Alina Jade Wong is a 16 year old Chinese American girl living in the small chinatown of Monterey Park in Los Angeles. Her hobbies include surfing, skiing, drawing and painting. She loves the ocean and going on picnics. And she is a young leader of change within the upcoming generation of AAPI teens, being the founder of a nonprofit organization and having her work featured in press such as the Wall Street Journal, the Washington post, NPR Public Radio, People Magazine, Insider News and more.
Alina's experience: growing up Asian
It all started when Alina's mom immigrated to the US from China. Then, some years later, Alina was born in Monterey Park, Los Angeles. She says this about her hometown, nicknamed MP and home to 40 thousand AAPIs, approximately 60% of its total population.
"I have always lived in Monterey Park, and I love it here. I love that Monterey Park’s cultural atmosphere is very apparent throughout the city. From food to people, there is a heavy respect for old customs, as well as a modern approach on improving and adding to these traditions. The community has a sense of unity because of shared cultural experiences, and the city is very welcoming of immigrants."
"Being Asian American has given me a special outlook on life."
Alina shared how growing up AAPI in this generation brought together the best of two worlds for her: she could take an innovative modern approach to tackling issues, whether that be social justice, racial justice or beyond, but she her cultural traditions helped her stay rooted to the knowledge and growth of her past generations.
She states that being born in America encouraged her to believe in values like intrinsic worth and creative expression, while having an immigrant mom has taught her values like respect and responsibility. Being Asian American is not a blessing nor a curse, but rather something that she inherently is, and consequently something that she has come to embrace.
In light of the Atlanta shooting in the May of 2021, Alina and 626 Speak Out organized a call to action vigil in Alhambra that got over 300 attendees. Their event got featured in Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, NPR Public Radio, People Magazine, INSIDER News, CBS Los Angeles/KTLA, CNN Newsource, Pasadena Star News, The Daily Bruin (UCLA student newspaper), NBC Los Angeles, La List, The Poly Post, California News Times, and many others.
Furthermore, Alina raised awareness about suicide within her community. There is a bridge less than 100 feet from her school that is an infamous spot for suicide attempts. 626 Speak Out made a memorial with over 250 encouraging messages from their members that were about suicide prevention and resources for help.
626 Speak Out has also published articles about racism, suicide prevention, sexual assault awareness, gaslighting, non-consensual online activity, voter awareness, Prop 16, cultural appreciation, seasonal depression, body shaming, eating disorders, asian hate crimes, and many more important topics.
Alina's work with 626 Speak Out
626 Speak Out is a youth led non-profit organization that Alina co-founded in the August of 2020, focused on activism and improving the community through action and the spread of awareness.
Especially during the “Stop Asian Hate” movement, 626 Speak Out have been doing really influential work in the fight for AAPI peace and justice.
626 Speak Out hosts events that encourages there 160+ members and almost 1,000 followers to engage in activism, emphasizing the ideology that everyone has the power to make a difference.
Alina's message for her fellow AAPI teen game-changers
Alina shared the most rewarding part of working on 626 Speak Out: seeing how her club truly makes a difference in people's lives. She states:
"Hearing stories from people about how our work has inspired them to fight for issues within their communities and within themselves shows us how influential we are. It’s cool to see that we started with the intention of making a difference, and we constantly see examples of how this goal is being fulfilled."
At the end of our time together, Alina shared her life motto with me: “progress, not perfection.” She stresses the importance of understanding that everyone comes from different walks of life, and working on your own progress is crucial to building what you define as success.
"The first step to begin creating change within your community is recognizing that everyday you are filled with potential and power to make a difference. Whether you want to start small and work your way up, or attempt something huge and radical, just go for it. Remember: progress not perfection."