Throughout the month of November, Asian Pacific Americans for Liberation (APAL) have organized multiple events a week to celebrate Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This year’s theme, “We will not stay silent,” reflects APAL’s goals for the organization’s role on campus. According to APAL President Kristy Chan (junior), one of APAL’s hopes for the month is to unify the Asian Pacific Islander (API) community by expanding upon what it means to identify as API at Occidental.
“We have been getting a lot of attention from our unifying events, especially our API photography series on Facebook, which is really important because of the political divide that was created during the occupation last year,” Chan said.
In order to bridge this divide, they hope to address intersectional issues within the API community. About 30 students filed into Choi Auditorium for APAL’s Anti-Blackness in API Communities Short Film Screening at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17. The event began with a preview of “Blasian Narratives: Volume I” followed by a screening of the short film “Born With It,” which featured a young mixed race boy starting a new school in rural Japan and who is rejected by most of the other children for being half Japanese and half black. Director Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour Jr. attended the screening and explained that his experience as a black man living for several years in Singapore and Japan inspired him to make the film — originally for his senior thesis at New York University Tisch Asia. Following the screenings, Osei-Kuffour Jr. led a discussion session allowing students to ask him about his decision to make the film and also to share their experiences related to anti-blackness within API communities. Camille Cribbs (senior), who spearheaded the event, said the purpose of the event was to foster a space where students could share personal narratives.
“I wanted to open up the discussion of anti-blackness within API communities because the term API is already problematic in that it [alone] is trying to represent such a diverse group of people [who] were already divisive,” Cribbs said. “We as a community need to figure out how we can come together and work towards combating anti-blackness.”
During the discussion, several students thanked Osei-Kuffour Jr. for creating a film that highlighted an experience similar to their own, a subject often avoided in API communities.
“We are hosting different types of events to try to open up discussion with API students on different issues of racism of question and social justice within our communities because often times we are seen as that passive group,” Cribbs said. “We are trying to combat that stereotype and encourage students at Oxy who identify as API to talk about things that they are often discouraged from or don’t feel safe enough to talk about.“
The following night, Friday, Nov. 18, APAL’s Night Market concluded API Heritage Month. The celebratory event was organized by APAL but brought several cultural organizations together. Various clubs and student organizations sold food, products or activities, which students paid for with tickets purchased through APAL. Cupcakes and candies in test tubes courtesy of Women in STEM, cinnamon buns and hot chocolate from Black Student Alliance, skin products by Beauty Beyond Color and APAL’s fried rice were just some of the items for sale. KOXY music and dim quad lighting set the atmosphere for students to browse different tables, play games run by MULTI or socialize. Attendance fluctuated during the two-hour event as students passing through the quad were drawn in..
“By capping off API Heritage Month with the Night Market, we are creating a space for cultural clubs to sell products and food, and have a space where we can all get to know and support each other,” APAL Programming Chair Allen Chen (sophomore) said.
In addition to the Night Market, APAL co-sponsored many events with other groups on campus, such as the Nov. 11 Movie Night with South Asian Students Association and the spam musubi and boba with Hawai’i Club on Nov. 15. The range of events that APAL has put on for API Heritage Month varies from fun celebrations to more serious events to address core issues that API identifying students face on a regular basis. With all of their events, APAL is trying to determine what type of presence the API community wants to have on campus.
“This month is really about showing the school that we’re here, building our presence on campus and then getting ready to become more involved and active next semester.” Chan said.