Anti-Hate Speech Initiative Empowers AANHPI Youth

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In the wake of a startling surge in hate crimes against Asian communities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic—with some reports placing the rise as high as 339% since 2020—Verizon took a decisive stand by funding organizations advancing social justice for the Asian American Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (AANHPI) community

Street Law, Inc. became a Verizon Strategic Volunteer Partner and joined forces with Verizon to craft a targeted response to the escalating violence against AANHPI people.

Together, they conceived an anti-hate speech program, complete with a comprehensive curriculum to educate and empower AANHPI youth with the knowledge and skills to confront and counteract the disturbing trend of hate speech and violence in their communities.

To ensure the program and curriculum’s relevance, accuracy, and cultural competence, Street Law collaborated closely with a Steering Committee led by a culturally diverse cohort of Verizon employees. The committee played a pivotal role in shaping and facilitating the program.

Over a period of eight weeks, Verizon volunteers facilitated the new anti-hate speech lessons to high school students attending a youth empowerment program at the MinKwon Center for Community Action.

The MinKwon Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to serving, educating, and organizing low-income Korean, Asian, and immigrant communities in New York City.

The curriculum is Street Law’s first set of lessons to directly address racial injustice and offer young adults the tools to combat racism, address mental health issues, build resilience, and navigate community resources. It includes lessons on what it means to be a good citizen, bullying, hate crimes, navigating institutions, and interacting with the police, among others. These lessons are designed to help youth gain a practical understanding of the legal nature of the issues they face in their community.

Gwen Phagnasay Le, the MinKwon Center’s youth organizer, observed, “This generation of students is being politically agitated at faster rates than any other before them. They have so many questions and energy to become involved if only they’re given just the right direction. I’ve appreciated that my students have been able to better understand the legal process and have the tools to understand their rights, especially when navigating police interactions.”

Youth participant feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with 85% reporting increased feelings of empowerment and 95% reporting an improved understanding of their legal rights. The program also contributed to enhancing participants’ soft skills like problem-solving, communication, and self-advocacy—skills that are crucial to combating hate and discrimination.

One youth participant remarked, “I enjoyed that the youth have a voice to speak up about their own struggles [and] issues rather than just listening [to] presenters speak”

As the program wraps up, its impact is expected to resonate far beyond the walls of the MinKwon Center, fostering a cohort of informed, empowered young people who are ready to advocate for themselves and their communities.

Felix, a Verizon volunteer, shared a personal connection with the young people: “I related so much to [the students], being an immigrant myself, and hearing the things I heard, I wanted to talk to each one of these fine young people and hear their thoughts and give them some tools to help their communities. It’s something I think is very important across the board for all communities to have—I didn’t have it growing up.”

Building on the success of the anti-hate speech initiative and curriculum, Street Law plans to expand this opportunity into other communities facing hate and violence.

This initiative was made possible with funding from Verizon.

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