Alex Fan is passionate about history, social justice, and dance. While the three seem like they’d take him down three different paths, especially dance, he perfectly mixed the three.
As a recent high school graduate from Centennial High School, Fan has excelled in each area from uplifting the voices of Holocaust survivors, working as a public speaker for the Dolores Huerta Foundation, and going to New York for a dance intensive.
Following his passion for history and specific interest in genocide he has worked with Holocaust Museum Los Angeles and Together We Remember. These organizations provided him the opportunity to not only listen to Holocaust survivors but also create lesson plans and presentations for schools in Kern County.
His passion for history came from participating in history day every year in school since he was in the 4th grade. In 10th grade, his topic was Ben Ferencz, the last living prosecutor from the Nuremberg trials, which interested him in learning more about what happened. From there he did an internship with Holocaust Museum Los Angeles where they created lesson plans distributed to public schools across California.
“That’s when I first started doing advocacy work for human rights education… every week we heard from survivors,” said Fan. “So, we got to talk to survivors every single week and hear all of their stories. That has a really profound impact on you, it had a really profound impact on me.”
Fan said that this experience made him want to educate others about what happened to dissuade people from having biases toward others hopefully. This was especially important coming from Bakersfield where he noticed a lot of political tension between community members.
“That’s what breeds resentment, hate, racism, and genocide,” said Fan about biases towards others.
Fan’s will to advocate for others didn’t stop there as he soon started working with the Dolores Huerta Foundation (DHF) writing op-eds with the foundation, speaking at events, and filming PSA videos to encourage civic engagement.
One reason Fan said he loves working with DHF is that there are not a lot of ways for youth to have a direct impact on the change in their community. He said DHF gives youth these resources and encourages youth to use their voice.
“I wouldn’t have known how to go out and write an op-ed and do it well, let alone get it published if I didn’t have someone there to guide my hand,” said Fan — expressing gratitude for DHF. “These are issues that I’m passionate about and issues that I believe in. But, I don’t have a way besides going on my personal social media or talking to my friends. I don’t have a way that I can make a strong impact on my community but DHF is giving me that platform.”
Fan said this is important because people want to hear from youth and the youth just need the chance and support to get their voices heard. Two things Fan is passionate about advocating for are civic engagement and human rights education.
He is passionate about civic engagement because even for the decisions that are not directly voted on by the community it is the communities choice who is making the decisions by voting for elected positions.
“If we aren’t active in our democracy then other people are going to be active that we don’t want their voice to be heard while ours isn’t. We don’t want to amplify their voice by shutting down our voice,” said Fan.
Human rights education is important to fight against biases, identity-based hate, and identity-based violence. Fan said showing people the traumatic history of what hate can cause needed to express how ridiculous discrimination is.
“If people aren’t educated they truly just can’t overcome stereotypes. They won’t be able to understand why calling someone a racial slur isn’t okay and why all people are deserving of basic human rights,” said Fan.
When Fan is not speaking on the importance of human rights he is dancing. He has been dancing since he was in the 4th grade and his favorite styles consist of jazz, ballet, modern, and contemporary. Along with local productions, Fan dances competitively with a local dance studio and recently went to a national competition in Arizona.
“When I’m dancing I feel like I’m in the most natural form of myself… how is one supposed to convey all the emotion that they’re feeling simply through words? It’s practically impossible but through dance, I’m able to come a little bit close to being able to express how I’m feeling and who I am,” said Fan.
One way Fan has been able to express feelings and combine all of his passions was during two dance tributes he did for Holocaust survivors. One tribute was to Renee Firestone as he danced to a traditional Yiddish song overlayed with Renee Firestone telling a story about a young girl who sang in the barracks in Auschwitz and after the story the song that the young girl sang played.
“Me being able to communicate my empathy through dance made it so powerful because I was able to show that young people today still care about this history and we’re very passionate about it and we want people to hear about it,” said Fan.
Fan’s hard work and empathy don’t go unnoticed by those around him. Devin Beasley has been dancing with Fan for nearly 10 years and said he is loyal and the most hard-working person he’d ever met and Fan inspires him.
“His goal is to make other people feel comfortable. I feel like he really likes to make sure everyone around him is taken care of and he values his friendships. He really makes an effort to be there,” said Beasley.
Beasley also spoke to the vibrance of Fan’s personality and the joy felt in being around him.
“He’s a very funny person and fun to be around. He lights up every room, he’s great at communication, he’s a great conversation starter, and he’s very bright,” said Beasley.
Now, Fan is preparing to carry his passions into a new journey when he attends Columbia University this Fall to major in human rights and dance.