May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Established in 1978, what was originally a week-long acknowledgement became a month-long celebration in 1992. The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese, Nakahama Manjirō, to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869, an engineering marvel built in large part by Chinese immigrants. Bloomfield Hills Schools celebrates this month in a variety of powerful ways. Bloomfield Hills High School has multiple clubs and groups that are dedicated to awareness and support of Asian Americans in our community, including the Chinese National Honor Society, the Asian Student Alliance, and the Student Equity Council. These groups share culture and provide educational resources not only for high school students, but for other schools within Bloomfield Hills, to promote and celebrate Asian culture, education, and awareness.
The Chinese National Honor Society is a new program this year at BHHS. It was founded by several students in the IB Chinese Language class, largely to provide academic support to the student community because of the challenges of this school year. BHHS Mandarin language teacher Angela Lee-Jan, who is the group’s advisor, shares, “There are around 10 BHHS students who are mentors and 8 students who make up the board. They help not only high school students but also East Hills Middle School students in this program. The board members created a Sign-Up Genius page for students to sign up when they need a mentor for academic assistance. When I brought this to the middle school parents, they appreciated our high school students’ efforts, and also hoped it would become another buddy program between middle school and high school. We want to bond students in this group with huge support and let them know someone is there for them to help out.”
Bowie Cooper, a 10th grade student and Chinese National Honor Society Vice President shares, “My experience with the Chinese National Honor Society has been nothing short of fantastic. All the members are very welcoming and great to work with. Our club is mainly focused on helping kids who are struggling with learning Chinese.” Cooper also shares that in this month of May, “The Chinese National Honor Society is coordinating a performance at the Multicultural Celebration. I am excited to show off our members as they dance to songs that have a lot of significance to current Asian culture. My Chinese heritage is an important part of me and the Chinese language is a beautiful dialect. Helping my peers with learning the language is what attracted me to joining the club.”
Angela Lee-Jan adds that in anticipation of the district-wide Multicultural Celebration on Thursday, May 27, the Chinese National Honor Society members “have been planning and practicing for their two performances for that night. On top of that, there will be a stand for the Chinese culture exhibit. In order to let more people actively participate in Chinese culture, they will have several folklore activities, such as calligraphy writing and abacus learning.”
The BHHS Asian Student Alliance (ASA) is also working with the Chinese National Honor Society students on a Chinese cultural exhibit at the upcoming Multicultural Celebration. At the exhibit stand, the ASA will sell Asian Grams, whose proceeds will be donated to the AAPI Community Fund, an organization that fights Asian hate crimes. Asian Grams are snack packs that contain various Asian snacks such as Yakult, White Rabbit candies, rice crackers, Pocky, and more! Each will be sold for $5. The Asian Student Alliance is also coordinating a fundraiser with Quickly Boba Cafe on May 15; those profits will also be donated to the AAPI Community Fund.
The BHHS ASA has also been collaborating with the Student Equity Council of BHHS to develop school announcements that will uplift Asian figures, which will be broadcasted all throughout the month of May, about once or twice a week. These school announcements will be shared not only at BHHS, but with our middle and elementary schools as well.
Asian Student Alliance Vice President Jimin Lee shares, “I think it's very important that we really take the time to acknowledge and learn from the history of discrimination against Asian Americans in our nation. Especially as anti-Asian sentiment grows amid the pandemic, it is more necessary than ever to come together as a community and raise awareness about AAPI month and the prevalence of racism both in the past and today. Though the actions we are taking right now pale in comparison to the deeply rooted xenophobia in the U.S., I believe they are a step in the right direction.”
Other schools within Bloomfield Hills are also proactively sharing resources for staff, designed to support student learning surrounding Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. At West Hills, Associate Principal Melissa Palmeri gathers and provides to faculty a plethora of educational resources on AAPI Month, so West Hills staff have at their fingertips some fantastic videos, readings, podcasts, and activities. Similar initiatives occur in all of our schools, with administrators providing support and resources for all staff to easily identify age-appropriate and helpful resources to acknowledge national monthly celebrations.
As Mandarin language teacher Angela Lee-Jan wisely shares, “People tend to have misunderstandings or stereotypes about people who have different cultures or languages than them. There is no language/culture superior to others because they all have their own unique history and beauty. If everyone in this world was more open-minded and tried to understand each other’s differences, I believe this world will become more beautiful with every passing day.”