The Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) President’s Reception for APIDA Heritage Month celebrated diversity Thursday.
President Mildred Garcia opened the event by referencing the 75 years that passed since Executive Order 9066 evicted more than 120,000 Japanese-Americans from their homes into internment camps and the 135 years since the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 created a moratorium on Chinese laborer immigration.
“Despite these horrors in our American history, today, we as a university and nation face similar executive orders and exclusion acts that threaten our students, our families, our communities and deepest values,” Garcia said.
Keynote speaker Mamta Accapadi, Vice President of Student Affairs at Rollins College said she valued being a Titan for a day.
“We all have meaningful stories so thank you for indulging me and listening to a few of mine,” Accapadi said.
Accapadi recalled when she worked in multicultural affairs and the leaders of the Filipino Student Association came to her for help after their funding from student government for the first Filipino culture night at her institution was revoked for violating rules.
Accapadi said after looking into the issue, she found they were planning to serve the traditional Filipino dish Dinuguan, chocolate meat, at the event. She said the advisor of student government determined it was “vulgar and inappropriate.”
After researching the food online, Accapadi questioned why it was inappropriate and explained to the advisor it was a cultural pork dish. She said the advisor turned bright red and defended herself by asking why they didn’t say something.
“Asian-American heritage month is for all of us. It is a commitment I hope we make to each other to do our own learning,” Accapadi said. “I didn’t know what chocolate meat was either but remember that I felt that something else was happening. I could have asked the students but guess what, it’s not the job of underrepresented groups to always explain their community to us.”
The APIDA community student speaker Taylor Saucedo spoke about her experiences growing up with a Mexican father and a Japanese mother.
When she was 7 years old, she overheard her mother and her grandmother arguing and that soon after, her family moved into an apartment away from her grandmother. Years later, she learned that the argument was about her grandmother having a problem with her father being Mexican.
“For years, I didn’t understand how someone I loved so much possibly was disgusted by part of who I was but just by listening to my coworkers at APARC (Asian Pacific American Resource Center) share their own stories, it has helped me find empowerment in situations like that,” Saucedo said.
The event also featured two students who received scholarships from the Asian-American Pacific Islander Faculty and Staff Association and two cultural dances by the Pilipino-American Student Association.
“If it’s anything that I learned from our APIDA community is that we are not submissive, we are strong, we are not passive, we are not hypersexualized and we will make change because together we grow,” Saucedo said.