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Friday, June 18, 2021

On-campus organizations celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

UC Davis’s AAPI community continues to celebrate its history and culture amid lockdown restrictions and anti-Asian racialization of COVID-19

Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month in May is a time for celebration of AAPI culture and their contributions to the U.S. To commemorate this month, students and faculty members at UC Davis have organized events to foster community and acceptance among AAPI students.

The Cross Cultural Center (CCC), one of seven UC Davis Community Resource and Retention Centers, supports a variety of student communities on campus. To kick off AAPI Heritage Month, the CCC hosted Asian Pacific Culture Week (APCW) from May 3 to May 8. 

The week’s events included talks from AAPI professors, artists, farmers and community organizers, as well as a resource fair for AAPI student organizations. According to Olivia Hernandez, the associate director of the CCC, these events aimed to look at the different facets that make up the Asian diaspora as a means to highlight creative social justice and community work and to share a virtual space with members of the AAPI community.

The CCC also collaborated with KDVS for APCW’s final event, “Lockdown Sessions: AAPI Represent.” During this event, students showcased their talents, listened to AAPI artists and celebrated AAPI heritage.

“I’m hoping that people see the graphics, attend the programs, get inspired and feel connected somehow,” Hernandez said. “I hope that students also know that, even if we continue to be hybrid, virtual or whatever it looks like in the future, the CCC will still have a space for you here.”

KDVS also highlighted AAPI organizations that students can donate to and connect with in order to show their support for the AAPI community even after APCW. Anyone who wishes to uplift the AAPI community is welcome to support these organizations regardless of racial or ethnic background. Hernandez emphasized that even though she is not a member of the AAPI community herself, she believes it is important for her to actively support the AAPI community.

“[Being an ally] is about figuring out ways to uplift without taking up space,” Hernandez said. “Then, allowing for the doors to be more open and accessible, so that more scholars can come through the door and feel empowered.”

The Asian Pacific Islander (API) Retention Initiative is the newest of four retention initiatives on campus that serve historically underrepresented student communities. According to Katherine Parpana, the interim director of the API Retention Initiative, their mission is to connect student scholars with resources to support them during their time at UC Davis.

Parpana said that her goal for the API Retention Initiative during AAPI Heritage Month is to uplift programs that are being hosted by partner departments and promote on-campus student organizations. This includes working with the CCC to spread the word about APCW and connecting with student leaders to learn about their upcoming events.

Parpana explained that there are many unique identities that fall under the umbrella of AAPI, and that AAPI Heritage Month is a time to make each of these identities more visible and celebrate their unique histories.

“Having our celebratory month in May is a great way to really think about where we have been in terms of advocacy, some of the struggles we’ve had to go through and what it means to be visible,” Parpana said. “This is going to mean something different for each of us, whether we identify as Asian, Pacific Islander or if we’re comfortable using the API acronym as a whole.”

Parpana also noted that AAPI Heritage Month coincides with Mental Health Awareness Month. According to Parpana, AAPI identity and mental health can intersect for AAPI community members in a variety of ways. One resource that she highlighted for AAPI students is the Student Health and Counseling Services’ Community Advising Network (CAN), where Dr. Tatum Phan, a CAN counselor, works closely with the AAPI community. Other resources include academic advising, Asian Pacific American Community Housing and AAPI student organizations.

“I would certainly love to offer myself as a resource because there’s so much we can tap into,” Parpana said. 

One student organization, Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs (APAPA) at UC Davis, promotes education, professional development and civic engagement centered around social issues impacting the AAPI community. On May 4, APAPA hosted a Unity Against Hate Webinar featuring Amy Tong, the state chief information officer and director of the California Department of Technology (CDT). Tong spoke about her role in fighting against Asian hate crimes as a lead organizer in Unity Against Hate and shared what AAPI individuals can do to support the organization.

Kathryn Nguyen, a second-year animal science major and APAPA’s social media coordinator, said that throughout May she and fellow members of APAPA will be posting educational content on the organization’s Instagram about anti-Asian hate, recent events and student resources. 

Nguyen said that AAPI Heritage Month is a very important time to recognize the community in the U.S. and educate Americans about AAPI history.

“This month is really important because, in terms of Asian Americans, I feel like we’re seen as ‘other’ in America,” Nguyen said. “We shouldn’t forget our roots and where we come from culturally.”

In light of the recent surge in hate crimes against the AAPI community, Nguyen emphasized the importance of educating others about AAPI history and celebrating the different cultures within the AAPI community while also uniting as one community.

“I’m hoping that this month shows people that we’re all united in our struggles as Asian Americans,” Nguyen said. “At the same time, I’m hoping that people see that there are different cultures and ethnicities within this community.”

Another student organization, Asian American Association (AAA), serves to unify the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities by promoting cultural understanding and self-awareness through educational, political and social events. Julia Lu, a third-year civil engineering major and co-president of AAA, shared that the organization hosted a general meeting focusing on AAPI Heritage Month on May 6. During this meeting, members will play a trivia game to learn more about AAPI history and impact within the U.S. AAA will also be sharing stories on their Instagram account each week dedicated to a notable figure within the AAPI community.

AAA also hosts an annual Film Festival, during which they screen videos that highlight contemporary issues faced by Asian Americans, such as racial stereotyping and navigating dual identities. Under normal circumstances, they would invite Asian American content creators to share their personal and professional experiences working in the media. While an in-person festival was not feasible this year, AAA will still be holding a virtual Film Festival, during which they will screen and discuss the Oscar-nominated film “Minari.” 

Lu said that even though there will be no in-person events, AAPI heritage month feels especially important this year.

“I’m greatly saddened by the increase of hate crimes directed towards the AAPI community, which is why the appreciation of AAPI Heritage Month feels to be extremely more significant this year,” Lu said. “I feel that throughout the duration of this month, it’s important to reflect on those who struggled in the past and to let that be a source of motivation to inspire us to move towards a more positive environment, where we are more appreciated and acknowledged as a community.”
Written by: Liana Mae Atizado— features@theaggie.org

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