Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month celebrates connection and community

Focused around the theme of ‘Constellations,’ students arranged social, cultural and academic events throughout May.

by Shena Han | 5/13/22 5:15am

by Arya Kadakia / The Dartmouth

Throughout the month of May, a student planning committee in collaboration with the Office of Pluralism and Leadership hosted a series of events to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month on campus.Activities included a free boba tea event, a symposium about Asian American Studies and a South Asian dance workshop.

According to committee member Gabrielle Park ’25, the theme for AAPIHM this year is “Constellations.”

“We wanted to explore the ways that the Asian American Pacific Islander community forms connections within itself, and also with other marginalized communities,” Park said.

In line with the theme, committee co-chair Deborah Jung ’24 said that AAPIHM events began with a boba tea kickoff at the Collis Center on April 28, and that attendees were encouraged to sign star stickers with their names and use them to decorate a banner. She added that there was “good turnout” for the event.

“[The line] went all the way around the corner past Collis because people were pretty excited,” Jung said.

AAPIHM planning committee co-chair Karen Zheng ’22 added that after the kickoff, AAPIHM co-sponsored a Lei Day event in celebration of Native Hawaiian identities, a Bollywood and Chinese folk dance workshop and a symposium on May 9 where three Asian American postdoctoral fellows gave presentations on the expansion of Asian American studies at Dartmouth. She added that the committee wanted  to hold many of its events in conjunction with other AAPI student groups.

“Our first event was in cooperation with the Dartmouth Asian Organization,” she said. “Our dance event was in collaboration with Raaz, the South Asian dance group on campus. And then [the symposium] was in collaboration with Dartmouth Asian American Studies Collective, DAASC.”

According to OPAL, Lei Day was also hosted in collaboration with Hōkūpaʻa, Native American Program and PRIDE 2022. Jung said that it was very important to the AAPIHM planning committee that they “make a conscious effort” to represent AAPI groups beyond those that are “unambiguously seen as Asian American.”

“We wanted to bring in Pacific Islander, Native Hawaiian and South Asian groups and let people know that Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month is not just for Chinese, Japanese, Korean people,” Jung said. “It’s for everybody who identifies as Asian American or Pacific Islander.”

Guarini graduate fellow in Asian American Studies MT Vallarta said that they enjoyed participating in the symposium as a way to share their research and hear student perspectives on the pursuit of an Asian American Studies program at Dartmouth.

Vallarta added that they shared their experiences as an undergraduate student organizer at University of California, Berkeley and provided history about the history of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University and UC Berkeley.

“[The students] just wanted to hear about what I thought an institutionalized Asian American Studies program at Dartmouth could look like and ways we could better support this critical movement that’s currently happening,” Vallarta said.

Vallarta also said that for them, AAPIHM represents an opportunity for individuals who are not Asian American or Pacific Islander to learn more about the history of AAPI political struggle.

“Asian American Studies isn’t just concerned with interrogating the lives, identities and experiences of Asian Americans, but it’s also about challenging power, hierarchy, dominance and really examining the history of colonialism and revolutionary struggle in east, south, southeast and west Asia,” they said.

Zheng said that the committee has been meeting since winter term to organize a series of cultural and educational events with the goal of raising awareness about AAPI history and heritage.

Park said that as a freshman , she found it easy to get involved with the committee and plans to work with it again next year.

“I really enjoyed working with the other members of the community, committee and also local staff,” Park said. “They’re all really passionate people and work hard for the AAPI community.”

Jung said that there will be a gala on May 22 at the Hood Museum including a Pan Asian Community awards ceremony and stole presentation. Jung added that the final and largest event of AAPIHM will be a moderated virtual discussion with poet and essayist Cathy Hong Park to be held on May 13 at 5:30 p.m. Park is the author of New York Times bestseller “Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning,” a collection of essays about Asian American identity.

“I highly recommend [“Minor Feelings”] if you’re interested at all in Asian American studies or in race. It’s also just a really funny, entertaining book,” Jung said. “Karen [Zheng] and I will be talking to her, and there will be space for audience questions, and I think it will generally be a good time.”

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