To kick off Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, Andover’s Asian Society hosted their annual Celebr-Asian event on May 1.
The co-heads of Asian Society, Ryan Mai ’21 and Alex Park ’21, organized Celebr-Asian alongside Aya Murata, Associate Director of College Counseling, who specifically coordinated the RUN4AAPI event. The celebration also consisted of lantern making in The Nest, a talent show in the Hale Tent, and a Gati Thai Bistro dinner.
“Celebr-Asian is a celebration of our Asian identity, especially on campus where we can have performances like these, where we can celebrate our collective talent and identity and come together as a community. I think following a lot of the recent AAPI hate crimes, it’s also good to come together as a community to be together,” said Mai.
This year, Mai and Park worked to plan the event despite new challenges that arose due to the pandemic. In particular, they worked with the Rebecca M. Sykes Wellness Center and the Community and Multicultural Development Office (CaMD) to organize a fun dinner while also following the campus’ Covid-19 protocols.
Mai said, “This dinner is very important to us because I know that there have been a lot of complex regulations that have gone into making food safe and accessible on campus, and I know that a lot of the catering and a lot of the options for off campus food have been scaled back this year because the school wants to make sure everything is safe for all the students. We were very happy to get clearance from the [Rebecca M. Sykes Wellness Center] and work in collaboration with the Community and Multicultural Development Office, especially [LaShawn Springer, Director of CaMD] to organize a Gati Thai Bistro catering event.”
Another activity, lantern making, was facilitated by The Nest and gave participants the opportunity to build and design their own lanterns.
“We wanted to do something that was more arts and crafts. So, we reached out to [The Nest] and they provided the space. Someone was helping us make the lanterns and teaching us how to do it with the materials. It was really fun to do that,” said Park.
Stephanie Li ’24 found the activity enjoyable and thought it was meaningful to make something related to Asian culture.
“I think the lantern making activity was really fun. I like how it incorporates Asian culture, although lanterns are more of a mid autumn kind of thing, but it’s really fun,” said Li.
Alice Fan ’23 and Frank Zhou ’22, among others who participated in the run, found this event to be an opportunity to celebrate their Asian identity and thought it was a great way to show solidarity in times of rising hate towards the AAPI community.
“Especially with all of the current events happening and more visible Asian hate on the rise, I think it’s really important to show up. And instead of trying to hide your Asian identity, to really be proud of it and celebrate it. So that’s why I wanted to participate in the CelebrAsian event,” said Fan.
“Especially in light of this year, the events in March, and the continued reckoning of race relations in the nation, there’s this tremendous demand for every single racial group to look into itself and say ‘What is here? What can we celebrate? What are we in the first place?’” said Zhou.
Zhou continued, “Events like Celebr-Asian explicitly center that celebration part and it’s all the more heartening to see Andover students and faculty rally around similar events and understand that there’s a community here, and that that community extends beyond your immediate friend group and into the AAPI faculty that we were able to see at the run for the AAPI event and throughout the Celebr-Asian programming later in the day. So I think that is at the heart of the importance, realizing that there is a community in which you belong.”
Mai agrees with Zhou and thinks the event allowed participants to connect with one another and find belonging within the AAPI community at Andover.
Mai said, “Even though sometimes the Asian community here feels so big, it can also sometimes feel not that big and not that connected. Events like Celebr-Asian, although it’s only once a year, is a reminder to us that we have all these fellow Asian students on campus who share our identity, who share our experiences even though sometimes they’re not exactly the same. It is a way for us to build community, to connect, make new friends, and just overall have a great time.”