Asian-American Pacific Islander (AAPI) appreciation month is traditionally celebrated in May, but on April 12, Texas State Inclusive Excellence - Student Connections and Belonging (IE-SCB) hosted a joint Asian market and Asian Cultural Showcase to allow Asian Pacific Islander Desi Americans (APIDA) to showcase their culture and gain interest for their organizations.
“The goal was to introduce the audience to Asian culture and heritage, including some glimpses of their traditions and history," Prasnna Patel, exercise science graduate student and member of IE-SCB, said. "To promote mutual respect and understanding for the APIDA individuals and the student organizations collectively.”
Performers had the opportunity to showcase their culture in unique ways. Patel showcased her custom handmade Anarkali gown, a gift from her family made in India, during the fashion showcase. An Anarkali gown is a traditional Indian dress used for official occasions.
“I was especially excited for the fashion show because I love wearing my traditional clothes whenever I get the chance, and this was a great opportunity for me to showcase my culture,” Patel said. “As it was Asian cultural celebration month, there was no better opportunity than this to present my culture.”
Yu Phoric, a drag performer and member of the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA), prefers to represent their culture subtly, performing Cà Phê Một Mình (coffee alone) by Minh Tuyết, a Vietnamese song. Vietnamese drip coffee was the performance's main prop.
“I feel like that's the best way we can show our culture is in small ways where no one would notice,” Phoric said. “It’s still a detail where people who get it get it.”
Organizations in the showcase also show appreciation for the unique cultural aspects they represent. Members of the Gamelan Lipi Awan ensemble were first-time performers and played blessed instruments from Bali. None of the members are Indonesian, but Claire Richardson, Gamelan Lipi Awan Director, aims to show appreciation for traditional Indonesian music.
“Even though I am not of Asian descent, I am fortunate enough to highlight it,” Richardson said. “We get an opportunity to be a part of that culture, experience and help promote it as a wonderful thing. It’s really fulfilling.”
Richardson encourages anyone to join the Gamelan. No prior experience or major is required. Practices are from 1 to 3 p.m. every Sunday at the Colorado Building.
Other live performances featured individuals not a part of Asian descent or organizations like Estevan Gonzalez, music senior. Gonzalez was invited by Delilah Sysavath, psychology sophomore and VSA member, to duet a piece for the performance who wanted to share his love for performance.
“I was there to support and perform,” Gonzalez said. “I always enjoy watching other people perform and knowing they’re in the comfort zone and headspace to know it’s their moment. I love to support that.”
Organizations without live performances at the event still featured their cultures' uniqueness through videos. The Korean Culture Club (KCC) and Filipino Student Association (FSA) showcased videos of their dance performances. KCC advertised for its showcase on Sunday, March 17, and FSA showed its past dance competitions.
Live performances by Gamelan Lipi Awan ensemble, VSA and the Indian Student Association concluded with a finale performance by Austin-based Vietnamese business Heavenly Dragon Lion Dance. The Lion Dance is to bring good fortune and good luck to the audience. The performance requires high audience attendance and involvement, according to Jen Nguyen, art history sophomore.
“The showcase was kind of lackluster, not the fault of the dance crew or anyone else involved, but the audience wasn’t very receptive until towards the end,” Nguyen said. “Which traditionally I’m used to the audience being very involved throughout the performances, but overall everything was pretty an awesome experience.”
The turnout for the Asian Cultural Showcase was smaller than what IE-SCB was expecting, but the opportunity for APIDA performers to represent their culture outweighed the low attendance rate.
“Positive queer representation and representation in general for Asian Pacific Islander people is super important," Phoric said. “To host events like this and praise performers for what they do best, it feels amazing. I think it is important that we can show we can do anything and be Asian and feel powerful.”
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