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Voices Matter

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Two teens are working to make sure Asian American voices are heard.

Side by side photos of Jeenah Gwak and Hope Yu

Jeenah Gwak (left) and Hope Yu (right) started a magazine together.

Courtesy of Jeenah Gwak and Hope Yu; Photo composite Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

In 2020, Jeenah Gwak and her mom were walking in New York City when a man began talking to them about an upcoming show. They didn’t want to hear the sales pitch, so they kept moving. That’s when the man called out, “[So you] don’t speak English, huh?”

Gwak, who is Korean American, knew she wasn’t the only Asian American who experienced racism. After she returned to her home in Bellevue, Washington, she texted her friend Hope Yu with an idea. Together, the friends launched an online magazine called What We Experience. The magazine aims to give Asian Americans a platform where they can share their stories.

“When I thought of the title, What We Experience, I wanted to highlight what we experience; the ‘we’ is emphasized,” Gwak told the Seattle Times. “The platform is a space for people to find solace with their own experiences in learning that they are not alone.”

Gwak and Yu, who are both in high school, assembled a group of volunteers around their age. The staff members create most of the content for the magazine. In essays, opinion pieces, poetry, and art, they discuss and explore racism, immigration, bias, culture, and more. They share their unique experiences but also find themes that bond them with other Asian Americans. 

The magazine, which is free, is published quarterly (four times a year). Gwak and Yu plan to continue What We Experience when they go to college next year.

Did You Know?

World map with countries and territories of Asia and the Pacific islands shaded in

This map shows where the ancestors of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders came from.

Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) in the U.S. can trace their roots back to approximately 50 ethnic groups speaking over 100 languages. Their ancestors came from many places, including China, India, Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Korea, and Hawaii.

Amazing Athletes

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Polamalu – Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images; Ohno – Streeter Lecka/Getty Images; Paek – Pittsburgh Penguins Archives; Kim – © Zhukovsky/

These Asian American and Pacific Islander athletes were among the best to play their sports.

  • American football player Troy Polamalu spent 12 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, taking the team to the playoffs seven times. Polamalu is known for making frequent visits to children’s hospitals and was named 2010 Walter Payton Man of the Year for his community service efforts.
  • Legendary speed skater Apolo Ohno won eight medals at three Olympic Games. Two of the medals were gold.
  • Hockey player Jim Paek grew up in Canada, not the U.S. He’s on the list because of his contributions to the National Hockey League (NHL), having won two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The first Korean-born player in the NHL, Paek is now the director of the Korea Ice Hockey Association.
  • Snowboarder Chloe Kim won her first Olympic gold medal at age 17. Now 22, with two Olympic golds and a World Championship title, there’s no telling what she’ll do next!

Check It Out!

Is there someone else you’d like to read about? Check out a collection of articles about Asian Americans!

GIF of faces of people of Asian descent appearing then disappearing

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




: the act of including or the state of being included

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