Arcata High’s Asian American and Pacific Islander club has been celebrating AAPI heritage month all May long, and you’re invited to celebrate, too. While there’s lots to honor this month, it’s important to remember that although racism toward Asian American and Pacific Islander people has increased with the pandemic, anti-Asian hate is nothing new. From Chinese exclusionary laws in 19th- and 20th-century Eureka to racist coronavirus-related harassment at a local high school dance, a history and persistence of anti-Asian sentiment is as relevant in Humboldt as it is anywhere else.

“I feel like a lot of students read headlines and they’re like, ‘Oh, [anti-Asian hate crimes are] happening, that’s bad,’” Arcata High senior and AAPI club president Maya Scanlon told the Outpost. “But it hasn’t just been happening the past couple of months, where it kind of erupted.”

And so Maya and her fellow club members decided to help their peers — and also, indirectly, their teachers — get started on an AAPI education. They created a series of four videos that explore the coronavirus-era Asian American experience, explain and debunk Asian stereotypes, look into local history about Eureka’s Chinese exclusion efforts and explain the geography, cultures and traditions that make up Asia.

Following mounting anti-Asian sentiment with the spread of COVID-19, some staff members at Arcata High supported Maya and other students to start the club last year. Although their 15-ish members haven’t been able to do many social events, AHS AAPI has been productive since it kicked off a year ago. From the beginning, reaching the greater student body with educational materials has been their goal.

“In May, due to the nature of what was going on, we really tried to focus on Instagram posts and interacting that way,” Maya said. It was about “bringing awareness to the Arcata High School community.”

The students have taken on this educational mission, but having the space at school has been personally important and beneficial, too, at least for Maya. “I didn’t really identify with being a person of the Asian culture,” Maya said, “but with the starting of the club I definitely identify as Asian American — very much so.”

Overall, Maya said she feels like AHS is a supportive community — with room and need for improvement. Maya was the target of some racist comments at her junior prom in February of 2020, when a few students repeatedly asked her if she had the virus because of her ethnicity. “I was basically just really in shock and so confused,” Maya said. “It was just hard because administration was right there, kind of like supervising the event. Of course, I feel like if they had heard that then they would have stopped it, but I feel like they were focusing more on just making sure no one who exited the building returned in, rather than actual verbal discrimination that was happening.”

As reported by the Pepperbox — Arcata High’s student-run newspaper — there are growing efforts at AHS to prevent stuff like that from happening more.

“It’s just nice to kind of realize that there’s plenty of allies around, even if they’re not Asian,” Maya said. “Allyship really means a lot.”

So if you’re looking to educate yourself about some AAPI-related topics — an important thing to seek out! — AHS AAPI club has gotcha covered. Hop on over the club’s Instagram page or website to soak up all the info.