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Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with Speakers Sally Matsuishi ‘89, Catherine Wong, and Alvin Rosales
Hannah Arndt

Panelists Sally Matsuishi '89, Catherine Wong, and Alvin Rosales in conversation with Reese Dahlgren '22 and Brayden Matthews '22.

On Thursday, May 13, Branson’s AAPI faculty and staff, along with the DEI office, invited three panelists to speak with the Branson community in celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Panelists include Catherine Wong, a consultant and workshop facilitator who advocates for and supports youth and early-career educators and professionals of color; Sally Matsuishi '89, Branson alumna and the founder of Next Generation Scholars; and Alvin Rosales, an educator in the San Francisco Unified School District and advisor of Kababayan, an organization that promotes student success and mental wellness for Filipinx youth. The panel was facilitated by Branson students Reese Dahlgren ‘22 and Brayden Matthews ‘22.

Each panelist opened the discussion by outlining their current work to support and uplift the voices of the AAPI community. Catherine then situated AAPI Heritage Month in context by presenting on some of the most significant historical events in AAPI history – such as the Chinese Exclusion Act and Japanese Internment. She also spoke on the origins of the “Model Minority Myth” – an idea that was popularized in the 1960s that Asian Americans are an obedient, quiet, and reserved people who have successfully assimilated into American society. Catherine explained the Myth’s harmful impact on the AAPI community through its erasure of both AAPI suffering and activism in the US. Catherine talked about the importance of reclaiming AAPI history (including stories of discrimination, exclusion, and resistance), and emphasized that it’s in our power to do so.

Catherine Wong gave an overview on terms, specifically outlining how many regions and ethnicities the term "AAPI" encompasses 

Sally expanded on notions of the Model Minority Myth, explaining how it became a tool to mask systematic racism and drove a wedge between the AAPI community and other people of color experiencing oppression. Sally said she is proud that the AAPI community is now “refusing to be obedient, silent, docile people, because we never were – ” adding, “we are becoming who we have always been in this country.”

Reese and Brayden asked the panelists how they sustain their activism. Alvin talked about the importance of being a lifelong learner and emotional regulation, adding “we have to be able to hold tension and argue with someone, we have to be able to navigate through conflict. We need to be able to talk about things we disagree on.”

Catherine said she is sustained by the “three R’s” – recognize, resist, and reframe. Sally responded, “I’m sustained by the people I’m in community with,” and shared her appreciation for allies in the queer and Black communities coming to her to ask how they could support her as incidents of AAPI discrimination rose during the pandemic.

The discussion ended with Q&A from the Branson community, and covered questions around terminology, the panelists’ mentors and sources of inspiration, and important moments in their own lives as members of and advocates for the AAPI community. 

After the panel, students met their D block classes for reflection and discussion facilitated by their teachers. AAPI students were also given the option to meet as a group and discuss the panel in Maxwell Garden. 

Read two student reflections below:

 "What stood out to me was not only the different range of the panelists' backgrounds but how they all connected over a common theme. It was really interesting to hear how their similar yet different perspectives gave inspiring advice and unique stories." – Max Guttierez '23

"I thought the panel was really helpful in educating us on the past and current struggles AAPI face. It also made me proud to be Asian American!" – Charlotte Ng '24

Thank you to our panelists for joining us, and to our AAPI faculty/staff and DEI office for organizing this special event!

AAPI students were given the option to meet as a group and discuss the panel in Maxwell Garden with AAPI faculty and staff