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AAPI visibility week highlights healing, culture within the community

Multiple student organizations teamed up in order to celebrate the College’s first Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Visibility Week.

The Asian American Student Union (ASU), Chinese Culture Club, DVINE Entertainment, Korean Culture Association, Political Awareness Committee (PAC), Team Tibet! and the Wellness Center, organized the week spanning from May 3 to May 9.

Organizers for the event were influenced by the increase of anti-Asian sentiment that has occurred throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The recent violence against the  AAPI community such as the March 16 Atlanta shooting, in which eight people were shot, six of them being Asian women was also a catalyst for the week’s conception.

“[This week] was created over recent acts of violence, especially the Atlanta shooting,” said organizer Amos Shiau ’21 during an AAPI event on May 4. “We organized this week as a solidarity week, to be heard and seen.”

Organizers Nina Vang ’21, Shiau Helen Vu ’21, Clare Wongwai ’22, Christina Zen ’22, Nina Vo ’22, Kana Araya-Kjeseth ’23, Anna Brown ’23, Anja Dulin ’23 and Kathleen Hoiriis ’24 created a series of events that focused on healing, education, cultural pride, accountability and dismantling white supremacy.

The first event, hosted by Drs. Melissa Brzycki from Monmouth University and Stephanie Montgomery, assistant professor of history and Asian studies at St. Olaf hosted the event, titled “Confronting Anti-Asian Racism.” The event, which took place on May 4 focused on discussing an episode of their podcast, “East Asia For All,” which directly responded to the Atlanta shooting. After introductions, the group discussed how white people confront anti-Asian racism in all its forms, including reflecting, reframing and educating themselves on AAPI history in the United States.

“For this episode specifically, our audience is white people,” Brzycki said.

Assistant Professor of Music Rehanna Kheshgi,  and Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion Kelly Figueroa-Ray, hosted “From Statement to Steps.” An event that catered to a white audience. The hosts put those in attendance into breakout rooms in order to discuss accountability and the practical steps that the audience could take in order to dismantle anti-Asian racism in their own communities.

Carlos Gallego, associate professor of English, spoke on May 6 in a segment called “The Violence of White Nationalist Ideologies.” In this talk, Gallego spoke about the intellectual ideologies of white supremacy and neo-Nazism that influence active terrorists to commit violent atrocities, all of which stem from racist rhetoric.

Tenzin Dorjee ’21 hosted Tibetan Trivia Night on May 7, where four participants won Tibetan-themed prizes.

The AAPI Cultural Showcase took place on May 8 in front of Boe Chapel. The showcase celebrated  AAPI culture, including fashion, songs and dances.

“With the AAPI community, there is a lot of shame growing up that comes with wanting to express your culture to your peers, especially your white peers,” Brown said. “So the showcase is a way for people to be proud of their culture and their heritage and for people to share their story with other students on campus.”

The event also allowed students to address the dangerous situation in India, where many people are dying of COVID-19.

“The COVID crisis that India is facing right now is grim and devastating in every way possible,” Joash Daneil ’23 said to the crowd. “While things start to open up and more people get vaccinated here in Minnesota — in the USA — India is past its breaking point with a debilitated healthcare system and a government that has not taken any measures in response to the second wave.”

A statement was also made by participants regarding anti-Asian sentiment at St. Olaf.

AAPI Visibility Week concluded on May 9 with an event titled “Radical Healing for the AAPI Community,” which highlighted coping strategies and interactive practice. ww

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