“Spoken Word Poetry: Asian Identity” honors Asian heritage

JOANNE LEE, Sports Editor—How do you define your own unique identity? What does being Asian mean to you? How do you define family, culture, and community?

These were some questions that the Spoken Word poetry event asked and aimed to create a dialogue about.

As part of the week-long Lunar New Year program in collaboration with Asian Culture Club, Global China Connection, and DASU, members of the Denison community gathered this past Wednesday to discuss their Asian-American identity through a Spoken Word poetry event. Every one of the speakers had a unique story to tell, born from their identities to their relationships with their parents.

Trang Nguyen ’22, a biology major from Chicago, IL and VP of DASU introduced the event by saying “When there are talks about diversity, a lot of the voices from the APIDA (Asian Pacific Islander Desi American) community are ignored. In light of Denison’s greater focus on diversity and the recent news of the split from the Posse Foundation, we wanted this to be an event for people to better understand the APIDA experience on campus as well as the complexity of intersectional identities.”

Nguyen herself is a part of the Posse Program and identifies as Vietnamese – American. She started off the program with three spoken word: one dedicated to her grandparents, another to her mom and her path to the “American Dream,” a land full of both immense opportunities, and problems such as racism to her own personal struggles in college.

Kelsey Reynolds ’22, a double major in English Literature and Political Science from St. Albans, WV, connected her unique identity as an Asian adoptee and her experience of not belonging, growing up as the only Asian in a predominantly white neighborhood in West Virginia. Many related to this, including Dr. Lina Yoo of the biology department who grew up in Maryland, in a community where she was one of five Asians.

Michael Kern ’23, a double major in East Asian Studies and Anthropology and Sociology from Columbus credited his attachment to his Filipino culture to his mother, who taught him to be proud of his heritage and how where he comes from shapes who he is.

Tom Ha ’22, a biochemistry major on the Pre-dental track from Chicago talked about his relationship with his parents, “Growing up, my parents often couldn’t make it to school performances, since my parents immigrated from Vietnam. My mom couldn’t speak English very well and my dad was always working. As I got older, and especially coming to Denison, I know that their way of expressing love may have been different from how other parents’ express love, but I know how much my parents love and support me.”

As Denison works to be more diverse, more inclusive, and a true community, Dr. Lina Yoo’s words struck a chord.

“If you perceive someone that there’s someone on the periphery who wants to be a part of your community whether they ‘look’ like they fit it or not, bring them in by reaching out and helping them to belong. I think that there’s something that really fills your soul from feeling like you are part of the community where you truly belong.”

And isn’t everyone at Denison part of a community?

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