Asian Student Union prepares for heritage month

Members: We are much more diverse than most people think


Photo submitted

Asian Student Union member junior Joseph Mariani, far right, represents the AAPI community at the multicultural assembly that took place earlier in the school year in the Welch Activity Center.

Ella Bundy, Reporter

With Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month coming up in May, it’s important to understand the history and importance of the event. 

While it may sound outrageous, AAPI Heritage Month has only been around for a few years. Junior Jade Zhao, a member of the Asian Student Union since her freshman year, said “(AAPI Heritage Month) was created in 2020 when there were a lot of hate crimes, attacks and xenophobic things going on. A lot of people who were even remotely Asian were subject to the hate crimes so they wanted a way to bring awareness, represent the AAPI community and help them to find solidarity.”

Junior Joseph Mariani, another member of the club since freshman year, said, “Basically it is just a chance to celebrate our heritage and learn more about the vastly different cultures that make up Asia. It shows that we are much more diverse than might be considered.” 

Adding to this, Zhao said, “There are 48 different places included in this heritage month. It’s full of a lot of people from East to Southern Asia, religious backgrounds, ethnic ones and a large geographical scale.”

However, when it comes to celebrating the heritage month, school and other activities can get in the way. Mariani said, “The hard part is that it’s in May where AP tests and finals are happening. However, if (the ASU does) something to celebrate, I’d want it to be for cultures like the multicultural assembly was, full of different dances, different cultural meals and things like that.”

In the past, the ASU celebrated. At this year’s multicultural assembly, the ASU presented the art of sushi making and last spring wore white in solidarity against the attacks on the AAPI community. On top of that, Mariani said, “(This year) we’re planning on having two days or so when we talk during ‘CHS Live,’ and we want to have more native prayers over the intercoms to represent our culture.” 

Zhao also recalled that before Covid-19 hit, the former presidents of the ASU wanted to have an assembly that would educate people about the food, culture, traditions and superstitions within Asian culture. “Kind of like a showcase,” she said. 

Sophomore Crew VanderWoude said, “I think raising awareness about the heritage month is one of the most important things to do right now. It’d be really nice if more people knew about it.”

Despite the difficulties that have arisen due to Covid-19, it doesn’t mean that members of the ASU aren’t celebrating their culture outside of school, however. Zhao said that since her family came to America, “we celebrate the Lunar Moon Festival. There are many celebrations, but for this we will have a big gathering with all of our friends and there will be authentic Asian food and Chinese food, and we light lanterns each year to celebrate our ancestors. Before Covid-19, we went to China to celebrate any deaths that happened. Another thing is all of the superstitions we have — such as not cleaning clothes until a certain day, and things like that.”

Both Mariani and Zhao spoke about the stereotypes that follow their heritage, saying that this heritage month provides the chance to educate people about who they are. Mariani said, “There are stereotypes like with any culture, honestly. It gets weird when it’s so many different aspects of Asia and people consider us all to be the same, but despite that, there are definitely stereotypes we have to come back from. Nothing specifically that I’ve seen at Cathedral, though.”

Following his sentiment, Zhao said, “(I feel) like for the people who are not good at science and math, the stereotypes hurt them. They struggle a lot more and are embarrassed to need help. It’s irritating because (people think that) the reason they’re good at math is because of their religion, but there are so many religions in Asia. A lot of (the issues are) also because we’re all put into this one umbrella, which isn’t the case. We’re considered to all be the same, but we couldn’t be more diverse.”

VanderWoude said that when it comes to schools and events about AAPI Heritage Month, Brebeuf Jesuit’s organization is one of the best. 

Mariani shared this sentiment, saying, “They have a very big ASU and have a good program. Before Covid-19, there was a plan to have a meet-up of all the ASUs in the city.”

Additionally, Zhao said “(Their) student union does a yearly picnic outside with all of the ASUs, where they play soccer, celebrate and invite other schools from Fishers, Carmel, Cathedral and so on. They do have a big gathering and they host a celebration at the end where they present all the Asian arts and dances, and Carmel has a festival where they do a dragon dance and a lot of other cultural activities because they are demographically more Asian than most other schools.”

All in all, AAPI Heritage Month is a chance to come together and celebrate each other. Mariani said, “AAPI Heritage Month is honestly just a good chance to learn about the cultures of this amazing, crazy world.”