Anagyros Cole Mantas | Staff Writer
Jennifer Park | Layout Editor
During the month of April, the Asian-American students and teachers here at Bergen were given a platform to explain and display their cultural heritage. A panel of students also spoke on their personal experiences as children of Asian heritage and how that heritage impacted their wellness.
Asian is a term used to group together individuals who vary wildly in skin tone, language, culture and religion. Yet, it is often used as if it designates a monolith of people. Through this panel, organizer Dr. Ralph Choonoo hoped to celebrate the diversity within this label.
The panel members touched on topics ranging from parental pressure, the stigma surrounding mental health, and the struggle to find identity. The stories told made clear that even within this small group, the experiences of each individual varied significantly even when there were common threads.
This panel was a step in breaking a culture of silence that several panel members described within their cultures. They all shared personal stories that generally would be kept quiet like struggles with mental illness, family rifts and attitudes towards the lgbt community.
As a panel, they seemed to find valuable lessons in their struggle to connect emotionally with their parents and they were able to share these lessons with the listeners.
The key seems to lie in communication. “You can’t fix a problem if no one is willing to talk about it,” said one panelist.
Another agreed quickly, “How can you get better if no one acknowledges that you’re hurt?”
The panel was composed of students who had immigrated here, as well as students who grew up in America but who’s parents immigrated here. Khadija Khan’s parents had immigrated here from Pakistan and she had often grown up with external pressure from her family, but her parents did care for her.
She had been pressured to be a doctor or an engineer, but as her and her siblings grew up, her mother became less infatuated with this dream. One member of the panel told her story of her suicide attempt and how her heritage made the response from her mother difficult to accept.
Khan’s family is of Filipino descent and while she was growing up, mental health was often ignored or shunned in her family. When she had attempted suicide, her mother was out of the country so she lied to her mother while laying in an emergency room bed so that she wouldn’t come home early.
Dylan Barrick’s mother was Chinese and his father was white, but his parents got divorced and his mother was given custody. He found that he was too Chinese for his white family but too white for his Chinese family. This caused a stressful rift between him and his family, especially because he was raised to be proudly Chinese.
His struggle being biracial affected his schooling and his interaction in friend groups because people would often treat him differently because he wasn’t fully Asian or fully white.
Another member of the panel was David Iko, who formerly went to Bergen. He had immigrated to the United States from Korea. He grew up in foster care in California and he found strength through his Christian faith. His experience as an Asian immigrating to America was very different than an Asian American kid growing up in the United States.
The last member on the panel was Jarell Jhocson. He had suffered from punishment and harsh treatment from his parents, but he found that it drove him and motivated him. This motivation, he felt, differed from the feelings that drove others into isolation and depression where they felt they could not express themselves emotionally.
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