AACI and NBC Bay Area are hosting the Growing Up Asian in America (GUAA) art, essay, and video contest for students (kindergarten – 12th grade) in the nine Bay Area counties. GUAA provides a unique platform for young people to creatively explore and celebrate being both Asian or Pacific Islander and American. GUAA was started in 1995 by the Asian Pacific Fund and NBC Bay Area as one of the largest youth celebrations of Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Month in the nation.
Every year, hundreds of Bay Area students – Kindergarten through 12th grade – submit artwork, essays, and videos in response to a specific theme. It encourages young Asian Americans to take pride in their identities whilst discussing dreams for their future, pride in their cultural heritage, challenges they may face, and other complex issues. Furthermore, it helps individuals (both Asian and non-Asian) understand the varied experiences of our youth growing up in the Bay Area’s diverse communities. The program is competitive, and one (1) winner will receive the $1,000 Lance Lew Grand Prize Award and nine (9) winners will receive the $500 “Best in Class” awards, with Honorable Mention awards as well. All winners will have their entries showcased at the virtual awards ceremony and on the AACI website and have a chance to be featured on NBC Bay Area.
2021 Contest Theme: This Is My Time
The year 2020 has left a mark on history. With the COVID-19 pandemic, our community has battled a difficult time of uncertainty, illness, loss, and inequity. However, we can reflect and implement change to ensure a brighter future. Share what your vision of the future is and what tools and lessons you think will help to propel us into a new era post-pandemic.
Submissions will be accepted until Friday, April 2, 2021.
About AACI: Founded in 1973, AACI is one of the largest community-based organizations advocating for and serving the marginalized and vulnerable ethnic communities in Santa Clara County. Our many programs address the health and well-being of the individual and advance our belief in providing care that goes beyond just health, but also provides people a sense of hope and new possibilities. Current programs include behavioral and primary health services, substance abuse prevention and treatment, a center for survivors of torture, a shelter, and services for survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking, a senior center, youth programs, and community advocacy.
The current state of our country and world has been hard for us all, including the children in our lives. It is important that we all do what we can to take care of our overall wellbeing, including our physical and emotional health, and support our children to do so as well.
If your child has lots of worries, difficulty concentrating, is withdrawn or getting upset or angry more easily, this may be impacting their ability to do well in school, in their relationships with family and friends, and sometimes even with managing daily activities.
Counseling can be a great support for them and AACI is here to help.
AACI provides individual counseling, family counseling, parenting support, case management and medication evaluation and support services through telehealth and in person, if needed. Contact us today to determine which of our programs best fits your needs.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disproportionately impact our community, AACI’s Health Center remains committed to providing much needed resources during this time.
At AACI’s Story Road location will be providing No-Charge COVID-19 Testing for members of the community. Feel share this resource with your own networks and those in need.
No doctor’s note is required and we will serve everyone regardless of insurance or immigration status. Testing is only available to individuals without symptoms at this community testing event. We recommend that anyone experiencing symptoms see their own doctors.
If someone does not already have a doctor, AACI’s Health Center is accepting new patients. Please call (408) 975-2763 for more information.
Founded in 1973, AACI is one of the largest community-based organization advocating and servicing the marginalized and vulnerable ethnic communities in Santa Clara County.
Our many programs address the health and well-being of the individual and advancesour belief in providing care that goes beyond just health, but also providing people a sense of hope and new possibilities.
Our passion and expertise in caring for families and individuals always start with cultural sensitivity and compassion. We believe neighborhoods are stronger when we recognize and embrace the diversity around us and look after each other.
Current programs include behavioral and primary health services, substance abuse treatment, center for survivors of torture, shelter for survivors ofdomestic violence, senior center, youth programs, and community advocacy.
To learn more about our services, please visit us on the web at www.aaci.org or give us a call to schedule an appointment at (408) 975-2763.
Sachin Radhakrishnan, the co-founder of the San Jose non-profit In Their Shoes was recently honored by AACI (Asian Americans for Community Involvement) for his work with the homeless population. “Through his work, Sachin reminds us that our actions speak volumes. His many accomplishments are a shining example that any ordinary person, like you and I, can change lives.” A high honor indeed for this self-effacing young man but when you read his journey of how he got to this point, you will not be surprised.
When Sachin was in college during the economic downturn of 2009, he was aghast that “the first thing that our state cut was colleges, community colleges.” It became an issue because he and his fellow students could not get their required classes. So, he fell into community organizing and started lobbying with professors in Sacramento to effect change. He switched his major from engineering to politics because “I wanted to get into and learn as much as I could about how do you solve a problem.” The rest as they say is history.
After college, Sachin was working in City Hall in San Jose, when homelessness was becoming a challenging issue. In December 2014, the city decided to dismantle San Jose’s massive homeless encampment known as “The Jungle” which set off a chain reaction. This encampment was thought to be the largest of its kind in the US. Many people had been living there for almost 20 years and had built waterproof but non-traditional homes for themselves. While the city found other housing for some residents, many others were left with few viable options when their encampment was dismantled. Sachin started fielding calls from city residents when homeless people started moving into their neighborhoods.
Sachin realized really quickly the ramifications of the city’s actions. Instead of solving the problem of homelessness, their policies were only moving it around. “Just imagine your state of mind when you’re constantly being moved around. You feel like you’re breaking no law, but you’re just poor. You have no control, you lose your medication, you lose your identification. So, I started learning like that.”
Homelessness is not just a humanitarian issue for Sachin, but a deeply personal one. A close friend suffered from mental illness and was homeless himself. “His family did not know how to deal with that. And so, my friend was homeless just because relationship-wise, he was not doing a great job of respecting his parents. And at the same time, his parents didn’t really know how to talk to him.”
Sachin tried to make sense of his friend’s struggles, “Because he had money, his parents had money, but how does he end up homeless? And, he is intelligent and he has a lot of stuff going for him. How does he end up homeless?”
It has been a long journey but this story has a happy ending because his friend is now in the army and is doing well and. But that experience had a profound effect on Sachin and helped him better understand this complex issue.
Sachin and his friend Jamie Foberg had long conversations about homelessness and came to the conclusion that one of the key components that most of us take for granted – strong interpersonal relationships are completely missing for the homeless. They co-founded In Their Shoes to do just that – be a buddy and support the homeless. “To be one positive relationship that hopefully would spark other relationships. Maybe it would get them to heal relationships they had burned in the past. Because if they keep the relationship good with us, we’ll continue to help them. We advocate for them. We’ve been to the hospitals advocating for people, we’ve gotten people back on the list for housing.”
It started very organically for Sachin and Jamie. They would befriend the homeless in San Jose by bringing socks, water etc and start a conversation with them. They built relationships with them. They did not even pretend to have any understanding of their situation but just try to “step into their shoes” to really understand what their life is like and what they are dealing with.
Sachin recognizes that his unique background at City Hall helps him see the issues from both sides. One of the biggest aha moments for him was when he realized that the government can try to solve the cases while blaming homeless people for drug use etc, but “when you are working for the government, you should see the effect of your own policies.”
“Jamie and I, we would go and help people. When the city came in and kicked them out, they would lose their phones. It wouldn’t be so hard to find that same person who maybe we have a bed for at the shelter. The city needs to understand that you’re making social work harder.”
One of the myths of homelessness is that drug users end up on the street, but the fact is that people who end up homeless, often resort to drugs as a way to cope with their feelings of despair and hopelessness.
As inequality grows in our society, people are actually becoming homeless faster than before. Silicon Valley is the poster child for this problem but the right to a secure home is a universal right under international human rights law. Sachin is not the lone voice who thinks the policies guiding homelessness nationwide lack empathy and actually criminalize it. A United Nations expert on housing has called the Bay Area’s treatment of the homeless “cruel and inhuman”.
Sachin believes that “ it would be great if we could focus on that housing part, but at the same time, stop kicking people around. You know, I can’t imagine someone’s mental health after a year of being homeless. I’m actually so surprised when I see peoplehappy in the streets, they have some sense of pride, they still have hope. I don’t know how they have it. They’ve been kicked out so many times.” But when they are moved around so much, they lose that pride, security and sense of self and that leads them down a spiral.
Today at the Bill Wison Center, Sachin is doing outreach and case management for youth and loves being a part of this endeavour. He plans to go back to graduate school for business, concentrating on finance. He has seen first hand the effects of not understanding basic finance and learning to budget. “You’re easy prey to other people that may understand it. If people just even know a little bit, they may be able to stop the cycle of poverty.”
When I asked Sachin what we could do as a community to better understand the problem and be a part of the solution, he shared this point of view.
“So much of our culture is philanthropic and service . But there’s also another side of it that is very, very callous. Really disrespectful to people and their experiences. And yeah, that’s something in our society that we need to really think about, on how we talk about others. How we may even perpetuate certain stereotypes.”
He also urges all of us to get rid of the NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) mentality. Sachin would like us to get involved in our community and be a proponent for solutions for low income and subsidized housing. There are many reasons people become homeless. Being empathetic and trying to understand them instead of criminalizing and stigmatizing them would be a start.
Changemakers: Individuals making a difference in all walks of life
Anjana Nagarajan-Butaney is a Bay Area resident with experience in educational non-profits, community building, networking and content development and was Community Director for an online platform. She is interested in how to strengthen communities by building connections to politics, science & technology, gender equality and public education.
Edited by Meera Kymal, contributing editor, India Currents
I’m Asian American. My dad was born in the British Territory of Hong Kong and my mom is Chinese-American. My mom was born in the Deep South, in Mississippi, and not many Asians lived there. My Po Po is from Hong Kong and my Gong Gong came from Canton, China, so my mom knows how to speak a little bit of Cantonese. I was born in California. My mom says we are Chinese but we also may be related to Genghis Khan!
When I was in preschool one time I got bullied because of the way I look. I didn’t know why. But now I understand. Diversity is like genes from your mom and dad. Genes control how you look like, your personality and the color of your skin. So of course, nobody looks the same. Even though our ancestors come from different countries, we are still American. At my school, in second grade, there’s this presentation called, “Global Us. The Global Us is a play about your culture and your identity. Students perform traditional dances and songs. Afterwards there is a potluck. Did you know that food can bring people together? Countries all have different types of food, and Americans eat almost everything. My friend Lucia loves sushi more than me even though she is not Asian! I did not grow up in the Deep South but I love southern fried chicken, catfish, and hushpuppies! Yummy. Italian pasta is like Chinese chow mein. Argentinian empanadas are like Dim Sum. French baguettes are like American sourdough bread!
The most important thing about being Asian American is that we are still American citizens even though our ancestors came from different countries. A lot of times people cannot tell where we are from because of the way we look. They may say something racist like “go back to your country.” I get very confused because this is my home. You may have heard that the Coronavirus has been spreading around the world. My best friend, who is white, said to me that some white people are scared of Asian people because the Coronavirus can be contagious. But she knows I don’t have the Coronavirus even if I’m Asian American.
But do you know what? A virus doesn’t discriminate against people who look different from other people. In a way, a virus can be a role model, because they don’t care whether people are Asian or not, they just infect anybody with lungs. Nobody should be bullied for the way they look. We all look different. Differences are not bad. Differences are special. We should be kind and include everyone. We can all get along. Everybody deserves to be treated the same. Finding things in common like soccer, ice cream, and Minecraft can build a bridge to make friends like sushi and fried chicken. Everyone in America should be treated fairly because we’re all humans. We all should really get involved to create a better community around the world.
The representation of the Asian American community is in a perpetual state of evolution — much like the community itself. Every age of immigrants must forge their own narrative, from leaving behind the securities of their motherland to confronting racial stereotypes. Read 11th grader Arya Das’s essay, Remote, where she discusses the generational ties between her father and herself amid a changing America. This essay won the ‘Best In Class’ award in the ‘Growing Up Asian In America’ contest.
I pick up the remote control, flip through the channels, and count off the characters.
One geeky sidekick whose glasses lay atop his large, angled nose. Two simple-minded shop owners who speak with the same broken English that my grandparents have struggled to leave behind. Three caricatures. The comedic relief whose awkwardness is overlayed by laugh tracks. They all look like me, and they have never had a story of their own.
This must be why the people at school giggle amongst themselves with their hands together in prayer, nodding side to side and grinning like fools. I fail to see the humor in the familiar way they drum their d’s like a tabla, imitating Apu from the Simpsons but reflecting my relatives and loved ones. Flipping through the channels, these are the jokes that they see. Confusion bubbles up inside me, but all I can manage is a small laugh. This is what I have learned. When my father immigrated to America over 20 years ago, he counted. He counted down the days, working as a hotel dishwasher to pay for engineering school and dreaming of moving to the heart of innovation and technology. He left behind security for hope.
There are unfathomable sacrifices that every immigrant has made for the future of themselves and their children. These sacrifices cannot be brushed aside. My father’s story wasn’t written out for him, but he picked up a pen and set to work. I asked him one day, now that he has raised us in the Bay Area and works as an engineer, whether he feels prejudice. Whether he even has to think about his accent. I didn’t expect him to say yes. He recounted the investors, associates, and superiors who turned him down, seeing him primarily as his race, completely remote from his credentials. Does his accent make him stupid? Is he unintelligent for learning a new language by himself, for moving across the world and working as hard as he can? He told me it’s okay, that he just picks himself up and moves on to the next person. This is how he survives. This is what he has learned. Even when living in the Bay Area and knowing that TV portrayals are a stark contrast from the people in our lives, these stereotypes still sting us in a million little ways.
However, equality is no longer a remote dream. Acceptance must be the story we write every day, the narrative that drives our future. The next generation will see us when they flip through the channels. We can help them recognize that they span beyond the control of others’ expectations, into arts, innovation, and vivid colors. We count, and we need them to know that they count, too.
Image: The artwork, entitled, America Is Not Complete Without Us, was created by sixth-grader An Ly.
Essay: Remote was written by eleventh grader Arya Das.
A group of Bay Area musicians and dancers have come together to spread joy during these challenging times with a Bollywood inspired version of “The Other Side” from the Trolls World Tour. The video features 27 dancers bringing various forms of dance to the feel-good song originally performed by Justin Timberlake and SZA.
Corte-Madera based dancer and choreographer Enakshi Vyas saw her dance life evolve as shelter-in-place started taking shape in March. “Our entire industry changed overnight. We were in a situation where what we needed the most – exercise, art, community – could not exist like they did before. But we had to find a way to keep the community together,” said Vyas. She quickly embraced technology and shifted everything online, hosting dance classes and rehearsals over video chat, and instantly found herself re-energized.
When it came time to consider making her next video, she turned to San-Francisco based Bollywood composer Vivek Agrawal with an idea: what if we choreographed a dance video to a feel-good song where everyone could record from their own homes?
Agrawal, intrigued by the thought, remembered that the new Trolls movie had a track that felt appropriate for the times called “The Other Side.” On why this song in particular, he said, “It is one of those songs that make you smile the first time you hear it. It reminds us that even when we may think things are tough for us, there’s always something to appreciate about the world. For us, even though we can’t be physically together, we can still create beautiful art together, even from our own homes.”
Agrawal recruited Aarti B to lend her vocals to the song. They recorded the entire cover over Zoom, and Vyas recruited dancers throughout the Bay Area and taught them the dance over a series of online tutorials. In less than a week, they had a video ready.
After piecing together video recordings from dancers of all different styles, the group released “The Other Side” on Instagram and Youtube on Friday, May 8th. “I never would have imagined that this cover song project, that we recorded over Zoom, would turn into a 27-dancer, donation-raising extravaganza! What a special moment for us all. I’m so proud to have my voice on this project.” said Aarti B after seeing the reactions on social media.
Founded in 1973, AACI is one of the largest community-based organizations advocating for and serving the marginalized and vulnerable ethnic communities in Santa Clara County. Our mission is to strengthen the hope and resilience of our community members by improving their health, mental health and well-being.
AACI remains open during the shelter in place order, to care for the vulnerable, low-income, and limited English speaking families who need help. We provide culturally appropriate behavioral health counseling to individuals and families of all ages and backgrounds which is more important than ever during this stressful and uncertain time. Your gift to AACI during Mental Health Awareness month will make a huge difference in the lives of families who are struggling with anxiety and depression.
Enakshi Vyas, a Marin county native, has trained and taught throughout the Bay Area in a variety of styles including but not limited to Jazz, Tap, Kathak, Bharata Natyam, West African Dance, Ballet, Contemporary, Hip Hop, Indian Folk styles, and Bollywood dance. As the director of Elite Naach Academy, Enakshi instructs a variety of stylistic backgrounds and cultures, providing her students with a more complex and diverse dance curriculum. She strives to create a safe space for dancers to explore their versatility, ignite their passion, and find their story.
Vivek is a composer based in San Francisco who previously worked with A.R. Rahman, just left his tech job to pursue music full-time, and is working on his debut album of original Hindi songs. He recently left the tech space to focus completely on music, and is currently working on two projects. One is an album of American pop covers with a Bollywood flare. The other is an original Hindi album of songs that he has written over the past two years.
Aarti is an SF-based professional singer, born and raised in the Bay Area. More recently, Aarti was asked to come to NYC to audition for Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding, the Broadway musical. She also was the lead singer in the house band for SF’s high-end Indian restaurant, Rooh. Aarti is currently working to record her first-ever original music and release new music this year.
Being the child of immigrants colors your experience in the Land of the Free. From navigating between different cultures to confronting whitewashing and racism, teenagers used the ‘Growing Up Asian in America‘ contest to pay tribute to their cultural roots. Read fourth grader Ella Dattamajumdar’s essay, America Runs On Diversity, where she discusses the inextricable relationship between America and its immigrant communities. This essay has been paired with, artwork contest winner, America Is Not Complete Without Us, created by sixth-grader An Ly.
America runs on Dunkin’ is the punchline of one of my favorite foods, but I say that America runs on Diversity. It takes all sorts to make this world, whether it’s doughnuts, dal, dumplings or daikon! Cuisines of the world bring us together. Not just cuisines but diverse perspectives too. I believe that everybody should have a voice because one word can change the world. Everyone has their own opinion or unique perspective, if famous people didn’t speak up they would have never achieved great things and become who they are today.
For example, if Asian American, Jerry Yang did not put his ideas to action we would never have Yahoo. For my essay I am using Google and Microsoft Word which are headed by Sundar Pichai and Satya Nadella. I admire Senator Kamala Harris who was raised by an Indian American mother. They are so many successful Asian Americans who have made America proud. I find Nina Davuluri who is the first Asian American woman to win Miss America very inspiring. At the Miss America contest talent round she performed a Bollywood dance. A lot of people were upset and said hurtful comments when she won Miss America as she looked different compared to the past winners.
I feel that being American is a state of mind, it is based on a common set of values and beliefs and not based on how we look, the color of our skin, what we eat, how we speak or where our grandparents come from. Just look around the Silicon Valley — every time I drive around with my family we are always debating what to eat — Biryani, Pho Soup, Sushi, Pad Thai, Tacos, or Steak. We need all kinds of nutrients to nourish our brains whether it is food or diverse perspectives. I dream of being an Asian American leader who is proud of her heritage and can make America proud because America truly runs on diversity.
Image: The artwork, entitled, America Is Not Complete Without Us, was created by sixth-grader An Ly.
Essay: American Runs on Diversity was written by fourth-grader Ella Dattamajumdar
AACI and NBC Bay Area to Host 2019 Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Celebration
SAN JOSE, CA – On Saturday, May 18, 2019 at 2 pm, NBC Bay Area will be hosting the annual Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Celebration where we will celebrate student winners from the 24th annual Growing Up Asian in America contest and honorees of AACI.
The Growing Up Asian in America program celebrates Asian Pacific American Heritage Month by giving voice to the varied experiences of Asian and Pacific Islander (API) youth throughout the Bay Area and encouraging this next generation of leaders to take pride in their heritage through creative self-expression.
This year’s theme, “My Contribution to America,” brought in hundreds of entries from K-12th grade Bay Area students. Students submitted art, essays, and videos sharing their personal contribution to our country and the contributions of APIs that came before them. This year’s best in class and honorable mention winners include remarkable students of Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Taiwanese and other ethnic backgrounds. Each best in class winner will have an opportunity to share their thoughts and inspirations about their winning entry.
Bay Area students receiving Best in Class awards for art, writing and video from the 2019 Growing Up Asian in America contest include Olivia Mai (Union City), Creaye Lim (Alameda), Sahana Hariharan (Fremont), Catherine Wu (San Jose), Audrey Shen (Milpitas), Aubrey Ilasco (Benicia), Kayla Lam (San Leandro), Brandon Tran (San Jose), and Becky Tran (San Jose).
Sahana Hariharan, an 8th grader of Indian descent from Fremont, won best in class in the 6-8 category for her winning artwork entry titled, “A Balanced and Healthy Democracy”.
“This year we celebrate the stories and achievements of our young artists and the new beginning with contest host AACI,” said NBC Bay Area’s Lance Lew, co-founder of the contest. “Now more than ever, it is important we look toward our community’s youth to encourage sharing their personal thoughts on what they view as their contribution as an Asian American.”
AACI will honor four Asian Pacific American Community Heroes. These honorees represent the impact and dedication that a diverse Asian Pacific Islander community brings to the Bay Area local community.
Among these honorees is Leena V. Khanzode MD, a board certified psychiatrist dedicated to providing quality, evidence based treatment to help individuals and families overcome difficulties and lead happier, more productive lives into the work force.
She began volunteering at AACI in 2016 as an adult psychiatrist and provides help to the low income and diverse immigrant population that AACI serves which includes many refugees and survivors of torture.
Dr. Khanzode commented, “I was moved by the ‘Survivors of Torture’ and these survivors are unique in their resolve and resilience. As a physician I have learned to not only honor and respect their experience but they have taught me to be empathetic and kind. It continues to be a very fulfilling experience for me and I am very grateful for this opportunity.”
Other honorees are Dr. Stephanie Chao, Channary Bill, and June Tran for their exemplary work in the community in the areas of health, gun control, and community building.
“AACI is honored to celebrate an incredible group of young artists and community leaders. The Growing Up Asian in America contest has provided a platform for numerous students to express themselves and AACI is excited to uphold the legacy pioneered by Asian Pacific Fund and NBC Bay Area” said AACI President and CEO, Sarita Kohli.
NBC Bay Area News anchor Anoushah Rasta will be in attendance as master of ceremonies. A graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles,
The Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Celebration will take place at NBC Bay Area studios, 2450 North First Street, San Jose, CA 94107.
AACI was founded in 1973, and is one of Santa Clara County’s largest community-based organizations advocating for and serving the marginalized and vulnerable ethnic communities. AACI’s mission is to strengthen the hope and resilience of our community members by improving their health, mental health and well-being.