Bridging borders: Bringing Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month to SIU

By Brey Mong-Delane, @BreyMong_DE

SIU kicked off Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month last week by engaging students in activities to learn about and experience the culture of the people to raise awareness of diversity on campus.

“We try to cover a wide range of different Asian culture activities in the month from Indian, Pakistan, Japanese and also Chinese,” said Vivian Chen, a senior from Hong Kong studying accounting and management. “We aim to introduce various and well-covered cultures and backgrounds and also encourage interactions among students.”

There were 220 Asian/Asian-American and 15 Pacific Islander students enrolled at the university last year, according to the 2014-2015 SIU Factbook.

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“The definition of Asian-American expands beyond a single ethnicity, language, history or religion,” said Nicholas Vang, a senior from Seattle studying health education. “This month allows students to expand their knowledge on what it means to be Asian or Pacific Islander. We want others to see, embrace and experience our vast differences.”

Vang is helping facilitate the April 26 viewing of “Fresh off the Boat: The Asian-American Journey,” a film that challenges what it means to be Asian-American, Vang said. 

Students can also attend “A Symbol of China: Calligraphy” on Wednesday and “Race, Gender, and Religion: The Path of a Pastor” on Thursday at the Student Center.

“We refer to the glass ceiling as the bamboo ceiling here,” Chen said. “A lot of times, the issues that Asians and Pacific Islanders are encountering in the workplace are usually undermined and neglected by society due to myths.”

She said one of the myths is that Asian employees usually earn more than other people in the same field. 

Chen said she held a discussion Tuesday about why there aren’t many Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders in managerial or CEO positions. 

Other key events taking place this month are Henna Tattoos on Saturday and April 20 and a Sushi Workshop on April 19. Both events offer a hands-on experience into their culture.

Dante Basco, who voiced ‘Prince Zuko’ in “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” will speak April 21 about challenges he faced as an Asian-American actor in Hollywood.

Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month events are hosted by the Center of Inclusive Excellence.

Brey Mong-Delane can be reached at [email protected] or 618-536-3329. 

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