April 30, 2007

Asia Night Features Food, Entertainment

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This Saturday at Barton Hall, over 50 Asian organizations from across campus came together to celebrate the many facets of Asian culture — dancers twirled ribbons and flipped through the air as guests browsed the interactive cultural booths while munching on pad Thai or sipping bubble tea.
The event was hosted by Cornell Asian Pacific Islander Student Union (CAPSU), which serves as the umbrella group for all Asian groups on campus. Asia Night was sponsored by Operation D.E.E.P., an organization whose goal is to develop education for children in Asia and raise awareness at Cornell of poverty within developing nations.
The evening began with “Passport to Asia,” where each guest was given a passport to be filled with stamps by participating interactive tables from various Asian groups on campus. These booths showcased the diversity of Asian culture at Cornell by presenting informative posters, handouts, publications, activities and snacks to engage visitors. Filled passports could be entered in a raffle for a chance to win a 32” LCD television.
Asia Night brought together groups from a multitude of Asian cultures, socio-political interests, religions, academic studies and performance groups.
“I’m excited because we got to bring together all the different Asian culture groups,” said Helen Tsang ’08. “There are South Asians, East Asians, Chinese, Japanese — it’s really diverse.”
One of the many activities of the night included the folding of 1,000 paper cranes with Cornell’s Origami Club. The cranes, as well as notes written by the Cornell community, will be sent to Virginia Tech as a gesture of remembrance and compassion for the victims of the recent shootings on its campus. Attendees of Asia Night were also given maroon and orange ribbons upon entering, which represent Virginia Tech’s school colors.
Project HOPE featured a “test your chopstick abilities” activity while explaining to Asia Night attendees about their organization.
“We’re raising money for children in rural China who can’t afford to pay their school fees,” said Eula Huang ’08, the incoming president of Project HOPE.
As guests strolled about enjoying the sights and sounds of Asian culture, they were also able to indulge in Asian cuisine from local Ithaca restaurants Sangam and Taste of Thai as a part of “Journey to Asian Cuisine.”
Asia Night provided the Cornell community with the chance to celebrate the many different elements of Asian culture by uniting those elements together all under one roof.
“Cornell has a lot of different types of Asian groups on campus — as diverse as it is, it’s fragmented as well,” said Jon Perez ’07, president of Asian Pacific Americans for Action and one of the many organizers of Asia Night. “But Asia Night is an opportunity to build solidarity between all the groups on campus, which is really important.”
Last year’s Asia Night took place in Duffield Hall and featured fewer groups and organizations.
“Asia Night was actually a tradition that started last year with CAPSU, and we decided to make it the tradition,” explained Clara Tow ’07, executive director of Asia Night. “It took 25 amazing, very devoted people from different groups one whole year to put all this together.”
Later in the evening, the lights of Barton Hall were dimmed and guests took their seats for the megashow, a diverse presentation highlighting the talents of Asian dance and musical groups on campus. Performance styles ranged from the traditional to the modern, with the elegant fan dancing of CHOoOM, a Korean modern dance group, to the heart pumping rhythms of the Lambda Phi Epsilon Step Dance team, as well as the breakdancing wizardry of Absolute Zero.
Yamatai, Cornell’s Japanese taiko drumming group whose loud and energetic traditional beats resonated throughout the building, was the megashow’s first performer. Dressed in long white gowns adorned with metallic feathers, Illuminations, a traditional Chinese dance troupe, performed its rendition of the “Peacock Dance,” a story of tragic lovers. The Society for the Promotion of Indian Classical Music presented a unique form of vocal percussion known as konnakol accompanied by a traditional frame drum, or kanjira.
The megashow also featured a video slide show which raised awareness for issues affecting the Asian community. Footage from B-Aware, an organization dedicated to promoting awareness of the virus hepatitis B, informed the audience of the devastating effects of hepatitis B on the Asian community. According to the group, one out of every 10 Asians or Asian-Americans is infected with HBV. Although the disease is completely preventable by vaccine, it still kills over one million people each year.
The hard work of all the groups involved helped to present a broad view of Asian issues and cultures at Cornell.
“The whole point of Asia Night is just to bring people together,” said Tow. “It’s about community, feeling safe, compassion, all of that. It really came together very well.”