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UW-Eau Claire to celebrate Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Month

| Denise Olson

Photo caption: At the 2018 Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Month celebration, groups of students and community members gathered to enjoy music, dancing and martial arts demonstrations on the campus mall.

Throughout the remainder of the spring semester, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Office of Multicultural Affairs will host events in recognition of Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Month.

Several virtual and outdoor in-person events are planned to educate, entertain and provide valuable resources to students, faculty and staff.

Historically, May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese immigrants to the U.S. and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad for which Chinese immigrants played a significant role as laborers.

Charles Vue, associate director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, helps to frame the general significance of this annual celebration, and to place its current importance relative to recent anti-Asian sentiments and crimes.

“We invite all Asian Pacific Islander students, faculty and staff to take part in these events — now is a time to stand up and show our pride in being Asian and end part of the stereotyping,” Vue says. “There is an old belief that Asian Americans are passive and prefer to stay to themselves. Not taking active participation in fun celebrations like this one, which demonstrate our pride in our heritage, just perpetuates that falsehood.”

Vue hopes the events will gain momentum even in a largely virtual format since the celebration was a new campus event in 2019.

“We’ve had just one full-scale in-person series, back in 2019,” Vue says. “Attendance was good, and we had plans to really expand participation, but COVID-19 forced our next event to be only online.”

Against the backdrop of the unfortunate rise in anti-Asian racism, Vue says hopes this celebration will offer solidarity and support to APIA students, faculty and staff, while also providing more education to the community about the importance of not overgeneralizing all APIA people as one “Asian” identity.

“Our planning committee for this event series includes Hmong, Chinese, Vietnamese and other Pacific Islander identities — each ethnicity brings unique things to highlight,” Vue says.  

The planning committee was assembled by OMA intern Christine Ngo Le, a junior biochemistry/molecular biology and psychology double major from Germantown, who knew the importance of a diverse committee for this celebration. 

“I gathered diverse student volunteers with interest in planning these events,” Le says. “We wanted to consider all the various ideas of what students would want to see and include — many interesting ideas came from our collaboration.”

As an intern at OMA, Le is grateful for the unique opportunity to lead the efforts in coordinating this last cultural celebration of the academic year.

“During Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Month, it is important to demonstrate the ways in which false and negative stereotypes have led to our community being overlooked and underappreciated,” Le says. “The APIA community is extremely diverse and impactful — and responsible for major contributions in many aspects of society.” 

Schedule of events

Wednesday, April 28, 8 p.m.: Outdoor Film: ‘Parasite’
  • Screening will be held outside of Governors Hall beginning at 8 p.m.
  • Bring a blanket and enjoy this 2020 Academy Award Best Picture film, a South Korean dark comedy thriller.
  • Starcup Bubble Tea and snacks provided
  • RSVP at SignupGenius.
Friday, April 30, 3-4 p.m.: Virtual Fashion Show
  • Learn more about and appreciate the diverse cultures of APIA communities through their respective fashions.
  • Event will showcase cultural clothing and ceremonial outfits from various Asian and Pacific Islander enthicities, explaining the history of each.
  • Virtual event via Zoom; find meeting ID on the OMA programs website.
May 3-7, 5 p.m.: Virtual Trivia Games
  • Test your knowledge of Asian and Pacific Islander pop culture topics.
  • Daily 30-minute rounds of trivia will be offered.
  • Prizes will be awarded for each round, with a grand prize to end the week.
  • Virtual event via Zoom; find meeting ID on the OMA programs website.
Wednesday, May 5, 4-5 p.m.: Virtual Blugold Dialogue
  • Join in this important discussion around the revitalization of APIA identity.
  • A panel will address the recent wave of anti-Asian racism, a pervasive problem stemming from continually racialized associations of APIA identity which exacerbate long-standing stereotypes and discrimination.
  • Virtual event via Zoom; find meeting ID on the OMA programs website.

Panel member Dr. Catherine Chan, executive director of the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, says she is pleased to be part of the Blugold Dialogue, which she describes as a timely and valuable discussion. She places significant meaning in the annual tradition of the APIA Heritage Month celebration, she says.

“It is important to provide a space and time to celebrate the heritage of students, staff and faculty who identify as Asian and Pacific Islander Americans,” Chan says. “It is a time to come together and celebrate who we are and embrace something that is larger than our individual selves.”

Chan understands the impact faculty and staff can have on student identity journeys and considers that opportunity to be sacred among her campus roles.

“Students learn best in a positive social environment where they feel safe, and their identities are affirmed and supported,” Chan says. “I have always felt that it is an important part of my job as a member of the campus community.”

That role is even more important at this time in American history, Chan says.

“Recent anti-Asian events remind us that there is lots to be gained if we can collectively work toward a better understanding and recognition of the multitude of identities within the APIA community,” Chan says. “This Blugold Dialogue event provides a forum to have this conversation on campus and continue to move forward on this important work.”

Friday, May 7, 3-6:00 p.m.: Kite Festival
  • The final event of APIAHM, this festival will take place on Towers Field.
  • Design your own kite and let it fly.
  • Enjoy a variety of yard games: kendama, hacky sack, Chinese jianzi, giant bubbles and tinkling.
  • Competitions and prizes throughout the event.

For more information about Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Month events, contact OMA@uwec.edu or student organizer Christine Ngo Le at lecn4228@uwec.edu.