Wishing you health, prosperity, and an end to anti-Asian racism this Lunar New Year!

Growing up, I loved getting my red envelopes and sweets for Lunar New Year. I wanted to buy a mood ring, a Britney Spears CD, and a Tamagotchi, all of which my parents called a “waste of money.” Honestly, fair, but I was an American kid growing up in the 2000s. I just wanted to fit in.

Raised by immigrants in Southern California, I feel immensely grateful to have grown up surrounded by many different cultures. I love being Filipino and American. I love that my parents took us to their favorite restaurants in Los Angeles that were Peruvian, Armenian, Thai, Korean, and so many others. I love that my siblings and I were forced to learn Filipino dances. In high school, I loved quinceañera season and debut season.

We, too, are America

As a young kid, all of these cultures simply meant more delicious dishes and celebrations to learn about and appreciate. Then, as we got older, we learned to fear what makes us different, like in the 7th grade when my classmate asked me, Oh my god! Are you eating dog? I tried to laugh it off. I’m not laughing anymore.

Two weeks ago, 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee was the victim of a violent hate crime and died shortly soon after in the hospital. He was attacked while on his morning walk in San Francisco. Like Vicha and his family, my family also immigrated from Southeast Asia to California. In Vicha, I see my grandfather. In Vicha’s family, I see my family. Will we be safe?

During the Covid-19 pandemic, attacks against people of Asian descent have been on the rise globally. According to the organization Stop AAPI Hate, over 2,500 incidents of anti-Asian discrimination were reported in a 3-month period. These attacks remain largely ignored in mainstream news coverage. I feel betrayed. Do Asian lives not matter?

Not normal, but better

All around the world, Lunar New Year celebrations look differently this year. Like everyone else, I can’t wait until we can gather, hug, and eat good food together. I can’t wait to travel to the Philippines and meet the many babies that my cousins have been having during this pandemic. But I refuse to go back to normal if normal means that we accept racism and violent hate crimes.

At Novelly, we believe there is power in our diverse lived experiences and our stories. We believe that we have so much more to gain by having courageous conversations with one another than by avoiding, or even hating, one another. This is the Year of the Ox. We’re excited to bring the Ox’s diligence and determination in our fight for racial justice.

Happy Lunar New Year!

In solidarity,

Anna Gabriella Casalme

CEO, Novelly

Creating youth-driven spaces, both online and offline, for courageous conversations.