For over fifteen years, Grand Valley State University has hosted the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Celebration (AAPIHC). Though the AAPIHC is nationally celebrated in May, GVSU celebrates it during the two months of the Lunar New Year, February and March. For this year’s celebration, seven events will be offered in celebration of history, culture and the traditions of Asian American and Pacific Islanders.
This year, the celebration kicks off with the Asian New Year Festival, which will be held in the Kirkhof Grand River Room on Friday, Feb. 14. A variety of ethnic cuisine and traditional performances will be featured, including a lion dance and cultural fashion show.
“Asia and Asian communities are important components of the world around us.” said Yan Liang, coordinator of the East Asian Studies program. “This celebration is a series of events on campus for you to learn about and experience Asian and Asian American cultures. Knowing more about them will enrich your life and your choices for the future.”
What makes this celebration so special and inclusive is the diversity of topics discussed throughout its many events. In past years, this has included topics like the politics of Korean adoptees, racism and lack of acceptance, and how to address violence and child sexual abuse. This year will have talks and workshops featuring human rights, issues in education, the multilingual realities of voting and how to succeed despite not having a privileged background.
The final event of the celebration, the R.I.C.E. conference (Realizing and Addressing Issues in our Culture and Education) will focus on cultural and educational issues. The student event coordinator for the Asian Student Union, April Nunn, describes the workshop as a place for Asian Americans to share their perspectives on how they dealt with these issues within their societies, and within their families.
“This is my first year participating in the Heritage Celebration, and I am hoping to expand people’s minds to other cultures,” Nunn said. “To participate in helping out other communities, even though you might not be the same ethnicity as Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.”
There are a wide variety of events between the New Year Festival and the R.I.C.E. conference. “Dispatches from Asia: Hong Kong, the Philippines, and the Struggle for Human Rights” on Monday, Feb. 17 will feature Julie McCarthy, a renowned journalist and foreign respondent, as she discusses current events as a case-study in the worldwide fight for human rights.
The Vietnamese Cultural Association’s Phở Night, held on Friday, Feb. 21, will offer attendees a chance to sample a bowl of the traditional rice noodle soup. Wednesday, Feb. 26 will feature “Asian Pacific Islander American Vote,” an interactive workshop about how issues of immigration, careers, health care and education pertain to voting, especially in multilingual communities. Thursday, March 12 features a presentation from internationally recognized artist and designer Dominic Pangborn.
Finally, the “Night Market” on Friday, March 20 doubles as an opportunity to support student organizations as well as a chance to purchase traditional clothing, snacks, drinks and trinkets from different regions of Asia.
Connie Dang, the Director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) and chairperson of the AAHIPC committee feels strongly about this year’s offered events.
“This year, the Committee is very pleased to present a comprehensive celebration that covers a spectrum of issues ranging from human rights, to food and performances, to civic engagement, and to art, as well as the intersectionality of identities,” Dang said. “Asian Americans represent a diverse racial group consists of an array of ethnicities, languages, immigration timelines and history, societal attainment, and traditional cultures. Through intentional programming, we tell powerful stories of Asian Americans, increase awareness around Asian issues, and encourage diversity and inclusion in all sectors of society.”