In response to heightened attacks on Asian Americans during the coronavirus outbreak, a pair of local high school students have created a way to share stories of cultural pride.
Brian Gao, a junior at Syosset High School, and Arin Siriamonthep, a senior at Roslyn High School, have created Asians Speak Up, an organization intent on celebrating and embracing Asian heritage.
Gao said that the origins came from seeing videos of racist attacks against Asian people in the weeks following the coronavirus outbreak.
“That for me was very disheartening, especially because Roslyn and Syosset have large Asian communities,” Gao said. “People seem to have this misconception that because the coronavirus originated in Asian countries, all Asian people have it, which was upsetting to me.”
Siriamonthep, who is Thai-American, said the two had been thinking of the idea for a while before the quarantine period came.
“We’ve been thinking of starting this organization for quite a while, not just because of the coronavirus but because for a very long time we’ve seen racist attacks against Asians in general,” Siriamonthep said. “With all this time on our hands, we believe we could make some sort of impact, and we believe that this is the first step to getting there.”
The friends, who met playing tennis for their schools, decided to create an Instagram account, with every post highlighting people of Asian descent and their stories about heritage and culture.
Following an introductory video explaining the account’s origins, the account’s first post came from Gao, who discussed how being raised in a Chinese household motivated him to become a successful tennis player.
Fifteen posts have since been published on the account, on topics ranging from challenging Asian stereotypes and representation in the media to personal anecdotes about racist incidents. Since then, Gao says, they have received a flood of direct messages from people telling their own stories.
Gao said the “main reason” for the organization was to “give confidence and a voice,” to those who don’t get a chance to speak, and Siriamonthep says that they hope the organization can become something “physical” in the future.
“By seeing all these stories on our page we hope that others will be inspired to share their stories so we can kind of give a face of confidence in the Asian community, that we are proud to be who we are,” Siriamonthep said. “We’re not going to let these attacks bring us down.”