AsianFest looks to leave its mark on culture, awareness

By Sergio Legorreta

Two nights of activities showcasing Asian culture will begin today at Baylor’s annual AsianFest, presented by the Asian Students Association.

AsianFest events include a culture and pageant show and a banquet featuring guest speaker Jeff Yang, the “Tao Jones” columnist for the Wall Street Journal.

The theme for this year’s AsianFest is “Leaving Your Mark.” Tulsa, Okla., senior Bryan Jan, ASA president, said the theme inspired the new “Legacy Tree” which will be included at the events.

Students will be able to tie ribbons to the tree with something written on them that they want to leave as a legacy to others.

“It’s about leaving something behind that you can be proud of,” Jan said.

The AsianFest Culture Show will feature dances, skits and musical performances by various student groups and organization.

Food for the banquet will be provided by Baylor Catering and will feature Asian dishes including fried rice and sesame-ginger broccoli.

AsianFest has been organized and funded in part by Baylor’s Department of Multicultural affairs and Student Government. This year’s theme was also taken into consideration when deciding on a speaker for the banquet.

Jan said Yang would be a good fit as a speaker, serving as an inspiration to others because of his success as a journalist.

Yang will speak about the changing role Asian Americans have in media and entertainment. Citing the success of figures like basketball star Jeremy Lin and author Amy Chua.

Yang will explain what the future holds as Asian Americans increasingly step into the spotlight and popular culture. Yang’s son, Hudson, is part of this shift, as he will star in the second Asian American family comedy in network primetime history, “Fresh Off the Boat.”

Waco sophomore Richard Nguyen, historian for ASA, said the media plays an important role in how people view one another.

“Traditionally, the media has focused on predominantly white families,” Nguyen said. “We need more representation, and not just focus on one group.”

Nguyen said AsianFest is a good way for people to learn about Asian culture and get rid of stereotypes. He said stereotypes are a double-edged sword, because they might have information about a culture, but they are largely superficial.

“If people come and learn, they will at least have something to base it off of,” Nguyen said. “Asia is a humongous continent. There are the Pacific Islanders, mainland China and Southeast Asia. People generalize these by what’s predominantly expressed in media. People don’t see it, so they don’t notice it, so they don’t acknowledge it.”

Waco junior Rhannie Surel, social chair for ASA, said that he deals with stereotypes every day, and even positive ones are problematic.

“Asians are good at math– does that make me a bad Asian if I’m not good at it?” Surel said. “It’s a lose-lose situation no matter what, because people have this expectation of us, and when we don’t fulfill it, then we don’t fit that role to them, as Asian, when that is who we are.”

Houston freshman Camille De Los Santos said sometimes people get confused because her last name is Spanish but she is Asian.

“It’s because of the Spanish colonization of the Philippines,” De Los Santos said. “It’s a common misconception.”

Another contestant, Brownsville freshman Sarahi Garcia, is Hispanic but decided to join ASA because she became interested in Asian culture after befriending someone from the Philippines. Garcia said her experiences at ASA have been positive, and everyone has been very welcoming.

Garcia wanted to join an organization of a different culture when coming to college, as she had found it valuable to learn about Turkish culture in high school.

Nine contestants will compete in the AsianFest Pageant, which Jan said is about more than just beauty.

The contestants will be asked to speak about issues that are important to them and be judged on different categories by four judges.

“The pageant winner will be a student who well represents what it means to be a student–being involved, having a strong issue to speak about,” Jan said.