‘Breaking New Ground’ commemorates Asian American Awareness Month

By Molly Rafter

The 15th annual Asian American Awareness Month, titled “Breaking New Ground,” kicked off this month to recognize the groundbreaking efforts of past and present students to establish the Asian American Cultural Center, which is to be completed this summer.

“Getting the Asian American Cultural Center was one of the first important steps in increasing Asian awareness on campus,” said Henson Rara, president of the Philippine Student Association and senior in engineering.

The Philippine Student Association collaborated with other Asian-American groups on campus to host the Taste of Asia, which took place Tuesday night at the University YMCA. A variety of Asian ethnic dishes were offered for all to sample.

“It’s really nice to be able to work with other Asian-American organizations on campus to make it a success,” Rara said.

Juli Kim, treasurer of the Asian American Association, said AAA will help host the 19th Annual Fashion Show on Friday. Titled “Beginning’s End,” the performance will incorporate fashion with dance.

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The Ghungroo Dance Company will be putting on their annual dance show on Saturday, April 2. Traditional Indian dance, as well as American dance, will be featured.

“People don’t know a lot about our culture,” said Tina Wadhwa, external president of the dance company. “By having our dance show, we get to show them what Indian culture is all about.”

The Vietnamese Student Association will also put on their annual Family Day on Saturday to celebrate Asian American Awareness Month.

“Our Family Day is a cultural celebration that showcases dance performances, free Vietnamese food, along with many other activities,” said Tram Dang, president of the Vietnamese Student Association. “It’s a great way for people to learn about the Vietnamese culture.”

In addition to the events and activities, there is an Annual Awareness Month Competition. University students are encouraged to submit critical essays, autobiographical reflections, poetry, paintings, videos, photography or any other original work that focuses on the importance of Asian-American awareness in a multicultural University community. Applicants can submit essays and other writings as a Microsoft Word document via e-mail to [email protected]. Art and video submissions can be dropped off to 300 Turner Student Services Building, room MC-306. The deadline for submission is 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 31.

The winner of the competition will receive a $100 Illini Union Bookstore gift certificate and be able to present his or her entry at the Asian Pacific American Leadership Awards Ceremony on April 21.

Kim said the festivities will raise campus awareness of Asian culture.

“Having the awareness month can break down so many stereotypes people have of Asians,” Kim said. “People get to see what we’re really about.”

Rara said the most important thing that comes out of Asian American Awareness Month is being able to see others appreciate Asian culture.

“It’s very important for Asians to be able to have a voice and presence at the University,” Rara said. “Sometimes if we’re lucky enough, we get people from outside the Asian culture to celebrate and appreciate our heritage, which is the main goal of the awareness month.”