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A Racist Encounter Inspired 2 Teens To Publish A Magazine On The AAPI Experience


About a year ago, Jeenah Gwak, a high school student from Bellevue, Wash., was in New York with her mom. They were in Times Square. And they walked past a show promoter whose pitch they couldn't quite hear. So they leaned in. But then they heard what he shouted directly at them.

JEENAH GWAK: All I heard was, don't speak English, huh? And it was just, like, something that no one really assumed about me before.


Gwak is Asian American. She says that was one of the first times she had experienced overt racism.

GWAK: I knew I wasn't alone in experiencing this kind of stuff. So I wanted to, like, share these stories and create some kind of platform where Asian Americans can share their own stories. And so I texted Hope. And I was like, hey; you want to start a magazine with me?

MARTIN: And that is what Gwak did with her friend Hope Yu.

INSKEEP: The high school students are now working to put out the fourth issue of an online magazine called What We Experience.

HOPE YU: All these stories, all these experiences that while I've been, like, subject to hearing them, so many people across the country have not heard them. These stories - it's written down - could really last for a long time. And I think those stories are something that people need to hear.

INSKEEP: What We Experience offers first-person essays and opinion pieces on topics like mental health and gender and the diversity of the immigrant experience.

MARTIN: There are also poems, drawings and reviews of movies and restaurants.

YU: It's a place where anyone, regardless of, you know, race, age, gender or gender sexuality, et cetera, can come and, hopefully, relate to something. And in that way, it can be almost healing, in a sense.

MARTIN: Gwak and Yu hope to make the magazine last by handing it over to a new group of students.

(SOUNDBITE OF TEEN DAZE'S "OSKAR'S LULLABY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.