Finding my voice; forging representation on Roar

by Chunyu He, Managing Editor

Staring blankly at the dim flicker of the vertical line, I wonder whether the Courier View font really takes up more space than Calibri or if it’s just an urban legend created by uninspired writers like myself. Back in middle school, I dreaded writing assignments of any sort; words could never capture what I truly wanted to convey. My frustration mounted as I started the never-ending staring contest with that blinking vertical line. With each flicker, I sensed its mockery. 

My writing struggles continued, but moving on to high school brought a wave of excitement as I anticipated a more sophisticated education and a new belonging to a larger and more diverse community. During a club fair, I stumbled upon the Lion’s Roar table. I eagerly picked up the latest issue and started flipping through the pages. It wasn’t the colorful front page with a fancy gradient that caught my attention; rather, it was the lack of diversity in articles. 

After reviewing past issues of the paper, I only occasionally saw articles written by minority students, most of which exclusively highlighted cultural and social events that Asian American students planned. Few presented any experiences or accomplishments from students of color.

I felt alone: people around me all seem to have their own social circle, and the seat next to the door became my lonely resort. My original plan was to encourage my Asian American friends that had a better grasp of writing to join Roar. However, not many were interested and even fewer felt comfortable sharing their stories. I was running out of options, and I questioned if I could become an effective journalist just long enough for someone more capable to take over. I had to go with Plan B — I would embody a voice for minority students and hopefully, inspire courage in others (including stronger writers) to do the same.

Although writing about school spirit and class office elections wasn’t my original intention, as a new reporter, I didn’t have many options. After becoming a section editor, I realized that the lack of representation was not the result of censorship, but rather it was due to a lack of outreach. While there was zero objection to writing opinionated, even controversial pieces, the absence of outreach to students who are afraid or underrepresented had resulted in a white-centric newspaper. 

For a school that’s predominantly white, the student body often perceives the same story. Without the influence of other cultures and social backgrounds, South can- not become a more inclusive community. For many other students, they were able to form

connections and obtain reflection towards the materials. But that was never the case for me. Outside of academics, school publications become another source of information. When students like me are tired of reading materials that are irrelevant to them, my hope is to provide them a space where they are able to find the voices of their own.

Having immigrated to Newton in seventh grade, I noticed that the school community lacked exposure to authentic Chinese culture: most people had formed assumptions about traditions and cuisines based on martial arts movies and internet memes. During my junior year, I found an opportunity to talk about my own experience as a Chinese student living in Newton through an opinion piece published in our newspaper; I decided to take the initiative and reach out to the editors to ensure that my piece would be published in my own unadulterated voice. With extra help and determination, I treaded carefully to ensure that my writing didn’t come across as con- frontational: I didn’t want to force my own thoughts onto others, I wanted to detail Chinese culture to allow readers to form their own opinions.

Good journalism makes people think. That’s how we push through important issues and topics. After five rounds of edits and discussions, I published my first piece highlighting the differences between eastern and western ideologies, and how the contrast creates a white-washed Chinese culture in America.

Writing the article was hard. For me, debating current events and covering events is much easier: in writing about myself, I had to step out of my comfort zone.

The validation and recognition I received not only fueled my own drive to continue sharing my truth, but more importantly, brought more students of color into the newsroom.

Each time I pick up the 120-gram paper, it feels abnormally heavy: thousands of words and graphics don’t just tell stories. They are our perspectives. Our emotions. Our voices. Nothing can stop us from telling our stories even during a pandemic. The Roar established its website, continuing looking for and encouraging students to engage in the community. We hope to see more students finding their own voices in the paper.