Students met Tuesday, Nov. 29, for a Flag Festival in Stamp that facilitated conversations with Asian-American Pacific Islander students, discussing both the joys and the hardships they’ve experienced through their ethnicity.
The event, which was coordinated by AAPI intern Gabriel Vallangca for the Multicultural Involvement and Community Advocacy office, connected volunteers from AAPI backgrounds with students who came to learn. Vallangca handed out a list of possible questions and students circled the room to have one-on-one conversations with the volunteers.
The volunteers sat at different stations with flags attached to their chair representing their nationalities and ethnicities. Students asked questions like “What are some traditions you love?” and “Have you experienced any racial actions towards you?”
“My goal was to make people have a better understanding of what it means to be an AAPI,” Vallangca said. “I want them to realize that being an AAPI there are instances where we struggle throughout history and felt proud getting through that struggle.”
The volunteers opened up about their childhood growing up in the United States as minorities.
“I grew up in Los Angeles, with the largest Korean population in the U.S.” volunteer Sarah Lim said. “It’s focused on family and community because we were able to create an ethnic enclave, and when people in the community see that others need help they are willing to give it.”
Volunteer Kristen Liu, who is Chinese and Japanese, has gotten in touch with her culture more recently than Lim. Growing up, her culture blended with American culture, she said.
“It’s kind of hard because I don’t feel as strong a connection because my parents were raised to assimilate and think ‘You are American,’” she said, “It’s secondhand, but I learn a lot about it from other people.”
Volunteers discussed instances of racism and micro-aggressions from both strangers and friends. Lim recalled a time she passed a man on the street who yelled at her to “Go back to where she came from.”
Liu described “little annoying things” that come from even her friends, like insensitively asking, “What are you?” She was never taught to speak neither Chinese nor Japanese, but said people still assume she can.
Senior Carolina Parra attended the event to get a better understanding of cultural differences. She wanted to hear different perspectives to relate to a diversity class she is taking, she said.
“Even though everyone is so different and comes from different places, we kind of all go through the same thing coming from a diverse background,” Parra said. “I can relate to how some people’s families still live in another country. It’s things like that that tie you together, even when you’re so different.”