Asian-American students seek identity in month of awareness

Last Tuesday, with poise and a sense of urgency, UM creative writing Professor M. Evelina Galang read selections from her works that explore unanswered questions in issues such as teenage pregnancy in American culture. Imploring young Asian-American students to speak out on issues they are traditionally taught to be silent on, she emulated one of the aims of Asian Pacific American Awareness Month [APAAM]: to speak out.

Inspired by last fall’s Screaming Monkeys, a symposium exploring the images of Asians in America, students have been seeking insight on their cultural identity during APAAM. A series of student-led panels gave students the opportunity to debate with faculty and their peers on such issues as the Asian-American identity, affirmative action and the William Hung phenomenon.

Students discussed the identity crisis of many Asian Americans during the first panel, “This is what I stand for: The Emerging Political Voice of the Asian-American Student.”

“I never viewed myself as both Filipino and American – I always chose between being Filipino or American; never both,” Mark Abinsay, freshman, said. “But these events allowed me to grasp the concept of being Filipino-American more, and I realized the identity I’ve been looking for.”

Abinsay’s identity struggle encompasses the month’s goal to increase awareness among Asian Americans of their own identities and how they interplay in American society. Rather than sacrificing one’s unique culture in the pursuit of assimilating, the focus needs to be on redefining the meaning of an American to include the “melting pot” of America.

According to Chris Dy, Screaming Monkeys crew member, the most important lesson to take away from this month is the need for education. APAAM hopes to break stereotypes of Asian Americans and to encourage a more broad and inclusive education.

“[Asian-American] is not a fragmented identity, nor a compromised identity, but a unique and inclusive blend of both Asian and American,” Dy said.

Celebrated scholar Ronald Takaki stressed the inherent need for a more multi-cultural curriculum in his lecture “America in a Different Mirror: Revisioning our History” earlier in the month. He challenged students to ask themselves ,”How do you know what you know?”

The month will end with the Filipino Student Association cultural show on Friday, April 23, at the Holiday Inn.

For more information about APAAM, contact FSA at

Cecille Lucero can be contacted at