Even before they were a headline

A collaborative poetry piece written to celebrate people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent in response to the rise in anti-Asian hate


Sally Chen

Despite the wave of hate crimes and the history of xenophobia against their community, Asian Americans remain strong. (Illustration by Sally Chen.)

Lorraine Olaya, Deputy Copy Chief

Disclaimer: This collaborative work was not created by someone of Asian or Pacific Islander descent; however, it was compiled using the words of contributors, credited at the end, who are of Asian or Pacific Islander descent.

It is an old story, one that my grandpa told my mother, and she, in turn, told me
For as long as we’ve called this place home,
America dines at our restaurants
America frequents our nail salons
America loves our culture,
yet fails to love us

America tells us, you do not belong,
you are not a family member at the table,
failing to recognize our role in the fabric of this country

The sacrifice of Asian immigrants,
leaving behind everything
to move to America

Mouths, shut
Working for the dollar to survive
Heads, down
Providing for their families

But five generations are still
Not American Enough

Go back to your country
But America is my country too
I was born and raised here,
just like you

This is nothing new

Colonialism, imperialism,
racism, orientalism,
now in the form of caskets
covered in frustrated tears
adorned with mugunghwas, orchids and cherry blossoms

Words carry weight, silence does too.

Our people left the violence of one country only to take on the violence of another,
and you dare lay a hand on our elders,
when all we ever asked for was peace

America, you see us as passive

America, you fail to know us
love us
accept us

You continue to misrepresent us
stereotype us
hurt us

And you turn a blind eye

To the sacrifices
that form our love languages,
engraved in our voices

To the selflessness
that forms our history,
engraved in our bodies

To the devotion
that forms our culture,
engraved in our skin

To the opportunity
that forms our art,
engraved in our hands

I am heartbroken. I am enraged. But I also refuse to let hate prosper.

Alone, we radiate with potential
United, we are an unstoppable force

Beautiful. Golden. Worthy.

We are resilient.
We are divine.
We are human.

I scream it with all the air I can fill into my lungs.

By: Lorraine Olaya

With contributions from:
Johmmiry Almonte
Julia Caldwell
Joñi Chao Honeywell
Kayla Jin
Aseah Khan
Aine E Nakamura
Ashley Tang
And several other contributors who wish to remain anonymous

A special thanks to:
NYU’s Asian/Pacific/American Institute
Amita Manghnani, the associate director of A/P/A Institute
Aseah Khan, the founder/lead for A/P/A Reads
Professor Pacharee Sudhinaraset from the NYU Department of English

Email Lorraine Olaya at [email protected].