Several South Asian community groups, lawmakers assemble in Albany for Advocacy Day

Sikh Coalition was part of the R.E.A.C.H. Coalition’s lobbying day in Albany, NY, urging favorable legislation for AAPI communities. PHOTO Twitter @reach_coalition

Organizations in the R.E.A.C.H. (Representing and Empowering AANHPI Community History) Coalition assembled at the New York State Capitol in Albany, NY, May 22, 2023, for their first-ever Advocacy Day.

Throughout the day, community advocates are speaking to their elected officials in celebration of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month and also in support of Senate Bill 5963/Assembly Bill A06579, a measure that would require public K-12 schools in New York State to include material in their curricula that reflects AANHPI history.

A press release from organizers who include the Sikh Coalition, said advocates from a range of affected communities and coalition groups joined a press conference with NY State Senator John Liu and Assembly Member Grace Lee (the sponsors of S5963 and A06579), followed by a celebration of AANHPI Heritage Month with Senators Iwen Chu, Jeremy Cooney, an Indian-American, John Liu, and Kevin Thomas, another Indian American,,along with the New York State Assembly Asian Pacific American Task Force. Volunteers then met with elected officials in the New York legislature to urge support for S5963 and A06579.

This Advocacy Day is the first of its kind for the R.E.A.C.H. Coalition, which was formed in January 2023 to fight for inclusive AANHPI education measures, including bills like S5963 and A06579. The statewide coalition includes more than 170 students, parents, educators, and advocates, as well as more than 60 community-based organizations fighting for Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander history. The Coalition intends to continue hosting Advocacy Days on an annual basis moving forward, the press release said.

“The AAPI community has been steadily growing in New York State, it is time school curriculums truly reflect our state’s diversity. It will be invaluable for the next generation of AAPI New Yorkers to see themselves in textbooks, and beneficial for all students to learn and better understand the contributions of the AAPI community here in New York and nationally. I thank Senator Liu for his continued advocacy, and proudly support S5963,” Senator Cooney is quoted saying in the press release.

Senator Kevin Thomas said, “By embracing the teaching of Asian American history in New York public schools, we can empower our students with a deeper understanding of the rich contributions and experiences of the AAPI community. Teaching these stories will foster inclusivity and cultural appreciation for future generations.”

Kulsoom Tapal, Education Policy Coordinator, CACF and Co-Lead of the R.E.A.C.H. Coalition noted that, “Throughout history, AANHPI communities have stood alongside other historically marginalized groups in the pursuit of justice and equality. Yet, these stories of alliance and shared struggle often go untold. AANHPI curriculum dismantles the model minority myth by challenging the prevailing stereotypes and misconceptions and recognizing the vast diversity and complexity within AANHPI communities. The integration of AANHPI curriculum is not a mere academic exercise; it is an act of justice and recognition. It is an affirmation that AANHPI history is American history, and our stories deserve to be told.”

Education Director of the Sikh Coalition Harman Singh, a member of the R.E.A.C.H Steering Committee, called it “heartwarming to see community advocates, volunteers, coalition groups, and elected members mobilize and come together for a full day of action. While AANHPI month comes only once per year, our advocacy and fight for our community’s inclusion in the education system must be a sustained effort.”

Mohamed Q. Amin, founder and Executive Director of Caribbean Equality Project, said, “Indo-Caribbean history is Asian American history. New York State is home to the largest Indo-Caribbean foreign-born population in the United States, many of whom live in immigrant communities like Schenectady, Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park in Queens, and Castle Hill and Wakefield in the Bronx. In the US diaspora, “Indo-Caribbean” is also used to speak to community-defined terms that produce local notions of identity, ethnicity, history, and memory. Teaching Indo-Caribbean history is critical in honoring the legacy, struggles, and resilience of thousands of indentured laborers and their descendant’s cultural contribution to the diversity of NY, which fosters cross-racial solidarity, building political power, and electoral representation.”



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