Brower Student Center came alive last Thursday, Nov. 1, with the colorful sights and sounds and enticing aromas of Asia as the College’s Asian American Association (AAA) kicked off “Experience Asia,” a month-long series of events dedicated to educating and expanding appreciation of the Asian culture here at the College, with its annual opening ceremony and multicultural buffet.
Students waited in a line that wrapped around the student center for a chance to sample an assortment of traditional Asian cuisine from the evening’s all-you-can-eat buffet. For those new to some of the more exotic dishes available, members of AAA offered explanations as they generously piled some of their own favorite selections onto the crowd’s platters, making the $3 entrance fee well-worth it.
The enthusiastic crowd finished off the buffet within two hours, much to the delight of the night’s organizers who couldn’t believe the huge turnout and huge appetites of those in attendance. Beatrice Kwok, sophomore English and history major and newsletter chair for AAA, was grateful for the opportunity to let some of her fellow classmates sample her traditional foods and see that “We use the same ingredients, we just cook it a different way.”
As the crowd munched on samosas, naan and lo mein, they were treated to a performance by jazz/R&B singer Kevin So, who played selections from his upcoming album, “A Brighter Day,” as well as some old crowd favorites such as “Porn Star” and “Sexy Asian Man,” which proclaimed that “the Asian man is the new fetish.” Even those unfamiliar with So were won over by his humor and laid-back demeanor, often joining in on the choruses and jokingly shouting out requests for “Freebird.”
Not only was the buffet a chance to enjoy some delicious food, listen to music and mingle with friends, but it also hopefully broke down some of the racial stereotypes that are all too common in our society. Kevin So, the night’s performer, echoed these sentiments, saying, “Don’t be afraid. Asian-Americans are human too, we might look different but we have a lot more in common than you might think. We share the same joys, cry the same tears, laugh at the same jokes . We’re more alike than we are different.”
So feels that it is fear that causes so many to keep to our own racial groups. He admits that while it is scary being the only white person or the only Asian in a room full of people who are different from you, it’s something that needs to be done now more than ever in our world. He places this responsibility in the hands of all young people, urging them to be more inclusive, especially members of campus organizations.
“Open your events and your parties up to everyone, make them inviting to blacks, whites, everyone,” So said. He added this is the only way the fear that keeps us divided will ever begin to dissipate.
AAA, which now boasts over 40 active members, has grown tremendously since its inception in 1989 and successfully transformed a small, week-long awareness week into the month-long celebration that is now “Experience Asia Month.” Nishan Bhagat, senior psychology major, and Marybeth Competelli, junior psychology major, eagerly took on the challenge of organizing this month’s events, which will feature a day of service with Habitat for Humanity, a coffeehouse, a nationally-performed diversity play, “Faces of America,” and a free CUB-sponsored performance on Nov. 30 featuring a comedian, poet and band.
Bhagat hopes that members of the student body will give some of the events a try and hopefully “learn something about the Asian culture and have some fun.” He stressed that the events are open to everyone and AAA would love to see students from all different cultures come out and celebrate, especially at the much-anticipated “Thanksgiving Remix,” a joint event with the Black Student Union and Unión Latina that will offer music, dancing and a multicultural feast.