AASU brings awareness to AAPI Heritage Month

Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month celebrates the lives and achievements of all Americans who trace their lineage to Asia and the islands dotting the Pacific Ocean. The month of May marks the first report of a Japanese immigrant to the United States and the completion of the transcontinental railroad – a feat accomplished mainly by Chinese immigrants. Although AAPI Heritage Month is nationally recognized in May, the university is commemorating the month throughout April.

The Asian American Student Union (AASU) provides a space for all AAPI students to celebrate their heritage, as well as experience and learn about other cultures within the regions.

“Having AASU [on campus] helps me stay connected with [my] Asian culture, and I also get to learn about all the other different Asian countries and their cultures and traditions,” said Len Diamond, a sophomore mathematics major and sergeant-at-arms for AASU. “I made a lot of new friends… [in] AASU.”

Much like other multicultural recognized student organizations (RSOs) on campus, AASU does not only welcome AAPI students exclusively but also opens its doors to all students at the university. Diamond and Abigail Chang, a graduate cellular and molecular biology major and secretary for AASU, listed some of the fun activities that AASU held at general meetings in the past, such as calligraphy lessons, Asian foods and mythology and lessons on different ethnicities.

Diamond and Chang both agreed that AASU has helped them feel more welcome on campus, and gave them an avenue to become more involved from the moment they arrived on campus. Chang especially accredits AASU for helping her find more people who look like her after coming from a primarily-white town.

“Coming to the university and seeing that, even though you might not share the same background [with someone else], you still have something that you can talk about,” Chang said. “Just being able to establish a community that we can feel safe and talk about specifically Asian Americans was really great.”

Chang is appreciative of the school’s recognition of AAPI Heritage Month because it allows her and others like her to feel seen.

“Getting that support from the school… makes me feel appreciated, makes me feel welcomed and [that I’m] able to share what I can offer as myself,” she said.

Although it may seem easy for many people to be kind to one another and commemorate those around them, we live in a world where acts of bias, discrimination and hate persist. After the COVID-19 pandemic began in the United States in March 2020, there was a massive uptick in hate incidents against AAPI people. According to stopaapihate.org, there were 10,370 documented bias reports filed by AAPI people from March 19, 2020 to Sep. 30, 2021. This past January, a gunman entered a dance studio in Monterey Park, Calif. and killed 10 Asian residents and injured 10 more people in a deadly rampage.

Nobody should expect a month of commemoration to be the solution to anti-AAPI rhetoric and violence but it opens a path to celebrating all people of all cultures year-round. Chang sees AAPI Heritage Month as a small way to help put an end to the targeting of AAPI people.

“I think it also just gives more appreciation to what the Asian community has to offer,” she said. “We want to feel more represented in the community; we want to show that we would like to share in respects to culture, food and everything… just showing that we’re still here, we’re not going to go away… [or] stay secluded to us. We’re going to try and push more for [AASU’s] events and showcase the Asian culture and feel appreciated by the community.”