January 27, 2023

APASO To Celebrate 20th Anniversary of Cultural Vogue Event, Push APIDA Issues to the Forefront

As Comparative Cultures and Politics junior Sujin Lee gears up for the Asian Pacific American Student Organization’s (APASO) premier talent showcase, she also prepares for what may be an emotional night for several reasons. Lee is the current president of APASO, which is hosting and celebrating the 20th anniversary of Cultural Vogue Saturday, Jan. 28 in the Wharton Center Cobb Great Hall.  

This milestone anniversary for the event comes on a milestone year for the student organization. APASO celebrated its 40th anniversary on campus for the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American student community. Amid all the advocacy and academic programming throughout the year with their wide number of affiliates, nights like that of Cultural Vogue serve as an opportunity for students to focus on the social aspects of community, cultural exploration and, well, fun. 

Students and community members will perform modern and traditional dances, skits, spoken word, singing, showing videos and more. There will be giveaways and prizes. A break from the rigors of academics and recent headlines may be just what the community needs. 

The event comes at an important time this year. Students will proudly take the stage Saturday to showcase their identities, their unique tapestries in the face of mounting anti-APIDA hate and violence. This also comes during a prolonged pandemic for which, like many, APIDA Spartans have naturally felt the impact.

Cultural Vogue helps to offer something to celebrate when there’s been so much to mourn. 

“This year is very special,” says Lee. “The event was held in the Pasant Theater the first year I was here, and the years since have been impacted by COVID. We’ve been disappointed, so this year, we wanted to make it big. We wanted to bring it back in a big way.”

Anna Lin, APASO adviser in the Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions (OCAT), also knows the community could use something big. She knows some entertainment and laughs are welcome right now. But she also understands that Cultural Vogue has another role that is very much needed. That is, a space for students to be able to release — to fully express themselves, their thoughts and emotions during such a trying time. 

“This [event] brings a sense of belonging. The community has expressed multiple times how it is important to see ourselves reflected in public spaces. So, Cultural Vogue gives our students and local communities a sense of empowerment,” says Lin. 

Lee agrees. 

“CV is a space where students feel empowered. There isn’t an event that students anticipate more. Part of that is because students are empowered to show where they truly are,” she explains.

Empowerment over fear. That is the idea that Lee hopes is evident in the theme of the event. “Roots. Resilience. Rebirth.” is meant to signify that though time passes, we are still connected to our roots and we can use that wisdom moving forward. 

Along with all the performances, APASO has invited Manjusha Kulkarni to give a keynote address. Kulkarni is executive director of the AAPI Equity Alliance and co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition in the United States that tracks and responds to incidents of hate, violence, harassment, discrimination, shunning and child bullying against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. 

Lee believes the theme and Kulkarni’s presence show an organic increase in focus on advocacy this year. On the audience side of things, she hopes it will translate into a strong sense of community and cultural pride. Community and cultural pride is something APASO has worked to cultivate for a long time, as well as having recently collaborated with local high school students from East Lansing, Haslett and Okemos High Schools for a Winter Celebratory APIDA event. It’s no surprise this is all coming around the Lunar New Year celebrations.

“Cultural Vogue was intentionally picked after Lunar New Year to allow students to be able to enjoy the holiday and celebrate with family and loved ones,” Lin says. “Cultural Vogue is meant to be a continual celebration for the community. I believe Cultural Vogue is what the community needs, and I hope it will give our community strength in light of all the recent acts of violence.”

While this show of resilience is important for the community to see, Lee believes it’s just as important for those from outside the community to see as well. She acknowledges another benefit of the event is the opportunity to expose so many to APIDA cultures and issues, particularly with these issues having been ignored at institutional levels. Cultural Vogue places those issues at the forefront and amplifies necessary voices. 

“We want to be heard. APIDA safety is number one. People are scared. Students have missed classes. There needs to be changes,” Lee says. “What I want people to take away [from the event] is that our demands be met. And also, that there are so many different ethnicities. Different people who have different needs. The event will show that we are strong, but we need help. With this showcase, I hope it garners needed attention.” 

Doors open to the Cobb Great Hall at 6 p.m., and the show starts 30 minutes later. APASO is helping to provide complimentary transportation for students who want to attend. Service to North, Brody Apartments and South Neighborhoods will have two rounds of pickup and one round of drop-off. Those wishing to use transportation can RSVP by filling out this form

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