Actor Simu Liu, who played Shang-Chi, the first leading Asian superhero in the Marvel films.

Speaking Out: Meeting an Asian superhero

By  Kassandra Guevara, Youth Speak News
  • May 26, 2021

Anti-Asian racism has been among us for far too long. It’s been ramped up in the pandemic, racists blaming Asians for the introduction of COVID-19.

Society has mistaken the silence of the Asian-Canadian community as compliance, but we’ve seen in recent months the Asian community will no longer submit to submissive stereotypes.

Education is vital to providing enlightenment about day-to-day life for Asian-Canadians. The Toronto Catholic District School Board’s (TCDSB) Asian Heritage Month Committee coordinated an exclusive one-hour virtual audience May 13 with actor Simu Liu, who has parlayed his starring role as Jung in CBC’s Kim’s Convenience into the role of Shang-Chi, the first leading Asian superhero in the Marvel films. Some 11,000 students and teachers took part in the event, declared board-wide as Be Your Own Superhero Day.

When listening to Liu, who was born in Harbin, China, it was apparent he is not unlike other Asian-Canadians who have had to overcome discrimination. Growing up in Canada he experienced many moments where he felt “othered” from slights about his appearance or his values. But he strived to embrace his Asian-Canadian identity.

Fronting a Marvel movie is important because the creators of these stories endeavour to develop rich, relatable characters who can be role models for youth. The producers behind Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings made a wise decision as Liu not only plays a superhero on camera, he embodies one off camera as well. Liu is also an ambassador for the UNICEF Canada and an advocate against anti-Asian racism.

Students touched on issues surrounding race, along with some of the obstacles Liu has faced, during a Q and A. Liu conveyed the importance of the values and lessons he has learned throughout his life. Although his world is continuously changing, his career trajectory on the rise, it is conspicuous his beliefs and values remain the same.

TCSDB educators Joyce Roxas, Andrew Peacock and Mariko MacKasey were instrumental in orchestrating this online event. Their vision was to empower, to feel inspired enough to strive for a positive change in life.

When reaching out to Liu, Roxas knew “that time is critical. The time to speak to our students is now. With the spike in hate crime against Asians, many of our Asian students experience loss of self-esteem, shame in our identities and even fear of going out.”

Liu delivered messages of hope and inspiration to the students, letting them know we all possess superhero qualities and, when we work together, we are stronger together.

(Kassandra Guevara is a Grade 11 Cooperative Education student working for the Toronto Catholic District School Board’s Nurturing Our Catholic Community Team.)

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