Asian American Studies program receives $300,000 state grant to share community stories

Asian American Studies students at Sacramento State will continue making short films documenting how local Asian Pacific Islanders dealt with the pandemic and rise in hate crimes against them, thanks to a second round of state funding.

The Asian American Studies program received a two-year, $300,000 Stop the Hate grant from the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) that will also help launch a new Ethnic Studies media lab on campus.

“The goal is to make this a broader Ethnic Studies lab so we can tell stories of communities of color,” Assistant Professor William Gow said.

Several student films will be screened in the second Stop the Hate Arts & Media Showcase on May 7 as well as the Sacramento Asian Pacific Film Festival on May 26.

May is Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

“This event is truly special,” said student assistant Summer Lomendehe, who took Gow’s class and screened her film last year. “We’re not just showcasing stories of the Asian American experience during the pandemic. We’re really trying to showcase a variety of stories that expand what people think about Asian Americans, and it’s particularly important to highlight that goal during the month of May.

“I hope with the funding we received from the state we’re able to accomplish much, much more.”

The CDSS Stop the Hate grant is awarded to nonprofit organizations that provide support and prevention services to hate crime victims and survivors. Racially motivated crimes against Asian Americans rose 77% between 2019 and 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The University received $150,000 during the initial round of funding to buy video equipment.

This fiscal year, the state agency awarded nearly $91.5 million to 173 organizations across California. Sac State is the only university in Northern California – and only CSU campus – to win a Stop the Hate grant.

Gow redesigned his Asian American Communities course in fall 2022 to focus on the COVID-19 pandemic. Students work in groups to conduct oral history interviews of local Asian Pacific Islanders and create 10-minute video documentaries challenging Asian stereotypes.

“It’s been pretty amazing,” said Timothy Fong, director of the CSU’s new Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Student Achievement Program.

“He is training students to be community documentarians. … This appeals to how younger people learn and present information,” Fong said. “Not that it replaces writing a research paper, but it does provide students with another avenue for creative expression we simply didn’t have before.”

So far, Gow’s students have produced 34 films.