On Thursday, May 2 from 5-7 p.m., Asian Pacific Student Program (APSP) celebrated the beginning of Asian Pacific Islander (API) month by hosting The Big Wave: Fashion Showcase at HUB 302. The room was decorated with bright turquoise tables with pineapple cutouts as the centerpiece. On the main stage, golden balloons spelled out the words, “The Big Wave.”
Roy Tongilava, an APSP student coordinator, takes great joy in the month of celebration. “To have a month dedicated to my ethnicity and culture is a huge milestone for my community because throughout history we have been marginalized and underrepresented and so I think that taking this time to celebrate API heritage really helps educate the different communities.”
To start off the event, Tongilava and Jiminia Mana Alofa-Afuola, another APSP student coordinator, engaged the crowd with an activity discussing the stereotypes within the API community. A statement relating to API community was read out loud, such as “the Disney movie ‘Moana’ was a breakthrough movie for the Asian Pacific Islanders,” and the audience would get up and stand under an agree, disagree or neutral sign.
“It’s really hard for South Asians because of the narrative within the diaspora, it’s very Indian-based and overshadowed by the actors from Bollywood but that’s not the reality of what South Asia is. It’s like with South Asia you have minorities within minorities within a minority and you lose a lot of representation,” stated Ayesha Abbasi, fourth-year political science major.
Following a brief intermission, a panel was hosted to discuss different issues within the API community, such as misconceptions surrounding certain API groups and how the image of the model minority can hurt South Asians. A recurring topic was how the API umbrella is too big, leading to the lack of recognition and representation that South Asians receive in comparison to East Asians.
Panelist Alexis Chang, a fourth-year sociology major, believes that action must be taken to improve ethnic togetherness at UCR. “We need to be more progressive and more inclusive with all of our ethnic communities on campus … how can UCR not have the funding for the groups they tokenize and put on pamphlets to sell to incoming students?”
The API fashion show, the main event of the night, followed the panel. There were six different traditional API outfits presented, including Cambodian, Pakistani and South Pacific-designed pieces. Some outfits displayed were traditional wedding and performance garments and others were what they would typically wear to church. The fashion show concluded with a South Pacific-style dance that is usually meant to be presented by a high chief’s daughter to signal the end of an event.