AASA Hosts Esteemed Asian-American Speakers

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Trinity College’s Asian-American Student Association (AASA) hosted its first annual Campus Summit with the East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU) on Saturday, Oct. 27. The ECAASU is a non-profit aimed at empowering those who are focused on Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) matters. The theme of this conference was “Stand Up: Civic Engagement and Community,” which centered around current issues impacting Asian Americans and how one can use his or her voice and actions to address these issues. According to the ECAASU website, ECAASU was established in 1977 at Yale University “as the nation’s first intercollegiate Asian American conference.” Since then the organization has hosted over 40 conferences.

The conference hosted over the weekend by Trinity’s AASA consisted of presentations by esteemed speakers, as well as two workshops. According Jeffrey Sagun, one of AASA’s Chairs of Public Relations, “The workshops that I attended ranged between topics of social media campaigning to how people view their Asian or Asian-American identity in the United States. An activity that stood out to me the most was when we were asked to outline how prominent we felt our cultural identity influenced our lives, in addition to whether it was a positive or a negative experience. Some people were neutral while others expressed utmost pride. I had a more complicated journey where I became less appreciate of my culture as I grew up experiencing adversity….but ultimately I learned to be unapologetically me.”

In addition to the workshops, AASA hosted four acclaimed speakers: Miriam Yeung, Chair of the Asian Pacific American Coalition of Connecticut; Laura Li, Campaigner for 18 Million Rising; Son of Paper, an Asian-American rapper; and William Tong, the Democratic nominee for Attorney General of Connecticut. Each speaker addressed their individual heritage and its role in their lives growing up, as well as the ways it influences their identity and career trajectories today. Specifically, Tong talked about his family’s immigration story, describing how his father wrote a 6 page handwritten letter to the President of the United States asking to stay in the U.S. after immigration officials came to his and his wife’s Chinese restaurant ordering them to leave for overstaying their tourist visas. Tong’s parents’ letter was received by President Nixon who granted them the ability to stay while they applied for permanent residence, “because of the grace of this Republican President,” Tong stated, “I was the first American in my family.” Tong continued, addressing the lack of Asian-American political role models he had to look up to throughout his life, but concluded on a positive note stating, “think about our place in history, think about your experience and our shared experiences. It’s our responsibility to pick up the mantle and change it once and for all. I hope you will pursue public service in your own way; you can start by finding mentors to help you.”

AASA was able to coordinate holding an ECAASU conference through Ethan Yang, AASA’s co-secretary who also serves on ECAASU’s national board. The event held great significance for many Trinity students such as Sagun who stated, “This event is to inspire, educate, and empower students of the Asian-American and Pacific Islander experience. We wanted to discuss the issues that affect Asian-Americans and how we can be more engaged people in our community. My Filipino-Spanish heritage is a part of my life that I treasure, and I hope that students will become more enthusiastic of their cultural identity after hearing the powerful stories and experiences shared by others here today.”

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