Rally to Save Cantonese (May 6)

A Rally to Save Cantonese at CCSF was held on May 6 at Mission High School in San Francisco. Over 200 students from various organizations and Ethnic Studies classes were was hosted by the CCSF Student Coalition.

During the rally, the following speech was read by CCSF Cantonese student organizer Julia Quon 關美欣:

Save Cantonese at City College of San Francisco 

Cantonese classes were established in the 1960s by Professor Gordon Lew, who served as the

coordinator of the Chinese program as well as the department chair for the Foreign Language

Department at CCSF. These classes have been around for over 55 years, and what started as 6

classes has now been whittled down to two. Since 2020 there has only been one Cantonese

class each semester. When I heard the Cantonese program was going to be defunded

permanently, my heart dropped. As I am a doula and birth worker with the immigrant community

in San Francisco, these Cantonese classes were a way to connect not only to my heritage, but

also to the families that I work with. Being able to understand families during their most

vulnerable times create safe spaces for people to learn and grow.

I’m not the only professional in these classes that NEED Cantonese to serve the

community. My classmates include Chinese American heritage students, doctors, and nurses

who have many Cantonese patients, real estate and insurance agents, bilingual teachers who

need certification in Cantonese for the Multiple Subject Bilingual Teaching Credential at the

SFUSD, social workers, lawyers, some Christian ministers, and other professionals. For many of

us, assimilation has robbed us of the ability to speak Cantonese. These classes at CCSF are a

way for us to reclaim our culture. As a child of immigrants, Hong Kong seemed so far away, the

home of my yeye and mama, another land. Having these classes helps me reconnect to the

homes of my ancestors. With the next generation, our language, our way of living, the names of

the special dishes our families make will be lost.

There are long-term detrimental effects to cutting Cantonese. As there have been a rise

in AAPI hate, many people choose not to seek help because of language barriers. Who are

Cantonese immigrants going to seek help from, if no one around them speaks their language?

The violence we experience in our AAPI communities also includes the violence of being

separated from our families and ancestral lands and heritages through language barriers

imposed on us by systemic and internalized racism. This violence includes the continual

divestment of resources from our AAPI communities ever since we have existed in the United

States. Why is CCSF continuing this pattern and turning their back on us? Hearing that they are

cutting these classes cuts the roots that reminds me of who we are. Children of immigrants.

Cantonese can bring communities together. Breaking down language barriers can build

bridges when we all know what the other is saying. Many people in my Cantonese class are not

Chinese American. They have partners whose parents speak the language or an elderly

neighbor who just moved from the Canton province. Knowing Cantonese and other languages

provides allyship. How many of you know or live near someone who doesn't speak English?

CALL TO ACTION: What can people do to save this program?

* Follow us on social media at savecantonse_ccsf

* Sign our petition at tinyurl.com/savecantonese

* Send an email to the world languages department chair Diana Garcia Denson at digarcia@ccsf.edu

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