SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News)— On a quiet Monday evening in the Ma household, Yingyi Ma’s 8-year-old son, Jayden, played a peaceful ballad on their home piano. As he played, Ma reflected on the world her son would grow up in as a Chinese American male.
“This is not going to be a world where he sees people like him,” Ma said. “This world, for Jayden, is not going to be easy in terms of representation.”
In a world with severe underrepresentation for Asian Americans, events like Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month highlight a community that is often ignored, sociologists have ,said.
Ithaca College, SUNY Oswego, and Syracuse University are celebrating a month earlier in order to honor Asian American heritage when students are still on campus. Nationally, Asian American Heritage Month is celebrated in May, to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843.
“Even though they are the fastest-growing minority population in the United States, they’re not very visible in terms of their presence in the public space,” said Ma, the director of Asian and Asian American studies at Syracuse University.
Despite the challenges, Ma said she remains hopeful of a future where representation, equality, and opportunity are more accessible to Asian Americans.
“I really hope and believe that things are moving in the right direction,” Ma said. “In all centers, from higher education to corporate board rooms to politics, people are talking about diversity, representation, and inclusion.”
Ma has worked to get more recognition in Asian American communities. She collaborated on the university’s events for for April. She said the goal is cultural awareness.
“I work every year to co-sponsor activities that are a part of this monthly commemorative event,” said Ma.
She said she hoped the events will encourage people to withhold their assumptions and stereotypes and focus instead on individuality and character.