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Saturday, July 31, 2021

Celebrating 45 years of Asian American Studies

UC Davis Asian American Studies reaches a milestone

Flashback to winter 1969: UC Davis students formed the Asian American Concern (later called the Asian American Studies committee), which established the first formal contract between Asian American students and the UC Davis administration. Soon after, the first Asian American Studies class, a history course on the Asian Experience in America, was offered. In spring 1969, about 5,000 UC Davis students took to the quad to rally for ethnic studies, resulting in the establishment of the Asian American Studies (ASA) program in 1970.

In 2015, we approach 45 years of ASA at UC Davis. On Mar. 7, a celebration will be held for the anniversary from 1-7 p.m. at Putah Creek Lodge. The event not only celebrates the milestone, but also commemorates the department’s contribution to the campus culture.

Richard Kim, associate professor and chair of ASA, stressed that the department encourages new ways of thinking and forming identities through its examination of the intricate realms of social relations.

“[ASA] is vital to a liberal arts education that ideally strives to cultivate an informed and socially aware student body [and] the ability to think critically from an interdisciplinary perspective is a significant benefit of an effective liberal arts education,” Kim said. “In these ways, [ASA] has been at the cutting edge of a rigorous liberal arts curriculum that seeks to incorporate new voices and perspectives in developing and disseminating socially relevant knowledge.”

The celebration will open with two panel discussions that feature the voices of current UC Davis students, UC Davis staff, UC Davis alumni and former faculty members. The first panel, “George Kagiwada, His Legacy and Asian American Studies in the 21st Century,” will reflect on Professor George Kagiwada’s vision, pedagogy and contributions as ASA’s first director. The second panel, “Forging Alliances Past and Present,” expounds on the critical movements and cross-racial alliances that have occurred since ASA’s establishment.

Susette Min, associate professor of ASA, expressed the importance of commemorating those who have helped sustained ASA throughout its existence.

“The event aims to promote meaningful dialogue not only about Asian American Studies, but also about social and economic justice, the status of race and racism at [UC Davis], community formation, culture and the future of Asian American Studies in the 21st century,” Min said.

After the panels will be a reception featuring a musical performance by Mass Bass. Mass Bass is a Filipino revolutionary hip-hop group whose music illustrates the everyday experiences and struggles of minority groups, including the Asian American community.

Armael Malinis, keyboardist for Mass Bass, graduated from UC Davis in 2003 with a major in community regional development and a minor in Asian American Studies. Malinis expressed that his ASA courses inspired him to be involved in activism both on campus and in the world beyond.

“Our music speaks on issues such as immigration, the struggles around racism growing up, being exploited at our workplace and everyday issues that Asian American studies convey in the teachings,” Malinis said. “Similar to how the bass is the foundation to music, the masses are the foundation to building a revolutionary movement that will replace the current system we live under.”

Malinis stressed the importance of preserving and propagating culture, which he hopes can be done through educational as well as experiential exposures.

“Mass Bass aims to spark the revolutionary imagination of the UC Davis community [for] activism and organizing should not be limited to what we read in the history books,” Malinis said. “The world that we all have inherited is a challenging place to live in and it is our duty to continue the legacy of struggle that our ancestors began.”

ASA’s 45th anniversary will be free and open to all supporters of the department. For more information, please visit http://asa.ucdavis.edu/annual-events/45th-anniversary.

Graphic by Tiffany Choi

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