Know your roots: AsianFest plants seeds of culture on stage

Dancers and singers perform at the annual AsianFest at Waco Hall on Friday. Jason Pedreros | Multimedia Journalist

By Maya Butler | Reporter

A celebration of cultural identity brought students of various backgrounds together as organizations performed during the 14th annual AsianFest at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Waco Hall.

Asian Student Association, the multicultural organization in charge of putting on AsianFest every year, dedicates itself to promoting Asian culture on campus. “Know your roots” was this year’s theme.

Houston senior Vivian Young, president of ASA, explained the reason for choosing a theme centered around knowing one’s roots.

“It’s really important to recognize the culture that you have and the heritage that you have,” Young said. “Something that we’ve noticed, especially with the Asian community, is that they have a tendency to shun their background while growing up as an Asian-American here. So we decided we wanted to celebrate that more and embrace it.”

Young went on to discuss the purpose of multicultural events such as AsianFest.

“There are these two different goals: one of [them] making Asian students more at home at Baylor, and the other goal is spreading our cultural awareness to non-Asian students on campus, so I think they kind of go hand in hand,” Young said. “Being able to bring together the community for at least one night throughout all these months of practice, even though it can be a bit stressful and hard sometimes — I feel at the end it’s very gratifying.”

Eighteen multicultural student organizations performed on stage and entertained audiences with mashups of traditional and modern dances. Other universities traveled to be a part of the performance, including Texas Woman’s University ASA and University of Texas at Arlington ASA. The Baylor chapter of ASA showcased three acts: ASA Modern, a dance group; ASA Step, a step team; and ASA “Yellow,” a singing group that performed a Chinese rendition of “Yellow” by Coldplay. The idea to perform the popular song came from the movie “Crazy Rich Asians,” in which the lyrics are sung in Chinese.

A brief 15-minute intermission provided attendees with the opportunity to buy AsianFest T-shirts, priced at $15. On it, the words “Know your roots” appear above a picture of “The Great Wave,” a famous work of art by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai. Young explained the timeline of dates on the T-shirt that outlined parts of the wave.

“You’ll see that there’s distinct dates of importance of Asian-American events throughout history,” Young said. “We wanted to call attention to the progress that Asian-Americans have made in recent years.”

Houston Baylor alum Annie Jin, a member of the Korean Student Association and the dance team J-Squared while at Baylor, returned to campus to see her friends perform.

“Waco in general has a small Asian community,” Jin said. “I like coming back and supporting all my friends and watching what they’ve been working so hard on.”

The show continued after the intermission with several more performances from Asian organizations, culminating in the final act of the night, ASA’s “Yellow.” Before singing, audiences heard through speakers what “Crazy Rich Asians” director Jon M. Chu wrote to the members of Coldplay to convince them to use their song in the movie. In the letter, Chu explained how the derogatory term “yellow” had represented a color of shame for him, but after listening to the band’s song, it ignited a feeling of pride over the beauty of the color.

Now that this year’s AsianFest has officially ended, ASA and the Department of Multicultural Affairs will host the Asian Heritage Banquet Nov. 18 to celebrate Asian heritage and culture.