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Young Asian Americans speak out about racism, call on educators to add Asian American studies to curricula

From left, Fatema Sumar, her daughter Safya Sumar, and family friend Lisa Wang, 18, all of Lexington, attended the rally on Boston Common.
From left, Fatema Sumar, her daughter Safya Sumar, and family friend Lisa Wang, 18, all of Lexington, attended the rally on Boston Common.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

Young children, teens, and community leaders spoke out against violence toward Asian Americans and called on educators to add Asian American studies to their curricula at the “Proud to Be Asian” rally on Boston Common Sunday afternoon.

“The American histories taught in our schools are simply not complete without including the contributions, struggles, and treatments of Asian Americans,” Hua Wang, an organizer of the rally and member of the New England Chinese-American Alliance, told a crowd of nearly 200.

Many at the event, planned with the help of 60 organizations, carried American flags and held signs that said #AsianPride. In front of the Parkman Bandstand, where the crowd gathered, more than a dozen bouquets of yellow and white flowers lay surrounded by a heart made of tea candles.

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The rally, which began around 4 p.m., was inspired by a 14-year-old Lexington teen, Phoebe Tian, who wrote a song, “We are Proud to be Asian,” in response to the March 16 Atlanta-area shootings that left six Asian women dead. Faculty from Berklee College of Music later produced a music video for the song featuring 18 Asian-American young people from all over Boston.

“Our song serves as a reminder to those struggling under these challenging times that we’re here, that we’re with you, and that we’ll overcome this together,” Tian said before the crowd. Tian and a group of young children later led the crowd in a sing-along of her composition.

Children and teens from communities across Greater Boston shared stories of hope, as well as their experiences of racism.

William Qin, a fifth-grader from Belmont, spoke about being accosted by a man in a car who yelled a slur at him as he walked down a street in his hometown.

“I felt hurt,” Qin said in an interview at the rally. “When I got back home, I just kept thinking, ‘Why would he do that?’ ”

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Jiayi Guo, a junior at Brookline High School, accompanied her parents in a rendition of a well-known piece of Chinese folk music.

“Our history, it won’t and it can’t be forgotten,” she said. “We need to be able to teach that in our schools.”

Edvard Lee, a professor at Berklee and Tian’s mentor, offered a message of hope for Asian youth.

Do not be afraid to be seen, to stand out, and to be excellent in anything you do,” he said. “You are valued, and you are excellent, and I see you, hear you and recognize your efforts.”