A number of events at the University of Arizona this month have been coordinated to broaden people’s understanding of Asian culture while acknowledging diversity within the Asian Pacific American community.
In honor of Asian Pacific Heritage Month, which is generally celebrated in May, members of the UA community throughout April have been learning about the contributions of Asians and Pacific Islanders.
This year's theme, “Influencing Movement," was selected to focus on the accomplishments and activities of Asian Pacific Americans while also bringing attention to pressing issues within the communities.
In addition to highlighting what they're doing in their respective communities, many of this month's events are geared toward breaking stereotypes, such as the “model minority” myth.
The term “model minority” generally refers to stereotypical perceptions about Asians, particularly that they are more likely than other people of color to be well-educated, have successful careers and generally do to well in life.
Dan Xayaphanh, program director for UA Asian Pacific American Student Affairs, or APASA, said another aspect of the model minority myth is the tendency to “lump” all Asian and Pacific Islanders into one category as though they are represented as one group with the same characteristics.
But Asian Pacific is a very broad term meant to encompass the diverse and numerous cultures and peoples of the entire Asian continent and the Pacific Islands including the islands of Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia.
Students involved want the message at the end of the month to be that they are proud of their heritage but that ethnicity is only one of way of defining a person and people should not be limited by stereotypes.
Upcoming events include the the first annual Taste of Asia event April 30 and May 1 at the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center, 1288 W. River Road, with food, live performances and activities. Admission is $3, and the event will be held 4-9 p.m. on the first day and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on the second.
Mariel Martinez, a UA Honors College student and sophomore studying physics and nursing, said she was particularly excited about the Taste of Asia event.
"Food itself is a big part of culture,” Martinez said, adding that cuisine can be informative about values.
“You can learn a lot, not just from the food they eat but the preparations and how much effort they put into their food," said Martinez, who also is a member of APASA board of directors.
Michael Ego, associate vice provost at the University of Connecticut, will give the keynote address, "Relocating Asian American Studies." He will discuss the internment experience of Japanese Americans and how that history served as the impetus for Asian American studies progrmas and centers. The event will be held from noon to 1 p.m. April 30 in Room 110 of Old Main.
“At our University we don’t have Asian American studies, and I think that would be a good way of learning about it," Xayaphanh said.
The month's events will culminate May 1 with APASA’s annual Lotus Laureate, a ceremony that will commemorate and give personal recognition to APA students attending the UA. The event will be held 6:30-9 p.m. in the South Ballroom of the Student Union Memorial Center.
“It really wraps up everything and puts a bow tie on it” said Naweed Sherzada, a senior studying physics and chemistry, who is also an APASA intern.
Both Xayaphanh and the students stressed that these events are for the entire University and broader Tucson community.