Asian cultures alive at the U

Thirteen student organizations came together to celebrate Asian cultures.

Coffman Union Great Hall was filled with the smells, sights and sounds of Asian cultures this weekend.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Committee on Friday put on the fourth-annual Taste of Asia to welcome the beginning of April.

On Saturday the Asian American Student Union had its last event to finalize spring conference week and brought headlining comedian Dat Phan, who was the first winner of Comedy Central’s “Last Comic Standing,” to campus.

To celebrate the beginning of Asian Pacific American heritage month the 13 organizations under the Asian American Student Union came together to celebrate their cultures.

On Friday students ate food donated by local Asian restaurants, student-artists displayed their artwork and several students performed musical acts.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Committee President Ridhima Kapoor said the group tried to shift the focus of this year’s Taste of Asia event to include more diverse aspects.

Every hour new cuisine from a different region of Asia was brought in. There were new performers this year and a crafts section was added so students were able to do hands-on art.

At the face-painting booth art sophomore Latanyua Gordon had the Chinese calligraphy word strong painted on her hand.

Gordon said she has been interested in Chinese art and culture for many years and is taking Chinese language courses at the University.

“Events like these provide supplemental learning on campus,” she said.

Albert Leung, public relations senior and president of the Chinese American Student Association, helped interested students write calligraphy.

People who were looking for a challenge, he said, tried to write entire phrases in Chinese.

Leung said the event helped to bring the different Asian organizations together for not just a day, but for the entire month of April.

“This month is something that brings all our cultures together, but it is only a small sliver of what is very significant in our culture,” he said.

Although the organizations share some parts of their culture, Leung said, overall the groups are very diverse.

Asian American Student Union President Jimmy Haung said Saturday’s event brought together all the organizations in celebration of their similarities, but also in recognition of their differences.

“We want people to walk away with a sense that it is not an inclusive group, but we have a very diverse group of members,” he said.

Christopher Em, electrical engineering sophomore and Minnesota Student Association representative for Asian American Student Union, said the event’s message of spreading the culture is important for all students.

“America is a melting pot of cultures,” Em said. “Personally, I feel it’s important to understand the country we live in.”

Andrew Lee, mechanical engineering sophomore, said he wanted to volunteer at the event to spread the culture and have people learn about it.

“This is ASU’s biggest event of the year – a mix of good food and good people,” Lee said.

Richard Lee, associate professor of psychology, attended the event and was the keynote speaker.

In a speech addressing the audience, Lee stressed the importance of finding their identities and asking questions regarding their origins.

“Many of you are refugees, immigrants and adoptees, and a lot of times all you have of your past is what your parents tell you and records,” he said.

Lee said that sometimes documents are lost and stories of the past are inaccurate or made up.

“It’s your responsibility to ask questions and share stories,” he said. “It’s your responsibility to be the voice of your parents and the people who cannot speak for themselves.”

The night’s finale was Dat Phan’s comedic performance addressing racial issues.

Phan said he frequently comes in contact with Asian student governments and enjoys performing for them.

He uses these types of events to talk about racial stereotypes in a different manner, he said.

“The way I deal with racism is not to take it too seriously,” he said. “I use comedy to address racism, and not violence and hate.”