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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Push for ethnic studies expansion arises from Bay Area trip

Olivia Reid
Students catching up in the Asian Student Center located in the Campus Center. Photo by Olivia Reid / Photography Editor.

In the class ASAMST 250G, there’s an end-of-the-semester project where students choose a community and create either an ethnic studies class syllabus or a 10-point program based on the Black Panther Party’s own demanding change.

This project was the basis for a Spring Break trip to San Francisco dubbed “The Filipino American Experience,” where students were familiarized with the history of Filipino-Americans.

This trip was an enlightening experience for many as they were able to connect with the communities in the Bay Area, experience Filipino-American history in a classroom setting, and visit locations of significance in Filipino history. After an emotional week of exploring community, identity and empowerment, the push for a Filipino-American course here at UMass Boston has become stronger than ever.

Fasha Banson, co-president of UMass Boston’s Filipino club Hoy! Pinoy! and one of the trip’s organizers has been leading the charge in this effort. Banson and the attendees visited San Francisco State University, the birthplace of Ethnic Studies, where they were enlightened on the importance of these courses. 

“History is written by the victors” is one of the quotes Banson pulled from the experience, displaying how the history of underrepresented groups is often brushed aside in favor of the Eurocentric history that is scattered throughout K-12 education. When exposed to people from communities whose stories have been kept hidden, it uncovered a “thirst for knowledge” for the attendees, whether it be for Filipino history or the history of a different community they identify with.

Skyline College allowed trip attendees to attend lectures that were held regarding Filipinos in America and issues in the community. It was at Skyline College that Banson, alongside many others, was able to connect with people familiar with the inner workings of a Filipino-American curriculum, such as Mr. Gubatina, a staff member at the school.

Gubatina told Banson, “Take ownership of the space we do have, know who you are, understand who you are, and no one else will be able to break you”—a powerful message that she took home with her. 

“Due to diaspora and colonization, Filipino people have always been great at coming together: finding joy and community despite all obstacles,” said Banson. She shared that “the communities [they] engaged with, the conversations [they] had, and the space [they] offered and shared with each other” was what ultimately impacted her the most on this trip. 

According to Banson, the lectures she attended at Skyline College displayed a look through history with a Filipino lens. She found the courses’ framework and community learning inspiring and considered these aspects when picturing a course here at UMass Boston.

“I would love to see community initiatives, discussion, cultural productions and co-created curriculums implemented in a future Filipino-American studies course,” Banson said when discussing what the course may consist of. 

This course would be an incredible opportunity not just for Filipino students to learn more about their own background, but as Banson states, “to push students to have the determination of educating themselves, to learn from other communities by taking a step out of their own, and to legitimize the interconnectedness of our communities.” She even expressed the sense of unity a course like this could bring, as “one communities’ struggle can relate to hundreds more.”

Within Hoy! Pinoy!, Banson is making strides toward this by starting weekly open lectures about Filipino-American history. Banson stated that introducing education into the club space has had a major impact on members’ perspectives regarding ethnic identity and what it means to be a cultural club. She also plans to hold similar trips in the future, as soon as this upcoming Fall.

The establishment of this course could also open the door for many other communities to find a home in the UMass Boston course listing. Another attendee, Cristian Orellana, discussed how the efforts of Banson, as well as Pratna Kem, the trip’s other primary organizer and the professor of ASAMST 250G, have inspired him to brainstorm ideas regarding similar efforts for the Central American Latine communities of UMass Boston. 

“I wish to use the blueprint that Pranta and Fasha created for a trip about Central America to create something for the Central American Latine diaspora in Boston,” Orellana said, further proving how the impact of these experiences and efforts impact surrounding communities.

The Filipino concept of Kapwa, a shared identity, is a key foundation to the efforts Banson has made this past semester. Ethnic Studies is a place where communities can come together, celebrate and empower one another, and Banson wants to expand on this even more to allow her people, and many others, an opportunity to explore their identities and communities. 

Banson’s efforts have only just begun, as she and her team hope to make an impact on one of UMass Boston’s most important departments.

About the Contributors
Liam Crampton, Sports Writer
Olivia Reid, Photo Editor