APIDA Heritage Month Succeeds Despite Pandemic

Students celebrate APIDA Heritage Month

Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Heritage Month, nationally recognized in May, celebrates the collective accomplishments, stories and experiences of those from Asian, Pacific Islander and Desi heritage. During APIDA Heritage month, we pay tribute to the generations of APIDA-identified individuals who have had an impact on American society, history, and culture.

Here at NC State, we celebrate APIDA Heritage month from Mar. 15 to Apr. 15 to provide a time to honor it without the stress of final exams and commencement. Multicultural Student Affairs organizes the celebration in partnership with various APIDA-serving student organizations through supervision of the planning committee, selection of the theme and facilitation of some of the month’s signature events.

In selecting a theme, the student planning committee took inspiration from the desire to highlight the depths of their lives beyond stereotypes or what is portrayed in the media. Their stories are anything but surface-level. The resulting theme was “Our Story: Unraveled.” The APIDA community contains many histories that weave together to make a beautiful tapestry known as “Asian,” but what happens when you unravel them to learn about each thread?

For this year’s 2020 Asian Pacific Islander Desi American month, we adjusted our plans in response to current COVID-19 safety measures. Regardless of location, the Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity invited the campus community to participate in the celebration.

Highlights from the Month

On Apr. 6, 2020, we hosted our first-ever virtual keynote address. Amy Zhong, founder and executive director of Adopteen, joined us from Colorado via Zoom to share her story and experience within the adoption world. Our campus community had the opportunity to learn more about the nuances of this often overlooked lived experience for so many children from around the world. We were particularly inspired by Zhong’s dedication to creating a place for adopted youth to find a sense of belonging and pride in their history.

Our colleague Victor Betts, NC State Libraries fellow from the Special Collections Resource Center, officially launched the university’s Asian and Asian American Historical Timeline. He first began this archival research project in the summer of 2019 to highlight the often unknown or forgotten history of Asians and Asian Americans at NC State and the American South. We are thrilled to see the impact our community has had on the NC State story and hope to continue to fill in the gaps by incorporating more stories from our student groups. If you would like to contribute to this project, please contact Victor Betts.

In direct response to the increasing xenophobia and discrimination against Asian and Asian Americans, second-year student Mina Ouanvilay wrote an editorial denouncing the inappropriate backlash occurring during the pandemic. Ouanvilay summarized the current state of affairs and expressed the dangers of stereotypes.

Finally, Multicultural Student Affairs hosted two virtual workshops during the final week of APIDA Heritage Month to help create space for students to relieve stress with a local wellness advocate, Reena Gupta. Pulling from her own life experiences as a South Asian woman raised in North Carolina, Gupta has first-hand experience managing the expectations placed on her due to her multiple and often competing identities. On Apr. 14, she hosted a discussion sharing tips on how to best manage the unique stresses of simultaneously having to deal with the fatigue of being seen as a “model minority” and navigating virtual learning. On Apr. 16, Gupta came back to give stress relief via movement. As an experienced choreographer and instructor, she hosted a Bollywood dance lesson to get our heart rates up from the comfort of our homes.

Although we were not able to host our signature annual events such as the kick-off in the lobby of Talley Student Union, or our growing Asian Night Market, we are grateful to the committee for their tireless efforts and contributions to our campus year-round. Thank you to the following organizations for their commitment to our celebration:

Marcela Torres-Cervantes is assistant director of community outreach and engagement in Multicultural Student Affairs.