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BAASA opening ceremony kicks off APAHM

By Michelle Kim

Section: Arts, Featured

March 7, 2014

Last Saturday, the Brandeis Asian American Student Association (BAASA) performed its popular annual opening ceremony to celebrate Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States.

The event marked the first day of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM), which began in 1978 when Congress passed a joint Congressional Resolution to raise awareness of issues that impact Asian Americans. “This year’s overarching theme is ‘Identity,’ specifically reconciling our Asian roots and American upbringing,” Do Dang ’15, president of BAASA, said.

Dang discussed his personal story: “I grew up in a traditional household since my parents had recently emigrated from Vietnam. However, when I entered the first grade, I was placed in an English-speaking class rather than the ESL class that the rest of my peers from kindergarten were placed in. This, coupled with my parents’ absence, since they were constantly busy during the day, caused me to disconnect from my Vietnamese culture. I became more Americanized at the expense of my native tongue, history and heritage. As I explored our theme for APAHM, I found myself reflecting on my own identity and wondering why I allow my Vietnamese heritage to slip away. This is the goal of our show this year, to examine and come to terms with our identity. While we would like for everyone to enjoy APAHM, we find it more rewarding when people can take away something more meaningful about themselves and others.”

The ceremony was beautifully set up. Twinkle lights were strung up around the parameter of Levin Ballroom, and tables were decorated with candles, tiny origami swans and glitter. On one wall was a black cutout of the skylines of New York City and Shanghai with a bridge between them.

“I can’t even quantify how much work went into this. Deciding on the backdrop, the wall pieces, the table centerpieces, the design of the programs, the performers, the main performer of the night, how volunteers would help out, figuring out how much funding we need and so much more … planning started in July 2013. The executive board worked extremely hard to pull off this event,” explained Events Coordinator Tifani Ng ’16, regarding the planning process.

Ticket sales skyrocketed this year and so did BAASA’s efforts to put together a memorable opening ceremony. There was a wide array of wonderful performances from students and professionals alike.

After opening speeches by Dang, Vice President Catherine Cho ’15 and Ng, attendees were treated to a charming video that introduced the e-board members of BAASA. The footage, filmed during one of Brandeis’ snow days and featuring the e-board members playing in the snow, elicited many laughs from the audience.

The first two cultural presentations were Bhangra, a type of dance native to the Punjab region of India, and Bharatnatyam, a classical Indian dance from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Both featured students in colorful costumes and dazzling headpieces. The dances were well-received by the ceremony guests.

Following the dances was Dan Tran, the night’s keynote speaker from Baruch College. Although a bit nervous, he spoke about developing Asian-American identity. It would have been nice to hear a slightly more eloquent speech, but Tran nonetheless made his point.

Yevin Roh, the student government president of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, brought spoken word to the ceremony. Performing “Dear Young Asian Dudes,” “Top 10 List of Messed Up Things Racists Have Said to Me Because I am a ‘Model Minority,’” and “10 Things I Want to Say to an Asian Woman,” Roh targeted Asian racism and embraced both Asian and American heritage. His performance was possibly the most well-received one of the night—people were cheering and snapping their fingers seconds after he began his first poem.

The Taiwanese Student Association presented their own Asian-American identity skit, which was largely inspired by the movie “Frozen.” Elsa was an Asian-American who had been targeted as a child for being ethnically Asian. The show was cute, although cheesy, and featured a live cover of “Let It Go” by Frances Chang ’16.

Leila May Pascual ’15 sang for Project Plus One, which aims to support international health clinics in need. She sang “Reflection” from “Mulan” and “Umbrella” by Rihanna and Jay-Z, both of which she sang in English and Tagalog as a tribute to the Philippines.

The final dance was a spectacular performance of the Dance of a Thousand Hands, which originates from China. Approximately 20 girls stood behind each other and moved their hands and arms in perfect synchronization, thus creating an illusion of a thousand hands. Their costumes, combined with their perfectly union movements, made the crowd go wild.

The final feature of the night was celebrity Yuri Tag, who performed on the first season of America’s Best Dance Crew with fellow members of Kaba Modern. As they became finalists on the show, they challenged the stereotype that all Asian-Americans are destined to be doctors and lawyers. In doing so, they helped pave the way for Asian-Americans to pursue their own identities.

Tag’s bubbly personality and her dance moves ended the night on a fun, energetic note. Audience and e-board members alike were lined up for an hour to take pictures with Tag as well as to get her signature.

This event is only the first of many events this March. Along with BAASA’s events, many of the other big Asian-American cultural shows happen during this time. This year, SEAC will be hosting AYALA on Mar. 9, and BKSA will be hosting K-Nite on Mar. 15.

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