CCA senior releases documentary in response to racial tensions caused by the pandemic

Derek Ma made the documentary with the support of a local nonprofit.

Dismayed by the discrimination that Asian Americans began facing at the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic, a Canyon Crest Academy student decided to make a documentary highlighting the ways the Chinese community in San Diego has contributed to the relief effort.

“As an Asian American, I was sad to see other Asian Americans face discrimination,” said Derek Ma, 18, a senior at CCA.

Racist graffiti, verbal harassment and physical assaults against Asian Americans due to the pandemic have been taking place for more than a year, according to a list of media reports and other accounts compiled by the Anti-Defamation League.

Ma added that when he first got the idea for the documentary, he didn’t know where to start. After doing a little online research, he said he found the nonprofit Alliance of Chinese Americans San Diego, which agreed to provide funding for the project.

“I wanted to put a more positive outlook on the entire situation,” Ma said. “Instead of focusing on how much damage this virus has done, I wanted to focus on what we have done so far to try to combat the issue.”

Ma also said he lived and attended school in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the COVID-19 pandemic originated, from age 3 to 8. He added that his ties to Wuhan gave him a “subconscious motivation” to complete the documentary.

The documentary was based on research into different San Diego-based organizations and individuals that had inspiring stories about how they contributed to the COVID-19 relief effort. From making face shields for health care workers to raising money, the students, health care professionals and other interviewees describe the steps they’ve been taking to help. They also discuss the proliferation of anti-Asian sentiments.

“I feel like it’s really unfair the Asian community has to face this sort of backlash for something that really isn’t in their control,” a high school senior from El Cajon said in the documentary.

Filmmaking has been one of Ma’s interests since middle school. He said he has taken classes on film and is involved with his school’s CCA-TV channel. Some of the positive feedback he received came from his school community.

“What surprised me the most was that our school’s principal actually tweeted the video out and a bunch of teachers retweeted,” Ma said. “It even made our district’s Facebook page, which I thought was really cool.”

To view the documentary, visit