En Route: 7th Annual New York City Asian American Student Conference

By Bak Keung Ko

The 7th Annual New York City Asian American Student Conference (NYCAASC) was recently held at NYU’s Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts on April 27, 2013. Themed En Route, this year’s goal was to “explore how Asian Americans are reinventing themselves by moving beyond their own communities and contributing to an intercultural dialogue” (quoted from Directors’ Note in program guide). This conference differs from those in the past in that it focuses on how Asian Americans can expand beyond one’s own community and connect with those from different cultures to help further one’s own identity.

Conference program guide

To start off the day, breakfast was served, followed by opening remarks from the 2013 directors. Consisting of students from NYU, Barnard College, Baruch College, City College and Hunter College, they introduced themselves and the goals of the conference. Immediately after, special guest and Youtube star Joseph Vincent performed for the audience, and opened the floor for Q&A. The day consisted of three Track periods, five workshops each with breaks in between to allow for opening remarks, keynote speech, lunch, and a talent show.

Joseph Vincent debut

A sample workshop from Track I was “Keeping the Dream Alive: Immigration Today” with panelists Bethany Li, Hong Mei Pang, Tony Choi, and Katherine Chua. They discussed how Asian Americans are just as important as any other culture when Congress considers immigration policies. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of immigrants coming into the US per year looking for a new life or better opportunities to succeed and Asian makes up the majority. As Congress works to revise US immigration policies, the Asian community becomes at risk for limited or reduced immigration rights such as deportation or citizenship.

Panel speakers during a workshop in Track 1

After Track I, students went for a free sponsored lunch. This was also a time of networking with fellow Asian Americans and different organizations tabling to raise awareness of their cause. These organizations include: Asian Cinevision, Chinese Progressive Association, Kollaboration New York, The Supply, Team Janet Initiative, Chinese Staff and Workers’ Association, Pilipino American Unity for Progress (UniPro), and Voter Registration.

Students on line for lunch

Before going into Track II, award-winning journalist, Fulbright Scholar and former Executive Editor of Ms. Magazine Helen Xia gave a keynote address on her perspective of this year’s theme through her own life experiences. As a second generation Chinese American and out-lesbian, she has faced many obstacles in homophobia and civil rights, and has successfully overcome many of them. The general message relayed was to be whatever you want to be and that will be your Asian American identity, not what society dictates it to be.

Helen Xia giving keynote speech

Track II had tracks ranging from the Flushing Renaissance to the Model Minority myth. Jen Kwok and Wendy Xu are two examples of Asian Americans who don’t follow the stereotype of Asians. They followed their passion in the arts and showed that anyone, including Asians, can succeed in any profession, not just medicine, law and business.

Jen Kwok in a workshop during Track II

Between Track II and III, the Talent Show featured various young and rising talents in the Asian American community. Hari Kondabolu started off with standup comedy, followed by Austin Luu and Bea Go with guitar and song performances. Next featured a Korean duo named Hayoo debuting with Korean music. The show ended with Nisha Parikh with Bollywood dancing and Johnny Li with rap. The day ended with Track III with workshops on how Asian Americans could bridge relationships with other communities, talent show ballot results, and closing remarks.

For more information about NYCAASC, visit www.nycaasc.com

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Hayoo performing for Talent Show

Group Shot of Attendees

Students at voter registration table

Students lining up at NYCAASC

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