Honoring Asian Pacific Island American Month in new ways

Collage of faces

Whether on-campus or remotely, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is celebrated each May to pay tribute to the achievements and contributions that generations of Asian, Desi and Pacific Island Americans have made to the UO, Oregon and the United States.

To more accurately reflect the diversity of the community, the UO refers to the month as Asian, Desi and Pacific Island American Month. “Desi" refers to the people and culture of the Indian subcontinent and South Asia, including Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.

The Asian and Pacific American Student Union is organizing and holding heritage month events, including a virtual general meeting in mid-May when students will have the opportunity to talk about their family, local traditions and the importance of heritage month. Check out its Facebook page and Instagram feed for updates.

To help support students and professionals, the UO Graduate school will present an online webinar, “Addressing Anti-Asian Microaggressions and Hatred During the Pandemic.” The webinar is Monday, May 4, from 10 to 11 a.m. and is designed for students who encounter issues such as negative stereotyping and racial microaggressions that impinge upon the professional lives of Asian Americans and international students from Asia.

The workshop will equip participants with the resilience-building tools to practice self-affirmation and utilize self-empowerment strategies to address racial microaggressions. An RSVP is requested, and a Zoom webinar link will be sent to the participants after registration.

The UO Asian, Desi, Pacific Islander Strategies Interest Group is meeting virtually regularly. Its mission is to provide a supportive space to discuss and act upon issues related to the diaspora of their communities on campus.

The group has just published a statement, Denouncement of Anti-Asian Discrimination & COVID-19, also signed by the Division of Equity and Inclusion, Black Strategies Group, Native American Strategies Group, Latinx Strategies Group, and the Sexual Orientation Gender Identity and Expression Strategies Group.

Yvette Alex-Assensoh, vice president for equity and inclusion, spoke of the importance of celebrating Asian, Desi and Pacific Island Heritage Month this year.

“Even though we are not physically on campus, we continue to honor, affirm and listen to the voices of those from the diverse ADPI communities during this month and throughout the year,” she said. “Indeed, we are grateful to the many members of our ADPI community, who are serving on the front line of the war against the coronavirus, whereby at least 19 percent of all doctors, 9 percent of all physicians assistants and 10 percent of nurses come from ADPI communities.”

Assensoh’s full statement, “ADPI Heritage Month in the Midst of COVID-19,” can be found on the Division of Equity and Inclusion’s website.

Many virtual opportunities are available to learn and experience the culture, politics, history and art of Asian, Desi and Pacific Island communities at the university, in Oregon and beyond.

The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, currently closed to the public, has numerous offerings focusing on the heritage month communities.

On May 12, Anne Rose Kitagawa, the Schnitzer museum’s chief curator of collections and Asian art and director of academic programs, and Tara Fickle, assistant professor of English and author of a forward for “Aiiieeeee! An Anthology of Asian American Writers,” will speak at the City Club of Eugene. The recorded conversation will be released shortly after. See the museum website or the City Club of Eugene  website for more information.

The museum’s “Minute Exhibits” currently include South Korean artist Kwan Young Chun’s “Aggregations” and “Myriad Treasures: Celebrating the Reinstallation of the Soreng Gallery of Chinese Art.” During May, the museum will release minute exhibits on Japanese mezzotint prints and the Japanese-American artist Roger Shimomura, as well as a gallery guide for Shimomura’s work. Also, the museum’s “Create Series will add art activities inspired by objects in its Asian collection.

There’s also much history, art and more to explore through the UO library. Use the Oregon Digital collection to travel back in time to find historic photographs from the UO Asian American Student Union through the years and then travel to museums worldwide to see digital art from Asian communities.

Among the highlights are a Dipankara Buddha sculpture from the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India, images from Vietnamese feminist filmmaker T. Minh-Ha Trinh and advertising images from Japanese magazines.

Other digital collections, such as the e-Asia digital library or Historic Oregon Newspapers, have digitized versions of Oregon’s Asian Reporter and individual articles on diverse Asian, Desi and Pacific Island issues and communities, such as the article “Asian Lesbians and Gays Struggle to Bridge Cultural and Sexual Selves,” from a 1991 issue of the now-defunct newspaper Just Out.

Savannah Kan, a UO student studying public relations and psychology and the co-director of Asian and Pacific American Student Union, spoke of being off campus during heritage month.

“I’m going to miss heritage month at the UO so much; how much the community means to me is incredible,” Kan said. “I’m really sad that I won’t be able to experience the UO heritage month, but I hope that I’m able to celebrate in my own way this year with just my friends and maybe have a more intimate, close and indoors celebration, and for the future I hope things get better.”

For more information and the history of the month see the Division of Equity and Inclusion website.

By tova stabin, University Communications