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The Log

Empowering Voices:

Tabor Students’ Insights from the Asian American Footsteps Conference (AAFC)

Initiated in 2011, the Asian American Footsteps Conference (AAFC) invites high school students in New England who identify as Asian, Asian American, or mixed heritage Asian to an annual daylong gathering. This year, the conference, held at Governor’s Academy in Byfield, MA, began the day with keynote speaker Simon Tam, followed by three workshop blocks and affinity group meetings, and concluded with a closing ceremony.  

Keynote Speaker Simon Tam 

“I liked Simon’s speech the best,” said Andrea Yin ’27 (they/them). “It was relatable, inspiring, and touching.”  

A Chinese American, Simon Tam is also a punk enthusiast, activist, and “troublemaker.” He quit college and founded the band The Slants in 2004 to showcase Asian punk spirit across the country, upturning stereotypes. Unfortunately, the Trademark Office refused to authorize the name: Ironically, the Office cited Urban Dictionary to prove that the band promoted racist Asian stereotypes, despite being Asian themselves. Tam challenged the initial ruling all the way to the Supreme Court, winning the battle in 2017. 

Jace Lee ’25 (he/him) was impressed by Tam’s ability to “keep the entire audience entertained throughout a long speech.” 

His presentation wove songs into narratives, evoking laughter, tears, and applause. The crowd joined in the performance of the last song “From the Heart,” firmly stating “NO” to minority-targeted censorship. Tam’s bravery and persistence have made him a role model for the Pan-Asian community.  

Three Student-Run Workshops 

Jennifer Guo ’25 (she/her) and Ashley Li ’24 (she/her) led “Breaking Barriers: Asian Student Athletes’ Journey in Sports.” Discussing stereotypes and their impact on Asian athletes, they dissected stigmas, hoping to empower other Asian athletes.

Jennifer was impressed by her workshop attendees. “People’s courage of sharing personal experiences [also] empowered me,” she said. Grateful to be part of AAFC, she is already excited for next year’s conference. 

Tutu Hu ’26 (she/her), Jihan Al Malki ’25 (she/her), and I created “Loss and Gain: Dilemmas of Asian Americans Navigating the Sea of Language,” a workshop addressing the anxiety that comes from being multi-lingual. The workshop’s goal was to encourage attendees to embrace their identity as “Third Culture” individuals and to promote mutual understanding within and beyond the Pan-Asian Community. 

“I was glad that we happened to have attendees from such diverse backgrounds,” Tutu said. Seeing people making connections through similar struggles despite their different backgrounds was reward for the work put into creating the workshop.

Priscilla Kim ’24 (she/her), Jace Lee ’25, Eric Liu ’25 (he/him), Namil Nam ’26 (he/him) co-hosted the workshop “MMAA: Multicultural Martial Art and Arts.” They had intended to create a gallery walk, featuring a video that displays visual art, performing art, and martial art from Asian countries.  

However, Eric shared that there was a bit of a “kerfuffle.” 

“Due to the [lower-than-expected] quality of posters, we decided to forgo the gallery walk and turn the workshop into a presentation,” he said. Despite the change, they committed to the activity and opened the floor for discussions about the history and impact of traditional Asian arts. 

“At the end of the workshop we all learned something new,” Eric said, glad to have built connections in the conference.  

Affinity Group Meetings 

“My favorite part is the Affinity Group,” said Andrea Lo ’27 (she/her), a Taiwanese. “It is nice to connect with people who share the same background.” 

Gray Liu ’27 (she/her), who participated in the Southeast Asian Pacific Islanders Affinity Group, agreed with Andrea. She appreciated the opportunity for Southeast Asians to come together and exchange “struggles about being such a small group in boarding school.” 

The End Yet the Start 

Next year, Tabor’s Asian Student Coalition (ASC) will plan and host the conference.

“ASC was started just my freshman year, so it’s a fairly new club,” Tianna Wang ’25 (she/her) said. Tianna is one of the three co-presidents of ASC. “It was gratifying to see Tabor students leading the conference and sharing experiences to empower others, especially as Asian racism is being silenced.”

Jace, another co-president of ASC, shared similar opinions: by hosting workshops, students delved into aspects of the Pan Asian community, creating high-quality workshops based on their own interests.  

Looking forward to leading the 2025 AAFC, they hope to expand upon the experience the Governor’s conference created.  

In addition to “positive energy,” Jace wants to create more “socializing chances” to foster connections and amplify Asian American voices. 

“The interest and excitement of younger Tabor students [about this conference] make me really excited,” Tianna said. 

With collective effort from Tabor’s Pan-American community, they are confident they will make the 2025 AAFC a memorable event.  

AAFC at the Governor’s Academy
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