Every April, Indiana University celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPIM), honoring the contributions of people of Asian descent and the history of Asian people in this country. Traditionally observed in May, the month is celebrated in April to ensure students, staff, and faculty can experience the month before the summer break.
This year is the first in-person AAPIHM celebration since the pandemic. Melanie Castillo-Cullather, director of the Asian Culture Center (ACC), notes, "We've come to learn that some events work effectively in a virtual format and others work best in person. Regardless of the structure, though, we realize how imperative it is to raise awareness of the pressing issues and concerns confronting the AAPI community. Even more so today, especially with the increase of anti-Asian hate incidents and violence.
"It has been an interesting experience for me to work on in-person events since I started working at the ACC in the midst of the pandemic," Kevin Czachura, an ACC graduate assistant, says. "The planning process is similar, but not the same. Instead of planning the technological set-up, ensuring strong Internet connections, and considering ways to defend against Zoom-bombers, we need to think about how much food we need and which venue we will use. The pandemic still affects our events, requiring us to consider the ventilation, space for social distancing, and when people can eat. However, it is refreshing to see people in person! Zoom fatigue is real, and I think everyone is ready to go back to in-person events."
This year, Indiana University Bloomington's theme for AAPIM is IU Renew and Rebuild: Our Communities and Beyond. Junior Audrey Lee—one of the many students who helped create the month's programming—says, "This theme comes as a response to the COVID-related negativity recently expressed towards Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI). There was a huge shift in which AAPI issues our community cared about, and we wanted to address how we can best continue our activism during the pandemic." Lee says they hope to start a conversation on how these issues affect all underserved communities and the importance of allyship with this theme.
The month kicks off on March 31 with a panel discussion titled "Our AAPI Stories: The Impact of Our Culture, Experiences, and Sense of Worth?" Castillo-Cullather states, "There is so much ambiguity, misperception, and lack of understanding of the AAPI community. And often these misperceptions are reflected in practices and policies that often lead to the exclusion of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders from the conversation table. By sharing stories, we hope that this will break down any of these impediments to truly learning, accepting, and advocating for the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders here at IU and beyond. We hope that our stories will inspire and rouse people to continue to act and advocate for members of the AAPI community."
Additionally, the Asian Culture Center will host its first short film festival at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater on April 7. IU freshman Katelyn Wo, the co-chair of the film festival committee, says, "I enjoyed discovering up and coming Asian filmmakers from all over the country and choosing pieces that we thought would fit with this year's theme. Films are an incredible way to dive into other people's lives and cultures, witness the Asian American experience, bring understanding and healing to the AAPI community in Bloomington, and celebrate these young filmmakers and their art. I cannot wait for people to get to see it!"
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is an excellent opportunity for the entire IU community to learn more about the diverse cultures across the Asian diaspora and enjoy some great activities and events. Please visit the events calendar located on the Asian Culture Center's website for a complete list of events.