Little Kids Rock is built on a foundation of highly inclusive, culturally responsive music education. We believe that when education is equitable, the world’s future is brighter.

We are grieving as a result of the tragic news from Atlanta and Boulder, and offer sympathy, support and friendship to the Asian American and Pacific Islanders community and to all those affected by violence.

A part of our responsibility to the children we serve is to ensure that we honor and lift all voices so that we may hear their songs. We start by looking inward and listening to members of the Little Kids Rock “band” who identify with the Asian American and Pacific Islanders community.

Janice Polizzotto

Japanese American, Sansei (3rd generation), Baby Boomer, Daughter, Mother, Wife, Niece, Cousin, Friend, Traveller, Animal Lover, Music Lover, Rainmaker, Executive

Asian Americans have largely been invisible. We aren’t really considered a minority and we’re definitely not in the majority. We have been taught by our parents and elders to lay low, to be quiet and respectful, to be patient, and to let things go. My mother ingrained in me the Japanese word “Gaman”—to tolerate, to endure, to be patient— whether it was being taunted by others in high school to being asked, “Where are you from?” in my adult life—and to ignore stupidity and ignorance. Being told by men that I am exotic because I am Oriental or Asian is insulting and perpetuates a racial stereotype that is degrading and sexist. 

I am saddened, shocked, and angry at what is happening to all people of color in this country and now the escalation of hatred against Asian Americans. In having conversations with others, we reflect on what’s happened in the past and now in the present, to bring an understanding to those who can’t quite grasp the difference between prejudice, racism, and ignorance, and to shine a light on the face of hatred on the beauty of our cultures. In my day job, I see the beauty in youth of different cultures creating harmony together through their music-making. We need to celebrate these joys, uplift student creativity, and encourage inclusion and compassion for others despite our differences.”

Joe Panganiban

Filipino American, Brother, Son, Cousin, Musician, LGBTQIA+, He/Him, Millennial, Explorer, Advocate, Educator, Dog Dad

Asian Americans have largely been put into collective boxes that are easily digestible by others and therefore have lost the ability to celebrate our individuality. It is common for many immigrants like my grandparents to teach their children to assimilate to the culture around them. I grew up feeling like it was somehow wrong to stick out, to be unique, and to proudly wear the skin I was born with. It wasn’t until later in life that I was told how to celebrate my culture, but sometimes in a way that wasn’t authentic to me. Being an Asian American, I have felt I fall between two groups, but rarely a member of either. To this day, I sometimes still feel that I am neither American enough nor Filipino enough to belong to either group, but music has helped bridge that gap.

As a music student, teacher, and advocate, I see the opportunity and inclusivity that the community provides: a space for those to express their identity, struggles, triumphs, pain, sorry, joy, love, and individuality. I reflect on the ability that music has to bridge gaps between languages, cultures, and beliefs of different people. It has taken a lot of conversation and understanding to prove that I am part of and contribute to our collective culture as much as anyone else who may not look like me. While I am hopeful for the future in our ability to provide the space necessary for this type of reflection and conversation, we are reminded that there is a lot of work to be done every day.

Michelle Shen

Chinese American, Daughter, Marketer, Artist, Lifelong Learner, Environmentalist, Advocate, Explorer, Millennial, Dog & Plant Mom

“Asian Americans have learned survival through being invisible—this is demonstrated right now, as many of my family and peers recognize their safety in laying low while hate crimes against our community continue to rise. I’m reminded of the earliest parenting debate between my mother and father of whether to teach me Chinese, their native language. Detaching me from our culture was an effort to set me up for a “better” life; one where I wouldn’t be bullied by my predominately white peers, like my father had been in his teenage years in suburban NJ. I believe that education and knowledge have the power to make the biggest differences in one’s life, especially when it’s inclusive and celebrates each student’s unique background. I want to see parents proudly teach their children generations of language and culture rather than hide from it.

I have been processing the traumatic events around me, offering support to my friends and family who feel overwhelmed, and considering all the other impactful ways I can affect change in the world—in my community and at my workplace. I am exhausted, and I know others feel the same. Even so, I urge each of us to continue challenging the systems that exist and putting in the work to make this world a more equitable and inclusive place.

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