My Asian Identity educates, promotes awareness of Asian cultures

Valparaiso University’s Asian American Pacific Islander Coalition (AAPIC) hosted their annual My Asian Identity event. The event was held in Ballroom A of the Harre Union from 6:00-7:00 p.m. on Dec.1.

According to AAPIC’s myValpo page My Asian Identity was core approved event where “a panel of students and a guest panelist discuss the Asian American experience.”

The panel featured Maggie Yavarski, AAPIC President, Dana DelaCruz, AAPIC Vice President, and Jenny Tam, who is a student at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.

“She is a student at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. And she met Dana DelaCruz at MAASU [Maasu Midwest Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Students Union] Fall 2019 Conference which is basically a Midwestern Asian American Pacific Islander Conference for the Midwest. And so she was her leader and Dana reached out to Jenny to be a speaker for this event because we wanted to bring somebody new, somebody who had a different experience than we did, who goes to school in a bigger city,” Yavarski said. 

While this event is held every year, the panel aspect of it is new. 

“We do My Asian Identity every year, but the reason we wanted to do it panel style is because before we only did a PowerPoint lecture, but we also wanted it to be interactive,” Yavarski said. “We wanted to give different backgrounds to people who don’t know a lot about Asian American culture and for people who are just not exposed to minority culture in general and we also wanted it to be lighthearted, fun and also serious at the same time.”

The panel discussed the pros and cons that come with their Asian identities. 

“And basically we explained a lot about the pros about having multicultural families and also having different backgrounds compared to our other friends. We also explained the cons and about microaggressions and what we can do better to help deconstruct those microaggressions,” Yavarski said. 

According to Merriam-Webster, a microaggression is “a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority).”

Yavarski explained the pros of her Asian identity. 

“So the pros of being Asian, in my opinion, would be getting exposed to my native language which is Mandarin, getting exposed to my culture, getting to know other people who are [of] similar cultures as I am or different cultures that are under the AAPI community umbrella and getting to know, since I was adopted, getting to know about my culture in a very different way than my friends have who are immigrants. And the pro also is that I enjoy the food and the dress of my culture as well,” Yavarski said. 

According to Yavarski, there has been low attendance at AAPIC’s general meetings, and she hopes that the My Asian Identity event is able to educate more people about Asian culture.

“The cons would be that a lot of people just aren’t interested to know what the Asian cultures are.” Yavarski said.

The event also provided attendees with the chance to experience Asian culture through food. 

“We ordered food from Teriyaki Madness and catered them because we thought that it would be a really good chance to expose people who haven’t had a lot of Chinese or Japanese fusion food. We wanted it to be a fusion just because it’s My Asian Identities so we wanted to encompass a lot of the Asian elements and we also wanted to do it in the food as well,” Yavarski said. 

Yavarski feels that the event was a success. 

“It turned out really nicely. Almost every single chair was filled. Everybody took a ton of food and everybody loved the food and they loved what we all had to say,” Yavarski said. 

She hopes that the event served to educate the community about Asian culture. 

“The goal was to educate the greater Valparaiso University community and the Valparaiso community about being Asian in a time during COVID-19 and even before then, and how a lot of our issues were not really put to light until after COVID-19 really brought to the surface violence against Asians,” Yavarski said. 

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