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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

AAA Month helps students find their place on campus

Asian American Awareness Month’s theme is social media, culminating in a photo campaign in which all students tell their stories.

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David Freyermuth/Graphic Designer

April 23, 2014

During Asian American Awareness Month, Victoria Yu wants to make one thing very clear: the U.S. is made up of many diverse cultures.

The Asian American Association, of which Yu is president, has planned many events and programs over the month with the goal of educating and raising awareness about Asian Americans, including their many cultures and issues. One of these events is an all-inclusive photo campaign.

“We had this goal in mind to do a campaign of some sort just to make campus aware about Asian Americans, and so we thought AAA month would be the perfect time to do it,” Yu said. “Photo campaigns have become really popular, so we wanted to go with that idea. We wanted students to be able to share anything about their stories, families, histories, stereotypes or any discrimination or experiences they’ve had.”

Grace Chung, the organization’s webmaster, said that the campaign presents everyone’s stories in the shape of an iPhone texting conversation to stay relevant with the month’s theme of social media.

“Everyone has a story, and we want them to be able to communicate that,” Chung said. “Community is definitely something we emphasize and hold dear. Even if you aren’t Asian American, these are still relevant issues about civil rights.”

According to Chung, the organization’s events are for all interested students but focus on issues related to Asian Americans. In the past, Chung said, speakers have been brought in to talk about topics such as microaggressions and LGBT issues.

“AAA gets a huge budget from the diversity fee, which is actually a portion of the student fees that all students pay, and throughout this month we’re inviting speakers,” Chung said. “We had Phil Yu, who has a blog called ‘Angry Asian Man,’ (on April 8).”

At the organization’s general body meeting on April 10, attendees were split up into groups to talk about their own stories. Their programming director, Danny Poon thinks the discussions helped everyone work together to create a better understanding.

“Just like every other culture, I think we have something to offer,” Poon said. “You can easily see how each culture is affected by other cultures, and the U.S. is kind of a mixture of a bunch of different backgrounds, so just being able to learn and open up our mindsets will help us work together.”

Yu agreed that recognizing diversity and all of the different groups that make up MU is an important step in accepting people of all backgrounds.

AAA acts as an umbrella organization with seven organizations underneath, and has monthly general body meetings, but also hosts winter and spring banquets at the end of each semester. According to Poon, a lot of the events focus on Asian traditions.

“We have Asian Street Market on Lowry Mall, and we also have the Thanksgiving potluck, which helps bring all of the umbrella groups together and the Lunar New Year, which introduces the Lunar calendar that most South and East Asians go by,” Poon said. “We try to bring a little bit of Asian culture here, which can include food, music and crafts.”

In many AAA events, Yu said, international students represent a large portion of the community. The organization serves as the umbrella for other groups like the Missouri International Students Council and Korean Students Association.

“A lot of international students attend our meetings and are part of our communities, but in terms of AAA, a lot of people hear about our events from their friends and join,” Yu said. “It adds more to our organization, because we are open to all, and the more diverse we are the more we can learn from everyone.”

Chung thinks that emphasizing individuality is the key to AAA month.

“Not all Asians are the same,” Chung said. “We can be first-generation or second-generation (Americans), or first-generation college students, or we might not have been born here, but we want to show that we are all individual people.”

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