Asian Pacific heritage month honors cultures and traditions

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The campus and local communities will be able to take part in many cultural festivities as the UO celebrates Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, starting with a “Representation and Resistance” awards banquet May 1.

Campus and community groups will host a variety of events, programs and activities to acknowledge and celebrate the diverse UO community of Asian, Pacific Islander and Desi Americans. "Desi" refers to the people and culture of the Indian subcontinent and South Asia, including Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.

While May is federally recognized as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, at the UO programming begins in April and continues throughout the month of May and into June.

The Asian Desi Pacific Islander Strategies Interest Group is sponsoring the kickoff “Representation and Resistance” awards banquet. Awards will be presented to students, faculty, staff and community members who have made outstanding contributions to increase the representation of the Asian, Desi, Pacific island communities and who have resisted the marginalization of community members.

Summer Nguyen, an art and technology major, sees the celebration as “a time in which the Asian Pacific American community that is often ignored in media is highlighted, while also getting to strut their stuff.”

The awards banquet will be from 5:30 to 8 p.m Tuesday, May 1 in the Erb Memorial Union ballroom. An RSVP is recommended. The strategies interest group will also offer a night market May 14 and an ice cream social May 30. 

The myriad of celebratory and educational events on and off campus include speakers, films, music, dance, food and more. Journalism major Polanimakamae Mo’okini believes the month “brings awareness to our culture as Asian/Pacific islanders and it makes me feel proud to be able to represent my people.”

Sara Fatimah, an international studies major from Peshawar, Pakistan, sees the month as a way to also share “the diversity of cultures that exists within Asia and the Pacific islands with the American community.” 

Numerous student groups will showcase their unique cultures, beginning with UTSAV, meaning “celebration,” presented by Students of the Indian Subcontinent April 15; Hong Kong Night April 21; Korea Night April 28; Japan Night April 29; Filipino Cultural Night May 12; and a Hui ‘O Hawai’I lu’au May 19.

For Jade Kast, a biology major, and Kaushal Raj Sapkota, a graduate student studying nonprofit management, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is a new experience.

“I would be celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month for the first time this year,” said Sapkota, who spent most of his school life in a residential school in NepaI. “I plan to get involved with Asian student groups at UO and community groups in Eugene to participate in cultural events and learn about different food, music and language.”

Speaking  events include a May 8 lecture by Scott Nakagawa, a community activist, cultural worker, political writer and senior partner at ChangeLab: Strategy, Research & Vision for Racial Justice; a May 14 talk with novelist Susan Choi, winner of the Asian American Literary Award for Fiction and Pulitzer Prize finalist for her historical fiction novel “American Woman”; and a June 7 lecture by Ann Curry, journalist and photojournalist.

Films, workshops, art and archival exhibitions will also be offered throughout the month. Cinema Studies will present a lecture with award-winning director Chloé Zhao on May 1 and will show her films, “Songs My Brother Taught Me” May 3 and “The Rider” May 9.

Also at the art museum are 19th century Japanese woodblock prints that will be on exhibit throughout May. UO Libraries and the Center for Asian and Pacific studies will exhibit “Reverence and Pleasure: Highlights of the Shōbundo Nōsatsu Collection” all month. The center also is offering the workshopNorth Korea Behind the Headlines: Politics, Society, and Culture” May 2.  

Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month originated in 1978 with a congressional bill to proclaim Asian and Pacific Islander American Week in May. In 1990, Congress expanded it to be the entire month of May.

May was selected to honor the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States in 1843 and commemorate the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869. The majority of workers who laid tracks for the railroad were Chinese immigrants.

“We are very proud of the ADPI Strategies Group for their amazing work in organizing and supporting a diverse array of events and activities to educate our campus and surrounding community about the contributions that Asian, Desi and Pacific Islander communities have made in America and beyond,” said Yvette Alex-Assensoh, vice president for the Division of Equity and Inclusion. “We encourage all members of our UO and local community take advantage of these wonderful opportunities to learn, share, honor and celebrate.”  

—By tova stabin, University Communications