Asian American Month

Published May 31, 2021

Dear readers, 

Happy Asian-American/Pacific-Islander Month (AAPI Month)! We hope everyone had a great May and is excited for summer to arrive!

This month, we interviewed three Asian-Americans. We learned about Chinese immigration and growing up as a Chinese-American, the Hate Crime Prevention Act, and Chavi Koneru’s organization: NCAAT.

We are aware that it is Asian American Month and Pacific-Islander month. Sadly, we were unable to find a Pacific-Islander to interview, so we focused on Asian-Americans this month. We still are very thankful for everything they have done and appreciate and value them. We hope that next year’s AAPI edition can be more inclusive of all AAPI communities. However, we have put some resources on page 15 for our readers to learn more about this rich and beautiful ethnicity.

Lastly, a reminder to sign our petition to change the Village Regional’s Library’s name to Oberlin Village Regional Library at (chng.it/F89NHKfPk7) We are moving ahead on this project and getting more signatures by the day. If you know any middle schoolers or teenagers who would be interested in helping us get signatures for this petition and live in the Raleigh area, please reach out to us at aandlmagazine@gmail.com

-Leeya and Adalia

The Feast of Unity

A poem by Leeya

Asians they call us, Asian-American Month we say

What is “Asian Culture”, anyway?

Asia is a continent, so diverse

48 countries but is this for better or for worse?

We are divided as a community, even though we all came to America for similar opportunities 

Chinese pitted against Indians

Japanese against Koreans

Why can’t it just stop? 

We should love one another’s culture

Learn about each other’s cultures

Celebrate each other’s cultures

United not judgemental

Open-minded because it’s not a competition

I know one day we’ll be united

When this day comes, there will be a gathering with all the Asians of the world

There will be music, dancing

And most importantly food

Plates of grapes leaves

Bowls of bibimbap

Salty egg fried rice

Clay pots of layered biryani

All the kinds of bread: pita, roti, naan, mantou, afghan bread, etli ekmek

100’s of kinds of sushi, crispy dumplings, steamed and fried

Kofta, malfuf’s, curries from every country of Asia

We will dance, sing, celebrate our cultures

We will call it the feast of unity

But for this day to come, we must be united

For this day to come, we must have opened-minds

For this day to come, we must put aside our difference

For I know one day we will celebrate the Feast of Unity

Empowering North Carolina’s Asian American Community: An Abridged Interview with Chavi Koneru About Her Organization: North Carolina Asian Americans Together

Check out our video on YouTube for the full interview and to hear the rest of the questions that were asked. It will premiere on Saturday, June 5th at 10:00 with a live chat for those who want to watch and discuss the interview! Below you can find a one pager on her organization NCAAT. Visit ncaat.org to learn more. If you have any questions, reach out to them at contact@ncaatogether.org. Help this organization out by donating or volunteering if possible! They offer volunteer opportunities for everyone including youth.

Chavi Koneru is the executive director and co-founder of North Carolina Asian American Together (NCAAT). NCAAT is a social justice organization focused on anyone who identifies as Asian American or Asian anywhere across the state of North Carolina. They have 12 staff members, most of whom focus on our program areas, which include community engagement, voter engagement and youth engagement. The idea came about when Ms. Koneru and several others noticed the rise in the population of Asian Americans in North Carolina. NCAAT aims to help increase civic and voter engagement with North Carolina’s Asian American community. According to Ms. Koneru, “We want our organization to be representative of all the 40 different ethnicities in our state.”

A typical day for Ms. Koneru at NCAAT includes…There actually isn’t one. Ms. Koneru says what she loves most about her job at NCAAT is that it is not a typical day, ever. “My most boring day is when I have back to back Zoom meetings all day. Most of the time there is a great mix of talking to community members and funders. The reason I enjoy it is because a lot of people don’t know much about the Asian American community.”

Preventing Hate Crimes: How Senator Mujtaba Mohammed Is Using His Government Power to Create a Better World

“Diversity is our greatest strength.” ~ Senator Mujtaba Mohammed

Senator Mujtaba Mohammed, is a Muslim/Indian-American, who currently represents Mecklenburg County as a North Carolina state senator. He is also a public interest attorney. We decided to interview him to learn more about his Hate Crime Prevention Act and Asian-American hate crimes.

Who is Mujtaba Mohammed?

Senator Mohammed is a proud product of North Carolina public schools. He graduated from UNC Charlotte and then went to Central University. At Central University law school, the idea of serving the underprivileged was always being emphasized. He decided to become a trial attorney because he wanted to represent those who were underprivileged, such as repressed children and families. He told us, “I realized how people often spend their whole lives in an orange jumpsuit because they can’t afford to pay and they are in a system that is oppressive to people of color.”

Running for Office

His passion for justice, equity and helping kids stay in school would inspire Mr. Mohammed to become Senator Mohammed, the second Indian-American senator in North Carolina.

After events in 2016, Senator Mohammed was heartbroken. He believes “At the end of the day, Muslim-Americans want all the same basic things. They want to send their kids or go to school, be able to get a job and support their family and get basic healthcare. I think no matter how funny your name might sound, and no matter how you love or look, we should always be seen as a person. I’m proud to be a dad, son, father, and so many more things. I’m so many more things than just Muslin/Indian-American and we need a country that accepts and welcomes us all.”

The Root and History of Hate Crimes

Senator Mohammed believes that “no one is born to hate – no one is born racist. He believes it is our surroundings, the media, and other people that influences who we become. He says “While some people might say you aren’t welcome, we need diversity to make strong communities.” Our surroundings are an important factor in the root of hate crimes.

Looking through history, you can see patterns of hatred. Senator Mohammed states numberous examples including slavery, the Jim Crow era, segregation laws, and the struggle for women to gain their rights. He explains to us how through centuries, there have been many changes, laws, and amendments on our path towards equality and equity. According to Senator Mohammed, “This history of hate is not limited to the United States. It happens all over the world and that is unacceptable.”

Recently, Asian-Americans are being blamed for the spread of COVID-19. Senator Mohammed tells us that “we have to realize that the pandemic is no one’s fault. Things may happen, pandemics may happen. People often want to scapegoat others for their personal problems because of their identity, circumstance or background, but the reality is we need to come together to change the world.” Senator Mohammed also looks at the bright side and says the pandemic has brought out the best in many humans. We hope that this will not become a time in history when the pattern of hatred flares up again.

The Government’s Role in Hate Crimes

The government both helps and hurts with hate crimes. Under the current FBI system, there are voluntary programs for reporting hate crimes, however it is only a choice. Senator Mohammed says, “We need to require reporting so we can find a solution. We need to expand the scope of who cannot be hurt – who is protected, which should be everyone.” With his reform, he wants to send a message that “we accept all people in North Carolina…no matter how they pray, where they are from or other uncontrollable factors.”

The Hate Crime Prevention Act

The Hate Crime Prevention Act was created by Senator Mohammed, Senator Chaudhuri, and Senator Fushi. The act aims to expand the scope of what a hate crime is. A hate crime covers race, religion, nationality, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation and more. The Hate Crime Prevention Act will require the state to investigate in order to collect more data about hate crimes by investing more in law enforcement to identify hate crimes. Part of this reason behind this act is to make sure people do feel welcomed.

However, as Senator Mohammed told us, “The sad reality is that we need acts like the Hate Crime Prevention Act in the first place.”

Preventing Hate Crimes

As Senator Mohammed explains, preventing hate crimes begins with seeing and hearing all people. “By listening to other people, we can see ourselves in their situation. We are able to understand that what we want for ourselves and our loved ones begins with a loving society. We need to educate people about hate crimes and find the root of the problem so we can solve it. Government officials can use their power in the government to change and better our laws.”

Putting It All Together

During this interview, we were opened up to a new perspective on hate crime prevention. We learned about the root of it and what Senator Mohammed’s Hat Crime Prevention Act will do to prevent hate crimes.

“The bottom line is we all have to learn to love, learn to listen. Let’s say to ourselves, yes, this person might be different, but at the end of the day, this person wants and needs the same things I need – we are all people.” ~ Senator Mujtaba Mohammed

A Taste of Gujarat: An Article About Gujurati Food

By Leeya 

India is a country, not a state. So, somewhat similar to the USA, each state has its own customs and ways of doing things. One of these things is food. Tipping the population scale at over one billion, the diversity of India’s food is as diverse as its people. Each state has its own methods, spices, and local ingredients so it would be very hard to fit twenty-nine states into one article. That’s why today, we focus on Gujarat.

The state of Gujarat, located in east India, draws its name from the Gurjara (supposedly a subtribe of the Huns), who ruled the area during the 8th and 9th centuries. The climate is very hot with temperatures reaching over 100 degrees in the summer and 80s through 50s in the winter. The religion is mainly Hindu but there is a small percentage of Muslims. 

Gujarati food is very healthy and balanced food. There is no dairy product in everyday preparations except for yogurt to accompany the spicy food. In addition, most of the food is vegetarian. In one dinner you get your five essential food groups:

  1. Starch, usually composed of roti or rice.
  2. Two or more vegetables found in the shaak 
  3. Dairy through the yogurt 
  4. Lentils which are packed full of protein 

There are six essential spices for Gujarati cooking:

  • Red chili powder (Mirchu)
  • Turmeric (Haldi)
  • Mustard seeds
  • Garam Masala
  • Cumin
  • Ground coriander and cumin powder (Dhana Jeeru)

My love of gujurati food and cooking comes from my grandmother who is gujurati. She often teaches me many new gujurati dishes. These are recipes that have been passed down from my great-grandma to my grandma to my mom and now to me. Gujurati food has influenced our family’s goal of eating delicious and healthy food through simple and fresh ingredients. 

Popular Gujurati Dishes

Pav Bhaji– My favorite Indian food. It is served with fried rolls and a spicy and flavorful curry. It is basically the Indian version of sloppy Joe’s

Khichdi– Indian comfort food made with lentils, rice, and spices. A healthy one-pot meal (See recipe down below.)

Shrikhand– A simple and soothing Gujarati dessert made with yogurt, nuts, and saffron.  It’s creamy, luscious,  and a cooling treat in the hot Indian summers.

Khandvi– A popular snack made with gram flour. It’s tempered with coconut, mustard seeds and curry leaves. While this dish is very labor intensive, the end result is worth it. If made right, it tasted like eating spongy clouds.

Khichdi: The Ultimate Indian Comfort Food

Recipe by Usha Mehta and Leeya

As described in the article above, khichdi is the all time comfort food. Usually, when my family and I come back from vacation or have an upset stomach, we eat khichdi since it soothes the stomach. It is healthy, easy to make and delicious – It’s just lentils, rice, and spices. If you would like to try this recipe out, follow the recipe below! Feel free to email a picture to aandlmagazine@gmail.com, we would love to see how your dishes turn out!

Ingredients

  • ½ cup of basmati rice (washed)
  • ½ cup of yellow lentils (washed)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp fresh shredded ginger
  • ¾’s  tsp of tumeric 
  • 1 tablespoon of Ghee (clarified butter)
  • 1 clove of garlic chopped
  • ½ an onion chopped
  • 1 green chili pepper chopped
  • 1 tomato chopped
  • Handful of spinach
  • ½ tsp of salt

Directions

  1. Add ghee to a medium saucepan.
  2. Add cumin seeds and sauté for a few seconds.
  3. Add onions and chili pepper.
  4. Sauté until slightly brown.
  5. Add garlic and ginger and sauté for a minute.
  6. Add lentils and rice.
  7. Add four cups of water.
  8. Add turmeric and salt and stir.
  9. Bring to a boil.
  10. Cover and simmer on low for 10 minutes.
  11. Add spinach and tomatoes and stir.
  12. Cover for 5 minutes.
  13. Garnish with cilantro and serve hot

I am a Chinese-American: An Interview About Growing Up As a Chinese Immigrant

DISCLAIMER: Names are excluded to protect the privacy of the interviewee.

What is your profession? I am a corporate real estate attorney.

What country in Asia is your family from? We are from China. 

Tell us about your childhood. My family and I were illegal immigrants. We came to the United States when I was six years old. My dad was a physician back in China but when he came to the United States he became a busboy because we couldn’t speak or read a word of English. I remember when I went to school for the first time, I got very upset because no one could understand me when I said I wanted to go to the bathroom. I kept saying “restroom” but I had such a heavy accent that no one understood me. We moved to Philadelphia first but when my parents tried to enroll me in public school, the school asked for papers, which we didn’t have. My parents had to pull me out. Instead, I went to a Catholic school, which cost $300 dollars a year. Even though it was pretty cheap, it was still money my parents had to pay. At one point we moved to New York, where we didn’t need any papers to enroll in their public schools. I wasn’t able to live with my parents in New York because they ran a Chinese takeout place in a very dangerous neighborhood where there was lots of shooting and drug abuse. Because the neighborhood was so dangerous, my parents operated behind a bulletproof glass counter, where they slid food to customers and the customers slid money back. This wasn’t uncommon – some restaurants even had a metal cage. My parents lived in the back of the restaurant and I slept on an old woman’s floor, elsewhere. She was paid, of course, but it was the safer option.

What prompted you to come to the United States? We had a relatively comfortable lifestyle back in China; however, back then, China was leaning towards Communism. The Communist party was causing a lot of food shortages and starvation and my dad didn’t like communism because he believed it stopped progress, especially in medicine. This lack of access to healthcare really hurt my family and caused my grandfather and young sister to die. My dad was one of the few that was aware of the progress in the West, so we decided to come here for a different opportunity. 

How is your experience different from other immigrant experiences? Unlike most, we didn’t have any family in the United States. Many were able to get family sponsorship, but we didn’t have that. Others were able to come to the United States because they were students, however a limited number of students were allowed out. The hardest part was getting out, not coming in.

How did coming to America influence your childhood? How does it influence you now? I think many people would have the same answer as me. I work hard because I never want to be poor again. Another, more uncommon, answer is that I know history repeats itself. Knowing my parents’ history and reading about the Holocaust has showed me that history will repeat itself and the entire world and paradigm can shift. Regimes have fallen apart and political revolutions and social movements have upended the mundane and continuous lifestyle. Many people don’t think about these horrors, but reading about history now and in the past, makes me confident that things can change. You have to be adaptable and keep your hand on the pulse. You have to keep an eye on change.

What stereotypes have you encountered in life? Do you think those have affected you? If so, how? Most of my life, the model minority stereotype has worked in my favor, through the idea of Asian privilege. As a Asian female, you are not threatening, so you don’t get the same reactions as males in the Asian community.  People will automatically think you are hard-working and smart. This really works to get the benefit of the doubt. For example, doctors respond well and give good information to me because they automatically assume I’ll understand it, which allows me to learn a lot even if I don’t understand it all automatically.

What does it mean to be Chinese-American compared to simply Asian-American? Growing up, I had mostly Chinese friends, so I thought of myself as Chinese or Chinese-American. Even to this day, I don’t think of belonging to a larger Asian group because I know Asians are all different. We have different expectations, cultures, traditions and customs. One example of this was when I was talking to a Korean friend during a time in college when I ran a business. She was surprised because her father had always told her that she couldn’t become those things. I learned that the corporate culture was different in Korea than in China.

Fun Facts About Asia

  • More than 4 billion people live here
  • There are 48 countries in Asia
  • Asia is the birthplace of all of the world’s major religions
  • Over 2,300 languages are spoken in Asian

The Gobi Desert, located in Asia, is the fifth largest desert in the world and is the driest desert in the world. It is very cold and it can even snow here! Technically known as a ‘rain shadow desert,’ the Gobi Desert located between Mongolia and China.

In India, over 1,600 languages and dialects are spoken. English and Hindi are the two main official languages; however Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati, Urdu and many, many, many other languages are spoken in India. In total, there are 22 recognized official languages.

Pacific Islander Resources

Organizations to Volunteer or Donate To:

Books to Read by Pacific Islanders:

  • Hawaii’s Story by Lili’uokalani
  • Island of Shattered Dreams by Chantal Spitz
  • The Girl in the Moon Circle by Sigia Fiel
  • The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig 

Films to Watch about Pacific Islanders:

Full book list: goodhousekeeping.com/life/entertainment/g36263448/books-by-pacific-islander-authors/ 

Full resource list: npien.com/resources/teacher-resources

Full movie list: editorial.rottentomatoes.com/article/pacific-islander-movies-that-showcase-the-richness-and-diversity-of-pasifika-cinema/

Asian American Comedians

Everyone loves a good comedian! There are some incredibly laugh-worthy Asian American comedians being brought into the light today. Two of our favorite comedians are:

  • Ali Wong is an author, comedian and actress. She is well known for her book, ‘Dear Girls,’ as well as her stand-up comedy specials: ‘Baby Cobra’ and ‘Hard Knock Wife,’ where she discusses her views on Asian culture, her pregnancy, her marriage and more topics. Ali Wong is HILARIOUS to watch and listen to! Go to Netflix to check out her specials.
  • Hasan Minhaj is a comedian, producer, actor and political commentator. One of his top comedy specials is ‘Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King,’ which you can see on Netflix. Mr. Minhaj discusses growing up as an Indian-American Muslim. With hilarious anecdotes, Hasan Minhaj will be sure to make you laugh!

Bollywood Movies

By Leeya

Bollywood movies are a huge part of Indian culture. Bollywood is like the Hollywood of India. The movies are known for their big wedding scenes, music, dramatic movie plots, and long film time. There are so many amazing bollywood films out there that I could hardly begin to touch on all of them, but I’ll suggest some of my favorites. 

Prem Ratan Dan Payo- My brother and I absolutely adore this movie because of the catchy songs, extravagant sets, and multiple wedding scenes. While this movie is somewhat complicated to follow and does have violence, the plot of a royal twin-brother switcheroo will make you fall in love with it.  

Dangal– This is a more recent movie but is still great. It is about two girls from a small Indian village whose ex-wrestler father insists on training them. The goal? To win gold medals in international women’s wrestling.  This movie is not only a true story, but focuses on themes of girl power and father-daughter relationships. 

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge- This is probably the most famous Bollywood movie. This movie sets the standard for love so high as it focuses on Raj and Simran who meet on a trip to Europe. After some misadventures, they eventually fall in love. But it comes down to the battle to win over each other’s families.  

Jodhaa Akbar– This historical romance is not only filmed beautifully but has an intriguing plot. The movie focuses on the love between Jalaluddin Mohammad Akbar, the Muslim Mughal Emperor of Hindustan, and Rajput Hindu princess Jodhaa. However, there are many things going against their marriage and love like difference of religions, betrayal, and criticism. The question is, will their love persevere through this? 

To learn more about the best Bollywood Movies, visit this link: https://www.timeout.com/london/film/the-100-best-bollywood-movies-the-list or search “The 100 best Bollywood movies.”

Living Locally: Celebrating Mr. Robin (recipient of the Alexander Quarles Holladay Medal for Excellence)

Mr. Robin has received the prestigious Alexander Quarles Holladay Medal for Excellence. We were invited to report on this celebratory event. Keep reading to learn more about this experience. 

Tell us about this award. So, this award is called the Alexander Quarles Holladay Medal and it is given to faculty at NC State University for achievement…I guess all around achievement…and in the scholarship area – research and teaching, especially teaching graduate students. There’s usually one or two given each year and I was honored enough to receive one of them this year.

What does someone have to do to receive this award? Well, you get nominated by your college (first of all) and then, you have to put together a package, which takes a lot of work and a lot of time. It’s one of those things where you either decide to do it 100%, the best you possibly can, or not at all. I was fortunate to have a colleague, who is a very good graphic designer, who helped me put it together, make it look really smart and 25 pages…and that was it. You cross your fingers and send it along. And then, it goes to the Board of Governors at the University and they make the decision. They probably have a committee or something. It’s…you know…a nice feeling to have that recognition of the work you’ve done.

How do you feel having just received this award? Well, I feel that of course it is an honor, you know, being a professor here. Also it’s a recognition of the field that I work in, which is about children’s environments and family environments. I would say the recognition of the field, which is not mainstream engineering or a science sort of thing – It is a mixed bag of different kinds of interests and disciplines and a lot of different colleagues. To me that’s the important thing – that the field that we work in is recognized by the university.

Are you doing anything to celebrate? We are having a gathering at the belltower, which we are waiting to turn red. We’re just meeting up with friends and having a good time and that’s the main thing! It’s a great opportunity to say hello to people and connect people who don’t know each other – extend the network.

Don’t forget to check out the interview LIVE on YouTube. Additionally, you can see some photos of the fun we had going there to learn more about the experience!