By Miki Toyota

As a young girl growing up in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio, Arianna Kelawala didn’t feel her story was being told in the classroom.

Kelawala, a second year in political science and women’s, gender and sexuality studies, whose family immigrated to the United States from India in 1997, is driven to promote the inclusion of Asian American and Pacific Islander history and perspectives in Ohio’s K-12 public school education by organizing through the Educating for Ohio’s Future campaign.

“It is impacted how I see myself – my identity as an Indian American,” Kelawala said.

The campaign was launched May 16 by Ohio Progressive Asian Women’s Leadership, an Ohio feminist advocacy group, to update Ohio’s curriculum requirements though House Bill 171. The bill would require lessons on “the migration journeys, experiences and societal contributions of a range of communities in Ohio and the United States.”

The campaigns aim to address the gap by advocating for the inclusion of diverse perspectives in Ohio’s public-school curriculum. To achieve its goal, the group – also called OPAWL, is building “multiracial solidarity and inclusion” through this new multicultural education bill, Tessa Xuan, the group’s statewide co-director, said.

Kelawala said Asian Americans are generally invisible in textbooks, that’s why OPAWL and its coalition partners across different racial, ethnic and cultural groups launched the campaign that aims to promote multi-ethnic education and combat hate with history.

The campaign’s purpose is to enable student to learn history from various perspectives of the ethnic, cultural and racial groups whose stories are often left untold, Xuan said.

Ohio currently doesn’t require the inclusion of Asian American and Pacific Islander, Arab and non-Mexican or non-Puerto Rican Latin AMerican descent in K-12 history education, according to Ohio Laws & Administrative Rules.

“We need a bill that requires accurate histories of all racial and ethnic communities that reflect their local and national contributions – a bill that will also strengthen the current, vague requirements to include societal contributions of people of African, Mexican, Puerto Rican and Native American descent in the history curriculum,” Xuan said.

Kelawala said when textbooks did include Asian American and Pacific Islander history lessons, they were mainly about the Chines Exclusion Act or the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

“But it is not only APAPIs who are erased from history,” Kelawala said. “There is a need to change how the histories of all racial groups of color are being taught.

The organization will host legislative training sessions and volunteer interest meetings with toolkits and other useful resources provided, Xuan said. The campaign is led by more than 30 organizations such as Building AAPI Feminist Leadership, Honesty for Ohio Education, CAIR-Ohio, Young Latino Network and The Freedom BLOC.

Our children need spaces for identity building, and education is important to address generations of racial injustice.” Xuan Said.

Sen. Tina Maharath, the first Asian AMerican woman elected to the Ohio Senate, worked to create Senate Bill 214 in 2021 to make Asian American and Pacific Islander history a part of the curriculum. But a hearing on Senate Bill 214 was canceled without any explanation and was never rescheduled, Xuan said.

‘I was disappointed that our allies didn’t get a chance to speak up and testify on the bill,” she said.

To further existing efforts in Ohio, OPAWL and Xuan are working on multiracial solidarity and cross-generational efforts to tackle structural racism in education and prevent hate crimes and violence.

“As young people who just came out of the k-12 education system and who have family members, siblings and friends in Ohio public school systems, students can make huge impacts on this new challenge,” Xuan said.

As for Kelawala, she’s hoping her efforts help those who came after her.

“My sister is in high school, and I don’t want her to go through the same struggles,” Kelawala said. “Our kids deserve better.”

See Original Article at The Lantern