I generally have no interest in reunions organized by academic institutions. Cared less about my high school and college ones. Didn't even know when they occurred. Definately not going to my law school one. In fact, I try to avoid communication altogether with my law school, but they always seem to successfully track my place of employment (it's the California Bar's fault) and send me endless information via US and electronic mail. Once in a while, they call me at work... probably to solicit a donation that, haven't they realized, I will NEVER give because I FUCKEN HATE THEM? Fortunately, I have an assistant who screens all my calls. Just the other day, I advised her that when I receive mail from UCLAW, immediately throw it in the recycler. Thank you.
But this posting isn't about how much I despise UCLAW though I can go on and on.
This past weekend, the Asian American Studies Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign celebrated its 10th anniversary. This means that a little shy of 10 years ago, Asian American Studies did not exist at U of I. And since I graduated a little shy of 10 years ago (fuck!), I unfortunately was not a benefactor. Nor were my friends:
Asian Pacific Islanders were (and probably still are) the largest minority group on campus, yet we were the only racial minority group that lacked a formal orientation program, a studies program and a cultural center. The administration labled us an "overrepresented minority."
A fucken oxymoron, that's what we were.
Despite relentless demands to the contrary, we were often ignored and silenced. It wasn't fair and definately discriminatory. But we students persisted, and learned to be creative and self-reliant.
Ms. Vida (far right female pictured above) created a formal orientation program for new Asian American students called "Asiantation" that I believe continues today. We created our own alumni networks; scholarship/mentorship/award programs; cultural and political events; and leadership/activism conferences. We struggled to build coalitions and a collective consciousness among myriad API groups, all of which we felt obligated to assume leadership roles. Like Tupac said, it's all about you. And truly it was all about us, as it was clearly evident that U of I didn't give a shit about API students.
Despite not having a formal program, I believe there were two "trial" classes in my four years of attendence and I took both. One was an introductory course to Asian American history taught by a wonderful Filipina graduate student. My final paper was about Asian American beauty (or was it stereotypes in Asian beauty?). I also took an Asian American literature class. I don't recall the professor, but I do remember the small intimate class and how we really enjoyed such a unique space for class discussions. Dude, you have to check out the AAS courses now. I am so jealous.
Needless to say, I really wanted to attend this reunion. It wasn't possible for me, though a few of us did attend and reported back. The stories and pictures seem amazing, almost unbelievable that the students now have a full-fledged, university-sponsored studies program AND cultural center. At the same time, I can't believe we didn't have these services in the fairly recent past, and how API students across the nation protested and struggled and engaged in hunger strikes, just so that they could formally learn about our people's history and contributions in America.
Lastly, Vida said something in her very detailed report to us that is very important:
"One thing I said during the [alumni roundtable] panel was that I recall many of us said we would not donate money to the University for as long as: 1) there was no AA Studies; 2) there was no AA Cultural Center; 3) there was the Chief*. Well folks, as of a couple weeks ago, all those barriers have been removed. If you want you can donate to the Cultural Center and Studies Program - tax deductible. Asian American Alumni Network is working on clearing their tax deductible status. Also, I know that we’ve all thrown around the idea of possibly creating a scholarship. Now would be a possible time to start discussing that more?"
Well, I'm sure you can guess which institution will be giving me my next tax-deduction. GO ILLINI!
*OMG. Can you believe that about the Chief? I would have never imagined in my wildest dreams that U of I was gonna give up Chief Illiniwek and its retrograde racist ways. Thank god. Welcome to 2007 yo.