Canyon Crest Academy student starts anti-hate podcast
Melinda “Michi” Synn, a freshman at Canyon Crest Academy, has co-founded Annihihate, a student-led organization and podcast to educate, debate and annihilate hatred.
“We are dedicated to spreading awareness and annihilating hate,” Michi said.
Michi started the group in July with longtime friends Steven Yin and Joyce Wu, students at The Bishop’s School, and her little brother Sammy, a sixth grader at Solana Pacific School.
A first-generation Asian American (Chinese/Korean), Michi formed Annihihate in response to the increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans, mostly due to misplaced blame in the pandemic. From March 2020 to September 2021, a total of 10,370 hate incidents against Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) persons were reported to Stop AAPI Hate. A national survey conducted by Stop AAPI Hate estimated that nearly one in five Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have experienced a hate incident the past year.
Within San Dieguito Union High School District, Michi has also seen hateful incidents in which homophobic, antisemitic and racial slurs were graffitied on local high school campuses, which she said has made a lot of students feel unsafe. She understands that students of color frequently experience microaggressions, intentional or unintentional biases directed toward marginalized groups.
“Through education and outreach, we hope to build a community that is understanding and kind; a group of fellow students who celebrate our cultural differences and recognize our basic commonalities,” Annihihate’s vision statement reads.
Annihihate’s first podcast was released in December, featuring an interview with Christina Lu, the Philadelphia high school senior who made national news in November 2021 when she defended a fellow Asian student being attacked on the public transit system. Christina was brutally attacked by a group of four high school girls who called her racial slurs— the cell phone video of the attack went viral.
On the podcast, the group had a wide-reaching and insightful conversation with Lu about the rise in Asian hate crimes, harmful stereotypes, Asian portrayals in TV and film, and how schools might better help educate students about Asian culture and history.
“I’m an avid podcast listener and this is my first time doing a podcast. In general, I just like talking!” Michi said. “I think it’s great to get kids’ stories out there, let them know that they’re not alone and that there is a place to have a dialogue.”
Episodes have featured interviews with SDUHSD Vice President Michael Allman about the school board’s resolution denouncing antisemitism and Superintendent Cheryl James-Ward about combatting hate in an educational setting.
“I admire Dr. Ward so much. She is so kind and she really cares about these race-based issues,” Michi said. “It’s so important to have a superintendent that fully advocates for students.”
Steven and Joyce took the lead on a recent podcast about how private schools like Bishop’s are addressing hate and Sammy is planning a podcast interview with Solana Beach School District Superintendent Jodee Brentlinger.
While podcasts are Annihihate’s main venture, the group is also is building up its social media presence to help raise awareness. As an example, this year for Lunar New Year which begins on Feb. 1, a group Instagram post provided a list of book recommendations.
In 2018 at age 11, Michi was part of the winning team on the NBC show “Genius Junior”, demonstrating her smarts and impressive skill of spelling challenging words backward. She is a three-time Carson Scholar, a program that honors students’ academic and humanitarian achievements, founded by Candy and Ben Carson, the former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
Michi’s main extracurricular activity at CCA is debate. The only freshman on the debate team, she and her partner junior Ishan Deshpande earned a bid to the Tournament of Championships in April at the University of Kentucky.
“In the future, I would like to study law and become a Supreme Court justice or have enough influence to change major laws in the U.S.,” said Michi.
Michi’s work with Annihihate was recently recognized by the San Dieguito Union High School District board at its Jan. 20 meeting.
“She is just a remarkable young lady,” James-Ward said. “It was amazing to me that a young lady at the age of 14 would start such a podcast and engage with people around the world on how to make the world a better place.”
Find the podcasts at annihihate.org.
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