

We invite Asian American Studies practitioners, scholars, teachers, artists, activists and beyond to engage broadly with questions of inclusion/exclusion, examining a series of topics including, but not limited to:

Rethinking 1968 and the Rise of “Asian American”

Asian American Studies Then and Now

On Presentism and Futuricity

The Historical Imagination

The Social Scientific Imagination & Methodology

Disciplines: Multi-, Inter-, and Trans-disciplinarity

The Model Minority and its Discontents

The Racialized “Foreigner”: The Terrorist, the Temptress, the Virus, the Competition, the Empire

The Racialization of 9/11 and Covid: Comparisons

Caste and Asian America

Meditations on the Atlanta and Sikh American Massacres

Ranking Oppressions or Contextualizing/Interrelating Oppressions

How the Global & Transnational relate to Asian “America”

Centering/Interrelating: South Asian/American Studies, Pacific Islander/Oceanic Studies, Southeast Asian/American Studies

On Critical Mental Health Studies, Disability Studies, Environmental Studies, Queer Studies

Nadia Kim, Program Co-Chair

Sameer Pandya, Program Co-Chair

Please note that ticket prices will double on March 1, 2024 at 12 pm PST

Registration is nonrefundable as per our policy.

Novel Digital Interactive Theater-based Intervention to Promote Empathy, Mental, and Emotional Wellbeing Among AANHPI Communities

Yale Compassionate Home, Action Together (CHATogether) is a novel community-based digital program that promotes empathy and emotional wellness through interactive theater (Song J, 2022). Using interactive theater adopted from the Theater of Oppressed, we aim to promote empathy and communication skills among AANHPI children, adolescents, and families.

Components of the Yale CHATogether program will be introduced. Participants will learn about the five stages of skit production including topic identification/collaborators, scene planning, improvisation, writing, and community engagement. We will also share our qualitative study to measure impacts of theater-based intervention in AANHPI communities.

We will live perform a theatrical vignette depicting challenging communication within AANHPI family. First, the problematic scenario will be presented. Second, a child psychiatrist will provide moderation to process and to mentalize the perspectives of teen and parent. Third, actors re-do the scenario after incorporating more effective communication skills leading to a modified outcome. With facilitator guidance, audience will then divided into breakout room to meet and share their experiences related to the skit.

What will participants learn?

  • Participants will learn about components of Yale CHATogether and the five stages of theater production.
  • Participants will learn about skills in parenting, communication, and relational well-being tailored towards AANHPI families.
  • Participants will learn about resources in culturally informed mental health care in AANHPI.

Who should attend?

  • General populations, especially for parents.
  • Educators.
  • Mental health providers working with AANHPI individuals.

REPLAY

This event has passed. You can watch the replay on our YouTube, or here on the website.


QUESTIONS FROM THE CHAT

There were many questions asked during the workshop, and the replies to those answers are provided below from the presenters. PLEASE NOTE: the answers below do not serve as medical or psychiatric advice. The audience should seek help directly from your local professional providers.

When you do the theatre, do you do only one scene or several scenes?
Since its inception, CHATogether has created 26 skit videos shared on Youtube. Each video tailored towards different scenes and mental health topic in the family. Sharing the Youtube channel here:
https://www.youtube.com/@compassionatehomeactiontog1212/videos

What to do if the person with mental problem doesn’t want to seek help?
This depends on the severity of the mental health. If it is not a psychiatric crisis, caregivers may provide a non-judgmental approach to actively listen to and understand the person’s needs. “Not motivated to get help” could be a sign or symptom of depression, rather than a behavior or attitude that is commonly misunderstood.

Who is your audience when you do the Forum Theatre? Are these providers? Or community people?

Our CHATogether community events outreach to a wide range of audience, including community parents/caregivers, educators, youth (teens and college students), church goers, and interprofessional mental health providers.

How do you identify a mental illness?

Diagnosing mental health condition takes a series of professional assessments from a bio-psycho-social-cultural perspectives. Using clinical psychologists and psychiatrists will make a diagnosis after a thorough assessment. Correct diagnosis is critical to guide treatment recommendations.


Workshop Presenters

Dr. Eunice Yuen is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at Yale New Haven Hospital, and at the Parent and Family Development Program at the Yale Child Study Center. Dr. Yuen grew up in Hong Kong and is now a mother of two Asian American children, and she is the Founder and Director of CHATogether at Yale School of Medicine. Dr. Yuen is the Principal Investigator of the Acting Together Program.”

Peggy O. Wong is a second-generation Asian American who is pursuing her MSN in psychiatric-mental health at Yale School of Nursing. She recently completed a yearlong APRN internship at the West Haven VA Medical Center, and is now completing her final year of training at the Yale Child Study Center in Outpatient Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. She is interested in Immigrant and Minority mental health and to better understand the cultural variations in the prevalence, presentation, and treatment of psychiatric disorders.

Evelyn Kim is currently a high school junior at Choate Rosemary Hall. A dedicated participant in theater, she acts, directs, and writes plays. As a second-generation Korean American, she hopes to promote awareness for and aid the de-stigmatization of mental health for AAPI families through Yale CHATogether. In her free time, she enjoys volunteering for local Connecticut food banks and reading screenplays.

Skylar Luu is a fourth-year medical student at Albany Medical College in Albany, NY. Previously, she received her B.S. in Neuroscience in 2019 from Johns Hopkins University. She is applying for a psychiatry residency position this cycle, with interests in child and adolescent psychiatry and public psychiatry. She serves on National APAMSA as a Region 1 Director, with a passion for promoting the health of the AANHPI community.

Vicky Wang, B.S., is a fourth-year medical student at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. She is currently applying into psychiatry for the 2023-2024 cycle. At Vanderbilt, Vicky serves as the Co-President of APAMSA (Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association) for the second consecutive year. She is passionate and actively involved in numerous other initiatives focused on wellness, mentorship, and education.

Feiran Zhang is a postgraduate associate in the Child Study Center at Yale University, focusing on the mental health and well-being of children and caregivers in early education settings. She graduated from Columbia University in the summer of 2022 with a double master’s degree in counseling psychology. Before joining the YCSC team, she worked in the Bullying Prevention and Mental Health Promotion Lab at the University of Maryland intending to understand families’ unique experiences and ultimately promote Asian American teens and their families’ resilience and success.

References:
Song JE, Ngo NT, Vigneron JG, Lee A, Sust S, Martin A, Yuen EY. CHATogether: a novel digital program to promote Asian American Pacific Islander mental health in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Child Adolesc Psychiatry Ment Health. 2022 Sep 23;16(1):76. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36151549/

Severe Mental Illness and Dismantling Mental Health Barriers: Culturally Responsive Strategies for Supporting Asian Americans

This workshop will present a detailed description of severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia spectrum disorders and review their impact and current findings among Asian American individuals and families. An in-depth discussion of prevalent barriers to mental healthcare among Asian American communities will be provided, such as mental health stigma and misinformation. Prevailing myths and misconceptions about schizophrenia, psychotropic medications, and psychotherapy will be explored and reviewed. Strategies will be provided on micro, mezzo, and macro levels for behavioral health practitioners, clinical social workers, community advocates, academic researchers, and family members and loved ones regarding supporting Asian American individuals with severe mental illness and de-stigmatizing mental health at large. Techniques for treatment engagement, initiating and receiving services, contributing to community anti-stigma efforts, and other suggestions for engaging with Asian American clients on multiple levels in social work practice will be provided.
What will participants learn?

  • Detailed overview and information about severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia spectrum disorders
  • Exploration of prevalent barriers to mental healthcare such as mental health stigma and their impact on Asian American communities
  • Myths and misconceptions about prevailing stereotypes and misinformation about severe mental illness, psychotropic medication, and psychotherapy
  • Strategies for building trust and engaging with Asian American clients with severe mental illness in therapy, including for clients with anosognosia (lack of insight)
  • Suggestions for supporting Asian American families impacted by severe mental illness on community, research, and organizational levels
  • Resources for schizophrenia spectrum disorders

Who should attend?

  • Behavioral health providers, professionals, and trainees
  • Asian American social workers and community leaders
  • Community members interested in learning more about mental health
  • Asian American local and community-based organizations
  • Academic researchers and scholars interested in areas of Asian diaspora mental health
  • Family members, friends, and colleagues who may know someone impacted by severe mental illness

DOWNLOADS & REPLAY

This event has passed. You can watch the replay on our YouTube, or here on the website.


Workshop Presenters

Juliann Li Verdugo (she/her) is a licensed clinical social worker and a trilingual first-generation Chinese American from San Diego, California. She is currently a Ph.D. student studying social welfare at the University of Washington, focusing on research areas of racial and ethnic health disparities, Asian American and Latinx mental health, severe mental illness, and culturally responsive service delivery.

 

Juliann received a Bachelor of Science in clinical psychology from the University of California at San Diego (2017) and a Master of Social Work from the University of Michigan (2019). She has led and contributed to various research projects focused on topics including schizophrenia spectrum disorders, psychosis, caregivers of individuals with severe mental illness, and intervention development and testing.

 

Prior to starting her doctoral education, Juliann worked for over 3 years as a clinician with a group practice in Ann Arbor, Michigan, providing outpatient psychotherapy services to adults of color. She also served as the project coordinator for a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)-funded grant conducting community-based participatory research on suicide prevention for adults with schizophrenia in a community mental health setting.

 

On a personal level, Juliann loves traveling, walking in nature, playing video games such as The Legend of Zelda, and spending time with her husky Strider. She is excited to collaborate with the ‘Ohana team and looks forward to her future work with Asian diaspora organizations and communities.

Culturally Adapted Depression Assessment for Chinese Americans: How to Reduce Mental Health Disparities and Improve Access to Care

The workshop will cover culturally based symptom expressions for depression, including psychological, somatic, and interpersonal symptoms, used by Chinese American adolescents, adults, and older adults and how healthcare and community providers can better detect depression and engage clients with mental health care. The workshop showcases educational videos and symptom checklists developed by the San Francisco Bay Area Chinese Community Depression Education Project. The project used a community-based participatory approach to develop culturally sensitive tools to address disparities in mental health and access to services. While the assessment and educational tools were developed for a Chinese-speaking population, they are also applicable to other communities.

What will you learn in this workshop?

• Articulate a Chinese culture-based construct of depression with three dimensions—psychological, somatic and interpersonal;
• Articulate Chinese culture-specific expressions of depressive distress used by Chinese Americans;
• Articulate how you can integrate culturally sensitive depression assessment and educational tools into your professional practice and social services with Chinese speaking patients/clients;
• Recognize differences in the differential endorsement of depressive symptoms based on level of acculturation to U.S. society, gender, education, and other factors.

Who is this workshop for?

• Behavioral health care providers who work with Asian American communities.
• Members of Asian American community-based organizations.
• Asian American individuals and those who support them.


DOWNLOADS & REPLAY

This event has passed. You can watch the replay on our YouTube, or here on the website.


Workshop Presenters

Rose Wong is the Director of Social Work at Palo Alto University, where she is starting a master of social work (MSW) program with a specialization in culturally informed behavioral health. Prior to this position, she served as associate professor and department chair of social work at California State University East Bay and as founding director of the MSW program at University of the Pacific. Before earning her master’s and doctoral degrees in social welfare from UC Berkeley, she studied public and international affairs at Princeton University and public administration and psychology in universities in France.

In Dr. Wong’s research, she teams up with community professionals to develop culturally sensitive mental health educational materials in Chinese language, including brochures with symptom checklists and videos for use by professionals and community members. Dr. Wong’s practice experience in the Asian American immigrant community includes counseling for children and families who experienced domestic violence and supporting the implementation of integrated care treatment programs for older adults with depression. In 2022, Dr. Wong published a book entitled, Which Evidence-Based Practice Should I Use?: A Social Worker’s Handbook for Decision Making.