Asian American Footsteps Conference

On Sunday, April 11, the 10th annual Asian American Footsteps Conference (AAFC) commenced. Unlike in other years, the 2021 AAFC was held online due to Covid-19. The conference invites Asian, Asian-American, and mixed-heritage Asian students attending independent schools in New England for a day filled with workshops, activities, and networking opportunities. It provides Asian-American students with an opportunity to explore issues specific to their experiences at boarding school, interact with others with similar backgrounds, and embrace their identity and culture. This year, especially with the Stop Asian Hate movement, this conference provided an opportunity for students to share their experiences and come to terms with their own identity.

The morning started with opening remarks and improvisational performances by Step-up Friday!, one of the premier Asian-American comedy groups in the United States. As an ensemble of Asian-American actors/writers, Stir-Friday Night! travels the nation performing improv and sketch shows that educate all audiences, from an Asian-American perspective. The speakers enacted an “audiobook” and included different scenarios in the life of an Asian-American. Though the speakers from Step-up Friday! did not explicitly address the problems which Asian-Americans face in their daily lives, they integrated these problems into improv performances to mimic everyday scenarios. 

Following the performance of Step-up Friday!, students had the opportunity to attend three workshops, each presented by Asian/Asian-American students currently in schools in New England. This year’s conference offered 23 workshops, led by experts, college students, and students from prep schools. The workshops were focused on different aspects of being Asian-American such as impacts on daily life during Covid-19, LGBTQ+, dealing with stereotypes, culture shocks, beauty standards, etc.   

There were two workshops led by Groton Students: “The White-washing of Asian Culture” by Annie Pei ’22, Sophia Deng ’22, and Emily Li ’22 as well as “Home-searching: Journeys under Covid-19” led by Iris Wu ’22 and Allison Jiang ’22. 

“Our workshop was inspired by the recent news regarding the company, Mahjong line. The company changed a game deeply rooted in the Asian culture with no mention of its origin. We then focused on mainstream media and how Asian roles were usually given to more famous white actors,” said Annie Pei’22. 

“Home-searching: Journeys under Covid-19” focused on international students traveling under Covid-19 and the hardships which they faced throughout their journey. It also explored the definition of home for students in boarding schools.

“Allison and I were inspired to host this workshop due to our personal experiences of traveling under the pandemic. Both of us had hectic journeys and we wanted to create a space where people with similar experiences could have a heart-to-heart and relatable discussion” said  Iris Wu’22.  

Combined with the circumstances under Covid-19 and the recent movement of Stop Asian Hate, the Asian American Footsteps Conference aimed to make Asian-Americans feel comfortable with their own identities. Megan Ho, a sophomore from Hotchkiss School commented, “The workshops I attended this year really made me understand the problems which Asian-American face in daily life. This conference was also a wonderful opportunity to see the Asian-American community come together under such difficult circumstances.”