APAHM highlights identity and home

by Emma Demers | 5/16/17 2:15am

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Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour gave a talk on Friday as part of APAHM.

by Emma Demers / The Dartmouth Staff

This month, as part of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, an annual celebration of the pan-Asian community, the College saw several events, including a keynote address from Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour and an upcoming fashion show.

Coordinated through the Office of Pluralism and Leadership, the APAHM planning committee consists of three subcommittees: programming, marketing and finance, in addition to a general group of volunteers. The committee is comprised of 17 students, according to assistant dean and Pan-Asian student advisor Shiella Cervantes who oversees the committee.

“My job is really to be there and help to guide the theme creation and help students go through the process,” she said. “All of the creation and events [are] really student-developed.”

The programming committee constructed each APAHM event around the theme “Navigating Home.” Members wanted to choose a theme that would be accessible for all students while also celebrating Pan-Asian history and achievements.

“We were all asked what it meant to be an American Asian,” programming committee member Rebecca Luo ’20 said. “A resounding theme was trying to find a balance between being Asian, being American — some students are international, some were born here — and trying to find home in all of this chaos.”

Marketing committee member Ezekiella Carlos ’19 echoed the sentiment.

“I think that the story is something everyone can relate to,” Carlos said.

Carlos added that the theme of deciphering what home means is not Asian-specific or confined to the Asian student body, which she hopes will attract a more diverse array of students to the events.

According to programming committee member Ashlynn Enriquez ’19, this year’s APAHM preparation began mid-January, when the planning committee began reaching out to speakers and performers, planning events and applying for Special Programs and Events Committee funding.

The APAHM planning committee has garnered more student interest over the years, which has resulted in more funding from SPEC, Cervantes said.

The five main events hosted by the APAHM committee include the kickoff, an art panel in collaboration with PRIDE week followed by a zine workshop, a keynote speech from Sarsour, a fashion show and a gala. The first three events have already occurred, but the fashion show will be held this Wednesday and the gala will be held in Rauner Special Collections Library on May 27.

Other events, such as the Night Market last Saturday, are hosted by groups such as Dartmouth Asian Organization, Dartmouth Japan Society and the Dartmouth Taiwanese Association and will also occur throughout the rest of the month.

Friday’s keynote address by Sarsour, a Palestinian-American political activist who has been a target of accusations of anti-Semitism, drew an audience of about 80 students and faculty, as well as about eight protestors. Members of Dartmouth Students for Israel protested Sarsour’s event by holding posters and Israeli flags outside of Dartmouth Hall and distributing fliers that called Sarsour a “fake feminist and [Boycott, Divest, Sanctions movement] advocate.”

“Us being out here today in front of Dartmouth Hall sends a strong message to the Dartmouth community that we stand strongly united against anti-Semitism,” DSI member Joshua Kauderer ’19 said.

“DSI is very upset,” anthropology and Native American studies professor Sergei Kan said, citing Sarsour’s BDS activism and denial of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. In addition Kan said he was surprised by her being invited for an APAHM event without any input from Dartmouth's Arab-American students.

During the event, the protestors stood in the back of the room holding flags and asked her several questions relating to her position regarding BDS during the subsequent question and answer session.

According to Enriquez, Sarsour was invited because of her involvement in political activism and the Women’s March — committee members hoped her perspective on being oppressed as a racial minority would resonate with various groups on campus.

“She’s not the usual Asian that everyone thinks about,” Enriquez said. “I feel like her coming here would help address different issues and will be open to different types of people and won’t make it look like APAHM is being exclusive.”

During her lecture, Sarsour spoke about the 2016 election and her role in planning the Women’s March on Washington, among other topics.

“When I think of home, I think of a place where you feel safe. Home is a place where I feel dignified and respected,” she said in her introduction. “For me, my mission is to create a country where all people can call it home regardless of what it is that we believe.”

Simone Schmid ’17, who attended the event, called Sarsour’s talk “very powerful” and “validating.” She said that she was inspired by the Women’s March and Sarsour’s role in leading the protest.

“Seeing the Women’s March and seeing her being so influential in that, I had to be present to hear what she had to say [in her keynote address],” Schmid said. “I totally see her as a role model.”

Schmid added that she believed the protestors had a right to speak and was glad they were addressed.

Carlos said she is looking forward to the many upcoming events, in particular the fashion show, because of the involvement and greater visibility of the Filipino community.

“The Filipino community is very, very small — we’re not a student organization,” she said. “But I think we’re a strong community, and this is one event where we can be visible to the greater community.”

Volunteer Makisa Bronson ’20 said she looks forward to the increased visibility of all Asian, Asian American and Pacific members of campus, teaching them about their culture and identity.

“We definitely encourage other students to come, not just Asian students, because we want to be inclusive as possible,” Enriquez said. “APAHM is about spreading the Asian Pacific Islander experience at Dartmouth, and it would be nice if not just Asian students attended the events.”

Correction Appended (May 17, 2017):

Information has been added to clarify Kan's statements.