Officially, Asian-American Heritage and Cultural Month is celebrated in May. Rice University, as usual, has a different take. This year, the Asian Pacific American Student Alliance is leading Rice University’s third annual AAHCM in October.
The events created by APASA and other cultural groups on campus, such as Chinese Student Association and Korean Student Association, are primarily meant to provide opportunity to foster discussion regarding the complexities of Asian-American identity, according to APASA external vice chairperson Bo Kim.
“The goal of each event is to challenge attendees to critically think about and examine an Asian-American identity in a new way,” Kim, a McMurtry college junior, said.
The photo campaign is one example of the attempt to raise awareness of Asian-American identity across campus. The undergraduate population at Rice is approximately one-fourth Asian-American.
In addition, Kim, a McMurtry College senior, pointed out that the overall Asian-American community has extremely low voter turnout.
“Given the general sense of political apathy among the Asian-American community and our low turnout, I often feel like politicians and lawmakers don't emphasize or cater to the policy needs of the Asian-American population,” Kim said. “Related is the fact that there isn't a whole lot of Asian-American representation in politics, particularly outside of Asian-American-heavy Congressional districts.”
APASA chairperson Nicole Zhao noted that Asian-Americans are often seen as a model minority, which is not true.
“The truth is that the term 'Asian-American' encompasses people from a wide variety of cultures, backgrounds, socioeconomic levels, and ethnicities who experience different languages and cuisines,” Brown College senior Zhao said.
For example, the events facilitated by the Vietnamese Student Association focus on college admission.
“Many Vietnamese-Americans are first generation college kids, so their parents are not well-equipped to help them in that regard,” VSA external vice president David Lam, a junior at Martel College, said. “We hope that...we smooth the college admissions process for our attendees and promote a higher college degree attainment rate for Vietnamese-Americans.”
APASA co-publicity chair Ashley Cha said the organization’s biggest event so far was the comedy show kick-off with Jenny Yang,Yola Lu and Liz Padjen, which had approximately 120 people in attendance.
Some upcoming events include APASA’s roundtable on addressing the gap between international Asian students and Asian-American students, and VSA’s College Leadership Workshop (Oct. 18). See APASA’s facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/APASARice, for more information.