Asian and Pacific Islander student groups hold annual celebration on social media

Media Credit: Photo Illustration by Grace Hromin | Staff Photographer

COVID-19 may have canceled all on-campus Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Celebration events, but Asian American Student Association members launched a social media campaign to commemorate the month instead.

Asian and Pacific Islander student organizations are observing this year’s Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Celebration through a social media challenge.

The APIHC Challenge, a social media campaign launched by members of the Asian American Student Association on April 17, asks students to post pictures of Asian heritage, like cuisine or television shows, on Facebook and Instagram with #BroadcastingFromHome, according to the Multicultural Student Services Center Instagram. This year’s Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Celebration focuses on the theme “Broadcasting Ourselves” to promote Asian and Pacific Islander culture in the media, according to the MSSC website

MSSC Director Michael Tapscott said the AASA created the challenge so Asian students could continue to show their cultural values like family on social media and share them with others. He said the challenge will “supplement” canceled APIHC in-person events, which originally included the annual Philippine Cultural Society’s Culture Show and a Korean night market in Kogan Plaza called Korean Culture Night: Moonlight Memories. 

“We are emphasizing the recognition and inclusion of the Pan-Asian community, which includes all South Asian, Pacific Islander and broader Asian cultures,” Tapscott said in an email. “The students have been very inviting and inclusive of this transition and have worked together to develop the Virtual APIHC Challenge.”

The national Asian American Heritage month takes place in May, but MSSC officials switched the University’s celebration to April in 2004 so all students have the opportunity to participate in various cultural events for the Asian Pacific Islander celebration, according to the MSSC website. Ten student organizations sponsored this year’s joint heritage celebration with the MSSC. 

In addition to the APIHC Challenge, the Elliott School of International Affairs hosted Derald Wing Sue – a doctor and professor of counseling psychology at Columbia University – via WebEx for a workshop last week as part of the celebration. The workshop taught students about the “detrimental” consequences of microaggressions, like making demeaning racial comments or overlooking students of color in higher education, and strategies to overcome them, according to the invitation.

Nina Mellor, a junior and the vice president of the Asian American Student Association, said AASA members planned a “Let’s Unpack That” networking conference for the organization’s APIHC event, but the plans were canceled because of the pandemic. She said the event would have included small group discussions between participants centered around sensitive topics in Asian American culture and identity like cultural appropriation and social misconceptions for students to examine the issues affecting Asian communities.

Mellor said AASA members decided to develop the “APIHC Challenge” so students can continue celebrating their Asian heritage virtually. She said the organization intends to have participants share images of their culture like family recipes with their peers across the world to provide students with a sense of community.

“I think people are trying to find normality in this not normal time, and hopefully seeing their familiar students posting about what would have been is comforting,” Mellor said.

Carolyne Im, a sophomore majoring in political communication and the external relations chair for the Korean Cultural Society, said there is “very little” representation of Asians or Asian Americans on mainstream media, which can contribute to perpetuating stereotypes. 

The University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism conducted a study in 2016 finding that of the top 100 films at the box office in 2015, 49 films included no “speaking or named” Asian or Asian-American actors.

Im said the virtual challenge promotes Asian culture on social media in line with the APIHC theme this year. She said the theme of broadcasting one’s heritage and identity is a lighthearted activity to engage with amid the global pandemic.

“I think it’s a really nice way to promote these different things that people can be doing to be active in the community and to support each other, especially now, with this lighter theme that people can just engage in without being too stressed about it, especially now that we’re all kind of stuck at home and not really sure what to do,” Im said. 

Britney Gho, a sophomore and a program director for KCO, said the group’s members planned to have multiple karaoke, Korean jewelry-making and ring toss booths set up in Kogan Plaza with Korean street food and traditional instrumental performances but are now helping facilitate the APIHC virtual challenge. She said members have been posting Korean recipes, images of the trending Korean drink dalgona coffee and Korean television drama recommendations.

“Over the past year, I’ve definitely seen that KCO has brought a lot of people who aren’t Korean into Korean culture,” she said. “And I think the best part of just having these events and being a part in creating it is that it’s really nice to meet people and really get to enjoy the culture.”

Junior Tara Zokaie, the treasurer and president-elect for the Philippine Cultural Society, said the organization’s members host an annual APIHC historical speaker event, like last year’s “Chavez, Huerta, Itliong Day”event,  to celebrate the legacy of Filipino farmworkers and human rights activists. Zokaie said PCS members have been sharing links on Facebook to national Filipino events like dance workshops and checking in with each other regularly.

“We just want to connect with those cultural roots, not only with the Filipino tradition but also in Filipino American history as well,” she said. “That’s something we were hoping to look forward to but are looking forward to doing even more so next year.”

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