Reflecting on Hidden Voices of New York City: AAPI Month 

During the second semester of each school year, my fellow educators at MCNY and I host an online student webinar series titled Hidden Voices of New York City. The series consists of monthly free virtual workshops designed for students in grades 3-5 that highlight and honor the individual and collective experiences of a diverse swath of New Yorkers. Each month has a different theme and features three different New York City-based activists. As May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, a time to celebrate and reflect on the contributions, achievements, and struggles of the AAPI community, the Hidden Voices series for the month not only celebrated the rich diversity of AAPI cultures but also highlighted the inspiring work of AAPI activists who have made significant strides in advocating for social justice and equity.

Researching the figures was particularly rewarding because I spent time looking at many primary and secondary sources from MCNY’s collection and several digital archives.

Our May program highlighted three individuals – Wong Chin Foo, Yuri Kochiyama, and Vishavjit Singh. Students gained insights into the experiences, challenges, and triumphs of these remarkable individuals. For example, with Wong Chin Foo (1847-1898), students learned about the Chinese American community during the period of Chinese exclusion and how Wong used writing to combat stereotypes. Yuri Kochiyama (1921-2014) was a Japanese American civil rights activist, internment survivor, and friend of Malcolm X whose story introduced students to the idea of solidarity through her participation in multiple social justice and human rights movements. Lastly, with Vishvajit Singh (1972 – ), students learned about a contemporary activist, Sikh American cartoonist and author who created the persona “Sikh Captain America” to fight against stereotypes and promote better representation for his community. 

It was a privilege to both write the script for and facilitate the May programs. Researching the figures was particularly rewarding because I spent time looking at many primary and secondary sources from MCNY’s collection and several digital archives. It was also fun to create the narrative for our program with my colleagues that would be accessible to 3-5th graders but also address the struggles and gravity of their stories. Throughout each program, students engaged thoughtfully and enthusiastically with our questions and prompts for reflection. I was inspired by how much these 3-5th graders already knew about our Hidden Voices, and grateful that I shared new information with them as well. While I am sad that this was the last time I will facilitate the Hidden Voices series, I am honored to have been part of a program that uplifts individuals whose stories have too often been “hidden” from the traditional historical record, but whose lives and legacies continue to shape our collective history and identity in the city.

Picture of Natalia Wang

Natalia Wang

Natalia (she/they) is the FAO Schwarz Fellow at the Museum of the City of New York.

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Feature image by Filip Wolak for the Museum of the City of New York.