Stanford University: Asian American and Pacific Islander Month at Stanford

This May, Stanford will celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Month with several events and programs highlighting the varied voices and experiences of the university’s AAPI community.

Stanford students perform a drumming blessing “Tatsumaki” (Whirlwind) by Hiroshi Tanaka during the 121st Commencement Weekend.

“As we recognize Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I want to acknowledge the remarkable contributions that members of these diverse communities have made to our university,” said Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne. “I’m deeply grateful for the voices and perspectives of our Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander students, scholars, and staff, and I encourage our whole community to participate in the events, exhibits, and conversations taking place this month.”

For Jerald Adamos, interim associate dean of students and director of the university’s Asian American Activities Center (A3C), May is an opportunity to demystify the AAPI community’s experiences and challenge pervasive and damaging stereotypes.

“Many times, Asian and Asian American students are left out of the diversity or inclusion conversation because they aren’t considered an underrepresented minority,” he said. “So a lot of times, the work we’re doing is around exposing the model minority or perpetual foreigner concept and letting people know we’re not a monolithic community.”

In addition to A³C, many students also find community through the Native American Cultural Center, which serves as a resource for Indigenous Pacific Islander students and groups including Hui o Nā Moku, a student organization dedicated to celebrating and sharing Polynesian cultures; Kaorihiva, Stanford’s Polynesian dance group, and the Marianas Club, a group of undergraduate and graduate students dedicated to perpetuating the culture of the Mariana Islands.

This month, A3C will also partner with an organization called EPIC – Empowering Pacific Islander Communities, which is working to disseminate knowledge about Pacific Islanders and build leaders committed to social justice. Related events will include opportunities for Stanford students, faculty, and staff, to learn more about the importance of disaggregating data within the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities.

“The Pacific Islander, South Asian, and Southeast Asian communities, in particular, can become more invisible [during diversity and inclusion efforts], and we want to teach the community to unpack Asian American and Pacific Islander identities so we can see both as two separate communities with different needs,” said Adamos.

The center also plans to increase its initiatives focused on student mental health and wellbeing, particularly in light of recent violent attacks against Asian and Asian-American women and elders. Programs will include support groups for AAPI identifying undergraduate and graduate students as well as a group for AAPI women, all run through CAPS.

“A lot of us have sisters, mothers, grandmothers, elders, and these incidents provide significant harm and trauma that we don’t want to see but are important to acknowledge,” Adamos said. “Even if students themselves are not being attacked, it’s happening to people who look like them. What they’re looking for is to have a space to unpack it for themselves.”

In addition to programming through A3C, other groups on campus, including the Cantor Arts Center and the Stanford University Libraries, will host AAPI-related exhibits throughout May and into the summer.

The Stanford University Libraries will highlight its in-person and virtual Rise Up for Asian American and Pacific Islanders exhibit focused on the history of systemic racism against the AAPI community and created in response to the increase in AAPI hate crimes throughout the United States.

The Stanford Center for Asian Health Research and Education will also hold events throughout the month, including a May 23 film screening and discussion of “Far East, Deep South,” a documentary following the family of Producer Baldwin Chiu on a journey through Mississippi in search of their lost family history. And on May 25, Stanford Medicine CARE will host a webinar called “Asian American Mental Health Crisis,” which will touch on mental health advocacy and identify key barriers to obtaining mental health services within the Asian community.

And following its announcement last year about the establishment of the Asian American Art Initiative (AAAI), the Cantor is presenting three associated exhibitions this year – Untitled (LC.012, Wall of Masks) by Ruth Asawa and curated by Aleesa Pitchamarn Alexander, the Cantor’s assistant curator of American art; At Home/On Stage: Asian American Representation in Photography and Film, curated by Maggie Dethloff, and East of the Pacific: Making Histories of Asian American Art. The historical survey showcases the Cantor’s ever-growing collection of Asian American art, the majority of which was acquired in 2018.