Onigiri, red bean mochi soup, lumpia, spring rolls and kalua pork, all arranged neatly on tables adorned with red tablecloths. Smells of food wafted through the Health, Wellness and Athletic Center Special Events Room as people lined up to get a plate of each dish — this was the scene at the Asian American and Pacific Islander Life program’s Night Market, held Nov. 18.
Organized by members of the AAPI program board, including program coordinator and senior biology major Erika Minoshima, the market highlighted the diversity of cultures within the AAPI group.
“It was a way bigger turnout than I expected,” Minoshima said. “It was really a team effort […] everyone put in a lot of effort and thought into what they would bring.”
Face-to-face socializing wasn’t the only benefit of having an AAPI event in-person since the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to AAPI board member and aviation management alum Jonathan Huang. Huang said his hope was for the market to help break down Asian stereotypes.
“[The AAPI program is] bringing awareness and trying to network people together,” Huang said. “Which is really beneficial, especially during times like the pandemic where being an Asian American, you do get thrown under the bus quite a bit in the public.”
Huang said the support group created by the AAPI program’s work is amazing.
“It’s a safe space and brings awareness to the problems that people, like those in the AAPI [program], are facing in their lives to campus,” Huang said.
Sisi Chen, AAPI board member and first-year graduate student in the family nurse practitioner program, said she hoped sharing cultures could make people more comfortable with those different from them.
“We wanted […] to increase the acceptance and awareness of different cultures instead of being uncomfortable — like with another person’s accent, and stuff like that,” Chen said. “I think simple things like this will help decrease that [discomfort].”
A sense of cultural belonging for members of the AAPI community was another goal of the event according to Kathleen Nguyen, AAPI board member and senior neuroscience major.
“It gives a comfort space for students who are a part of the AAPI community — especially international students — since they’re away from their homes,” Nguyen said. “I think it’s important for them to know that there is a community here.”
Food as a form of comfort and community was a theme at the market, according to Chen.
“Just sharing the joy of different types of food, because food brings comfort, and it brings happiness,” Chen said. “I think it helps to make the environment more inclusive.”
The AAPI Life program was founded in 2019, but Nguyen said COVID-19 had a big impact on the group while classes were online.
“It’s hard to spread awareness and have engagement, so having an event like this, and future events, is pretty important,” Nguyen said. “I really just hope that [people] know that our program is up and running, and hopefully we can have more people join the group.”
The AAPI will continue to hold events during the Spring semester —including a Lunar New Year Celebration —and hope to increase involvement with the program, according to program coordinator and senior biology major Erika Minoshima. Minoshima said they are looking for underclass students to take over the program coordinator position, and to join the board as many of the current members are seniors.
Minoshima said cultural events are important to showcase campus diversity.
“I’d say there’s significance in a lot of ways,” Minoshima said. “Definitely to bring a sense of diversity to the campus, but I would say this event is also more cultural and just showing our diverse backgrounds.”
Nguyen said having the program open to everyone is important to her as well.
“Especially during COVID with the Asian hate going around, I think it’s important to just let anyone know that we’re here for them, the program is open for everyone, even if they just want to learn the cultures and just hang out with us and learn anything,” Nguyen said. “That’s what I really want to do.”