By Union student and AAPI Caucus Co-chair Kathy Lin
4 min read
On May 3rd, 2023, the AAPI Caucus at Union held their second annual AAPI Arts Showcase, titled ‘AAPI Legacies and Futurisms’. The Showcase proceedings, which spanned from noon through 5 PM, began with a chapel in honor of AAPI Heritage Month. The service was filled with Tai Chi, poetry, a metta meditation, and an announcement of Union’s incorporation of caste as a protected category in their anti-discrimination policy. Following chapel, community lunch, featuring a variety of Asian drinks and snacks, as well as the Asian American classic Panda Express. As lunch concluded, showcase stations and workshops run by AAPI students began in earnest in James Chapel. All throughout the day, attendees explored a variety of activities – from Arabic poetry to calligraphy stations (in Tamil, in Chinese, in ink, and in pen), from a boba station to a tea ceremony and presentation, and also a Tangkhul indigenous folk dance round, Chinese shuttlecock, and a photobooth to a world map studded with stories. The Showcase proceedings concluded with two panels: a faculty panel featuring Union’s Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean Su Yon Pak and Union faculty member as well as Interim Faculty Advisor to Episcopal Students at UTS, Rev. Dr. Patrick Cheng focusing on AAPI presence and growth between Union’s past and future. The second one was a student panel consisting of Black and Asian students focusing on Black and Asian solidarity as a historical basis and a future orientation.
“Growing up, I always told myself that the two things I would never do are religion and the arts. After planning and participating in this year’s AAPI Arts Showcase, as a seminarian at Union Theological Seminary (and sharing some of my original art pieces as prints), I look back at this self-prescribed future fondly,” shared Union student and AAPI Caucus Co-Chair Kathy Lin. “I think it demonstrates some glaring absences in our zeitgeist: namely, a thriving AAPI artistic spirit; a strong and clear AAPI theology; and a creative AAPI imagination that lives in ubiquity. Being a first-year student, this year’s arts showcase feels like just the beginning for me, and I hope to expand on the theme of ‘Legacies & Futurisms’ next year, by focusing on specific legacies I’d like to leave behind, as well as what kinds of AAPI futures I’d like to build.”
Reflecting on the event, Dean Pak shared, “I’ve been at Union since 1994. And in 2023, it was a sheer delight to have a 100% queer panel of AAPI faculty and students not intentionally selected as panelists because of our queer identification but because we are AAPI faculty and students here at Union. This has been a long journey and I want to celebrate that.”
She further expressed, “The second thing I noticed was the student panel on ‘Being Asian and Black at Union’ discussing AAPI-Black solidarity. The honesty, openness, and vulnerability with which the panel addressed thorny issues of anti-black racism and the conflict between the two (multiple, really) groups gave me hope. It was the strength of the friendships and relationships among the panelists that made space for this difficult conversation to happen. I would love to see more of these engagements at Union going forward.”
Dr. Cheng also shared his reflections on the event, “On May 3rd, I participated in the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) fair and symposium at Union. I was struck by the remarkable multiplicity of voices, perspectives, and traditions that were present. I also experienced a deep sense of pride in my own AAPI identity while experiencing the chapel service, the fair (which included activities ranging from writing in Tamil to learning a Tangkhul indigenous folk dance), and the faculty and student panels. As someone who has been at Union since the late 1990s, I was particularly moved by how the events of the day highlighted the complex nature of racial discourse and its intersections with religion, gender, sexuality, and social justice. Thank you to the AAPI Caucus for organizing such a wonderful event!”
Union student Aurora Celestin, who spoke on the student panel titled “Being Asian and Black at Union” shared, “I was honored to be invited by Kathy Lin to speak on the panel. We all went up there with some sense of what we wanted to say, but the beautiful spontaneity of the day allowed each person’s candor and vulnerability in sharing about how racial, ethnic, and national identity shaped their development to draw new revelations out of their fellow panelists. The model minority discussion moved me deeply, and getting Black and Asian perspectives on it emboldened me to share about the ways I had been made to feel I wasn’t “Black enough” growing up. My biggest takeaway from the session, which I offered toward the end of the panel, was our shared understanding as racially diverse students on that stage that white supremacy weaponized us against each other, and yet, in the face of white supremacist conniving, Malcolm X and Yuri Kochiyama had forged an unflagging interracial bond of allyship. It gave me hope to hear that my Asian peers genuinely wanted to forge these bonds again. Witnessing others’ testimonies and knowing they don’t want to be weaponized against you is the first step to opening the door to interracial healing and allyship, and I know I and the rest of the panelists left hungry for deeper connection between the Black and AAPI communities at Union. It was good to get feedback that we had stoked this hunger in our audience, too.”