By Nana Karayama, firstname.lastname@example.org
May is national Asian-Pacific Heritage Awareness month in the U.S and to begin celebrating early, the Asian American Association (AAA) and the Office of Intercultural Engagement and Leadership hosted Asian Pacific Islander American awareness week (APIA), a series of events that gave Grinnell students the opportunity to learn more about Asian American culture, identity and relevant issues.
“There’s a notion that if you’re Asian it doesn’t matter [about] your intersectional identity … you’re all the same,” said Mari Holmes ’17, an AAA cabinet member. “I think it’s really important to deconstruct that notion by starting to provide a background of social contexts to issues that are very unique to the Asian-Pacific Islander community.”
One event was a talk given on Monday, Apr. 27 by Linda Her, the co-founder of Midwest Solidarity Movement and associate director of the Asian American Organizing Project. By incorporating personal anecdotes, she discussed the differences between Asian and American conceptions of certain issues including sexuality, gender roles and family. She also shared her poetry.
“I am Hmong. I am a feminist. I am an artist. I am an activist. And I am queer,” Her said.
AAA specifically invited Her to highlight the topic of LGBT Asians.
“There is no such thing as being anything other than heterosexual in the Asian American community,” Holmes said. “The idea of sexuality is not talked about, [and] it’s really intriguing to see why that is.”
Other events included a performance by Vietnamese-American spoken word artist Hieu Minh Nguyen on Thursday, April 30, at Bob’s Underground Café. This was followed by an open mic with the theme “Hyphenated,” which deals with having multiple cultural identities.
“We’re really encouraging people of all ethnicities to come and share their stories,” Holmes said. “It will bridge those connections and develop an allyship with the other student organizations.”
APIA week will end with the Multicultural Barbecue tomorrow at 12 p.m. on Mac field, which involves nine different organizations, including the Muslim Student Association and various Asian international student groups.
“We get to make a whole bunch of food and share it with the Grinnell community,” Holmes said. “We want them to generate questions about the food, and we just want to share foods that are really close to us.”
APIA week has been held annually at Grinnell more than five times, but this year saw increased participation and publicity.
“We are more vocal about it, and the turnover rate in terms of membership is also higher,” Holmes said. “This year we really wanted to tackle some issues.”
Despite having themes that are centered on Asians, Holmes wanted students to know that events during APIA week are not exclusive to Asian-Americans.
With the entire month of May being nationally recognized as Asian-Pacific Heritage Awareness month, there are hopes within the APIA to expand from just one week.
“I will challenge our new cabinet to aim for a month, and I think they can do it,” Holmes said. “I hope that after APIA week we will get [even] more dedicated members.”