BY Professor Monica Chiu, English Department, UNH
Ethnographic cartooning is a humanistic practice. Through interpersonal engagement, a storyteller and an artist work in partnership to make sense of the former’s experiences of immigration and emigration, of adjustment, longing, and perhaps the prolonged and painful absence of remote family members. In assembling for publication a collection of comics documenting members of New Hampshire’s Indonesian American communities, we learn what they value and what the larger non-Indonesian community might share with them.
The community gatherings featured here, and their productive ends are both the point and the start of Drawing Together. In two comics workshops organized (one in Somersworth in February 2022, and one in Dover, August 2022), over fifty Indonesian Americans participated, including children and their parents or guardians. From the second workshop, a (Xeroxed) book of comics drawn by artists pre-Kindergarten to high school and beyond, under the direction of workshop leader Bennett.
Drawing Together unites participants over difficult stories about emigration and immigration, many such narratives still invisible to the wider New Hampshire community. The embedded comics example below—drawn by Bennett as one early drafted page of an emerging comic about Indonesian American resident Timothy—demonstrates how comics effectively communicate in a unique manner. Narrative, image, panels and pages, fonts, chronology (or lack thereof), bodily representation, motion or stasis on the page—these basic elements of the medium of comics all provide ample insight into how an autographic (cartoon) avatar thinks, feels, reacts, is injured, heals, or continues to face challenges.
Drawing Together is both public engagement and public scholarship. The generated archive of collected cartoons will assist others not only in discovering communities in NH that have been invisible, but also will highlight pulse points around specific topics, such as race and ethnicity in
NH, and related topics about race and refugees, asylum and ongoing anxiety. Through the social and haptic process of gathering, talking, and drawing, we become active agents of cultural content made publicly available for education and to encourage other arts-based community projects.
This project was made possible by a grant from UNH - Center for the Humanities
This important discussion, Teaching Kids About Race—an Inquiry and an Invitation, was led by educational experts. Designed for parents, guardians, and professionals of AAPI children ages pre-K through 3rd grade, with opportunities for connections with parenting peers, new dialogue, and bridges to voices of the AAPI community and the Racial Unity Team.
The online recording of this event can be viewed now.
The Racial Unity Team condemns both the murders in Atlanta in March 2021 and the ugly surge of hatred against Asians and Asian Americans that has stemmed from scapegoating tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. While these crimes cause new sorrow and anguish, they have older roots.
The Racial Unity Team itself was formed in response to a racial massacre in South Carolina in 2015: a white man hoping to launch a race war killed nine Black worshippers in their church. Because our long and deep history of racial hostility and violence is truly national, we have from the start included a focus on racist elements in New Hampshire's history as a way of educating ourselves about how to get on and stay on a path leading to anti-racism and to a more perfect union.
One site on our guided walking tour in Exeter recalls a local consequence of the national Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882; another acknowledges the dispossession of Indigenous peoples; a third explains local employment discrimination against African-Americans.
We have sought and continue to seek the expansion of educational curricula to include aspects of our history that have generally been missing or misrepresented. We have tried to deepen understanding of racism and colorism.
We know that we have much more to learn. For example, we are woefully under-educated about the history and cultures of the diverse Asian American community that is a growing part of New Hampshire's population. We need to cultivate more proactive community connections, programmatic presentations, and relationship building to include our Asian American neighbors, as we continue to address the racial biases that remain pervasive in our society—despite the real progress already made toward a fuller realization of America's aspirational ideals.
In this context we declare our support for Asian Americans, many of whom have long been targets of racial violence and other appalling acts of aggression, both physical and symbolic, around the country. In this terrible victimization, our Asian communities are linked historically with many other groups. We are determined to move beyond our country's complicated history. We seek to advance relationships among people of different racial identities in order to reduce bias and encourage full inclusion in our evolving, promising community.
Watch this conversation about the resulting toll on Asian American people and communities and about how communities are pushing back. How are parents, family members, teachers and other caregivers supporting children at a time when physical safety is all but impossible to guarantee? How can the rest of us meaningfully support our Asian American family members, friends and neighbors? Thank you EmbraceRace for hosting this event and making it available to the public.
You are invited to a Zoom meeting.
When: May 26, 2021 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Register in advance for this let's talk session:
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
From: David Ryan
Date: Wed, Mar 24, 2021 at 3:34 PM
Subject: Respecting All Human Differences in SAU16
As we continue to emerge from the grip of this pandemic, I wanted to refresh your understanding of our commitment to providing opportunities for students to thoughtfully explore conversations and make sense of events involving race and culture in the safety and security of a public school classroom. There have been several violent events that have taken place around the globe in the past few weeks, and no doubt you have seen or heard the tragic news of the recent Atlanta spa shootings in which 8 people died just one week ago. Spurred by anti-Asian bias and disdain for another culture, the growing number of anti-Asian attacks during this pandemic should cause us great concern, particularly as we embolden our students, staff, and families to embrace the core values contained within our work in advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice in our schools and community. To address this concern and inform our educators about resources that are available to them, we shared the following from two of our DEIJ committee members with them last week and we wanted to share with you as well:
As an anti-racist, it is our obligation to call out racism when we hear and see it. As you can see, our anti-racism work is so very critical to building a better, more loving future for us all. In moments such as these, we are often confused about what we can do. Here is some action steps for us all to take:
*Check-in with your Asian-American friends and family*
2. Educate Others. We need to teach our students, communities, colleagues, friends and family about the beautiful diversity of our Asian American communities and begin to build a compassionate understanding of Asian American identities.
3. Donate to organizations that are fighting anti-Asian racism and violence.
4. Report violence against Asian Americans if you see something.
5. Read: Minor Feelings, If They Came for Us, The Farm, The Joy Luck Club, Arrival, Dear Girls, Interior Chinatown, Know My Name, In the Country, The Woman Warrior
6. Learning for Justice toolset to be used as an age appropriate guide if students are engaging in conversations about this topic including conversations and stories about the reasons for bias, examples of micro-aggressions, and common injustices.
As always, teachers know their students well and continue to practice professional judgment in using these tools. We are committed to preparing all of our students to be global citizens and in that mission lies the core value of helping each of them develop their vision for the world at their own pace and how they want to fit into it. In respecting all human differences, students will have a more true vision of what needs to be in order for that to happen.
Please visit our DEIJ page often for more information and resources on this work.
The Racial Unity Team is in full support of the work of Superintendent Dr. David Ryan, his staff and teachers. We see the work as necessary and in support of the full promise toward our American Dream, “One Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."