February 18, 2008

Asian-Americans Discuss Racial Issues in Society

Print More

Over 1,200 students and 300 volunteers from across the East Coast came to Cornell to participate in the largest-ever East Coast Asian-American Student Union Conference this weekend called Push Forward.
According to ECAASU’s Cornell Website, Push Forward was a three-day conference that focused on reflections, progress and opportunities. It emphasized the celebration of 30 years of ECAASU, the vision of its founders and the importance of implementing its vision into modern times. The participants compared the issues that face Asian-Americans today with the issues that they faced 30 years ago. [img_assist|nid=27908|title=Mix and Mingle|desc=Students socialize outside Bailey Hall after the closing ceremony on Saturday.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]Push Forward was held at Cornell in 1988 and 1998.
Friday’s activities centered on student-run workshops and students’ relationships to each other and to their local communities. The activities on Saturday were professionally-run workshops focusing on the students’ relationship to their countries and their Asian-American identities. Jeff Chang, author of Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hip Generation, addressed the participants. Chang talked about race, culture, politics, the arts and music. Also on Saturday, ECAASU presented Becky Lee and Yul Kwon, both contestants on the CBS reality show Survivor.
Push Forward has drawn students from all over the East Coast, especially those representing Asian-American interest groups. Derrick Tan, a senior from Stony Brook University and president of the Chinese Association at Stony Brook, said he came to Push Forward because “[he] wanted [his] cabinet members to be more involved in Asian-American Communities.”
“I think [Push Forward] is a very important organization because it unites Asian-Americans on the East Coast, and it educates them about their own culture. [Asian-Americans] are at a point where we are a hybrid culture; it is hard to identify ourselves in America, yet also as Asians. Push Forward is a good way to educate everyone,” he continued.
ECAASU is a national organization, which, according to its Constitution, seeks to unify Asian-American students in colleges across the United States. It works to strengthen Asian-American Student Groups through intercollegiate communication, to advance social equality, to promote understanding between Asian Americans and other nationalities and to encourage Asian Americans to participate in the electoral process.
According to Michelle Yang ’10, a member of the Push Forward Committee Board, ECAASU has been doing just that.
[img_assist|nid=27914|title=Rockin’ out|desc=Nico Cary, a member of the four-person group iLL-Literacy, performs on Saturday night.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]“It is a way for Asian-Americans to unite,” she said. “Asian-Americans have a lot of similar interests but it is hard for us to get together because we have different backgrounds, different schools and we are spread out all over the place. ECAASU as a National Organization is a good way for us to get together.”
However, involvement in ECAASU and the Push Forward Conference is not limited to Asian-Americans. Campus Guide Volunteer Jessica Theis ’11 said, “I came and volunteered because I am interested in learning about people from other cultures around the world. Cornell provides a bunch of really cool conferences and different things that you can attend and I wanted to be a part of it.”
Theis went on to describe her interest in cultural diversity and her desire to get involved in activities like ECAASU.
“I come from rural Colorado and there is no diversity,” she said. “I came to Cornell and said that I wanted to get involved in a variety of things. It is one of the first culturally aware things that I have volunteered for and I am really excited.”
It is not surprising to Helen Tsang ’08, co-director, that the Push Forward Conference had a record-breaking number of participants this year. “ECAASU brings together Asian American activists to have dialogues and to have open minds to learn about different issues. The population of Asian-Americans is growing at Cornell. 17 percent of the student body is Asian. There is a growing immigrant population rate in the United States as well, and there are a lot of issues that are overlooked. ECAASU helps the young students become aware,” Tsang said.