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Teens Leading the Way to Change

Teenager Mina Fedor founded AAPI Youth Rising to stop anti-Asian hate through education.

Courtesy of AAPI Youth Rising, aapiyouthrising.org

Mina Fedor is at the forefront of the fight against anti-Asian racism. The teen activist is the founder of AAPI Youth Rising, a youth-led organization that works to bring about positive change through small actions.

Now in its third year, AAPI Youth Rising (AAPI stands for Asian American and Pacific Islander) came together after a rally in March 2021, which Fedor had organized. More than 1,200 people—many of them under age 18—gathered in Berkeley, California, to raise awareness about anti-Asian hate. After the event, Fedor realized it was only the beginning.

Led by a group of middle school and high school students, AAPI Youth Rising is dedicated to making AAPI voices heard. Its members have given speeches; participated in panel discussions about racism, bullying, and other topics; and helped people register to vote. A large part of their mission is education. Fedor, whose mom is Korean, says most U.S. schools don’t teach enough AAPI history. As a result, many people aren’t aware of the rich cultures and histories of the diverse AAPI community. And ignorance, or a lack of knowledge or understanding, can fuel racism. 

In 2022, Fedor and three other teens put together a slideshow to share information about AAPI history. The slideshow covers both painful and inspiring events, including the passage of U.S. laws that discriminated against Asian Americans and the fight against this legislation by Asian American activists. The teens visited schools where they shared the slideshow, and AAPI Youth Rising later converted the slideshow into a video format. Now, anyone can download the video from the Teach for America website. 

“It’s very important to learn your own history and learn others’ history because that is the first step to sort of working against racism,” Fedor told Teach for America. “You have to learn about histories of racism and histories of celebrating other communities as well.”

Did You Know?

Nineteenth century Chinese workers building railroad tracks alongside a photo of a Chinese worker in front of a tunnel.

Alfred A. Hart/Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (LC-DIG-stereo-1s00618, LC-DIG-stereo-1s00553)

Chinese people were essential to the construction of the first railroads that crossed the U.S. These photos of Chinese railroad workers were taken in the 1860s.

May was chosen as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month for two reasons.

  • The first Japanese immigrants arrived in the United States on May 7, 1843.
  • The first transcontinental railroad in the U.S. was completed on May 10, 1869. Chinese and Chinese American people played a major role in the construction of the railroad.

Leaders of Yesterday, and Today

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Here are just a few notable members of the AAPI community.


Tye Leung (1887–1972). Born in San Francisco, California, Leung dedicated her career to helping Chinese women in the U.S. In 1910, she became the first Chinese American woman to work for the federal government when she was hired as a translator to work on Angel Island, an immigration station on the West Coast of the United States. At the time, U.S. law limited the number of Chinese immigrants who could enter the country. Leung not only translated for detained female immigrants who were being questioned but also tried to comfort them. In 1912, Leung became the first Chinese American woman to cast a vote (California began allowing women to vote in 1911).

Black and white portrait of a man wearing a jacket and glasses.

Gary Fong—San Francisco Chronicle/Getty Images

Fred Korematsu

Fred Korematsu (1919–2005). Fred Korematsu was arrested in 1942, when he did not follow a U.S. government order that all Japanese Americans must report to internment camps. Korematsu went to the Supreme Court, arguing that the detention of Japanese Americans was unconstitutional. 

“To be pushed into evacuation, threatened with punishment because you look like the enemy, is wrong,” he later explained. “I felt that I was an American citizen and I had as much rights as anyone else.”

The Court ruled against him. Korematsu reopened the case in the 1980s, after it became clear that the government had used false information in his Supreme Court case. This time he won, and his conviction was overturned. He then helped pass the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which acknowledged the government’s wrongdoing in detaining Japanese Americans during World War II.  

A young woman stands at a microphone and speaks.

Hannah McKay/Getty Images News

Selina N. Leem

Selina N. Leem (1997–). For Selina Leem, the climate crisis has always been personal—because Leem’s nation, the Marshall Islands, is threatened by rising sea levels. According to some estimates, part of the nation will be underwater by 2035. In 2015, Leem was the youngest person to give a speech at COP21, the global climate conference in Paris, France, where leaders signed an agreement to curb climate change. Recently, Leem has taken part in a project called Small Island Big Song, in which performers from Pacific and Indian Ocean nations spread the word about the climate crisis through song and the spoken word.


Arin Siriamonthep (2002–). Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, Siriamonthep founded Asians Speak Up, a platform for young people to share their experiences growing up Asian in the United States. Participants write essays about issues like racism and the pressure to respect the cultures of their ancestors while also fitting in with U.S. culture. Born in New York to parents from Thailand, Siriamonthep rarely talked about race and racism as a kid. But after reading about violence against Asian Americans, he realized the importance of speaking up.

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Portraits of people who have AAPI heritage flash on and off the screen.

© LeoPatrizi—E+/Getty Images, © Ashwin Kharidehal Abhirama, Xin Hua, Belnieman, Goncaloferreira, Wong Sze Yuen, Godsandkings, Imtmphoto, Mr. Namart Pieamsuwan/Dreamstime.com; Animation Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage (AAPI) Month in the U.S. You can learn more about this special month, and about some people who are celebrated in May, at Britannica School.

WORD OF THE DAY

activist

PART OF SPEECH:

noun

Definition:

: a person who uses or supports strong actions (such as public protests) to help make changes in politics or society

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