This month, the University of Richmond is celebrating history and culture as part of Asian Heritage Month. Several on-campus organizations have worked together to plan the events, including the Asian Student Union (ASU) and the South Asian Student Alliance (SASA), with support from the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Common Ground, and Student Activities.
“Asian Heritage Month is significant because it brings cultural awareness to the campus,” says Fiona Poon, ’14, public relations chair for ASU. “It’s an opportunity to get perspectives of different people. It allows them to recognize that there is more to the world.”
Shiksha Mahtani, ’14, community chair for SASA, says the month-long series opened successfully on March 24 with Holi, the “Festival of Colors.” The celebration is one of her favorite Indian festivals, and one she was excited to share with the rest of campus.
“Holi is celebrated in spring, so the idea is that it is a new beginning,” Mahtani says. “It also reflects unity — people come together and celebrate this new beginning each year. You dance around with Indian music and throw different colored powder at each other and simply have a lot of fun.
“A lot of people thought it was really cool. We had a really good turnout. They were excited to learn more about the festival, which was exactly the point.”
On March 30, the University hosted guest speaker Calvin Sun, a medical student at the SUNY Downstate Medical Center. He illustrated the theme of understanding others by stressing the importance of travel, and explaining how it’s possible to see the world while still in college.
“He travels to different countries with less than $2,000,” Poon says. “He tells you what you need to do and how you can go to countries on a low budget. As a student you don’t have to restrain yourself only to working. You can do all the things you want to do.”
In conjunction with Asian Heritage Month, SASA also is hosting Experience India on April 14. Bollywood Jhatkas, the UR Bollywood dance team, will perform, and SASA has invited Indian dance groups from other schools to participate. Nirmal Bajekal, an adjunct professor in the Department of Music who teaches sitar, will perform with his students. There also will be authentic Indian food, and classical, folk, and Bollywood music.
Mahtani hopes Experience India and the work of SASA will expose the University community to all forms of Asian culture. “I am so Indian at heart,” she says. “I love my culture; I love where I come from. I'm happy that South Asia is a part of Asian Heritage Month. It would be a positive thing if people stay passionate.”
Both Poon and Mahtani also hope that Asian Heritage Month will build traditions that inspire continued awareness and interest in Asian cultures at UR.
“You do not have to be Asian to join our club,” Poon says. “You just have to have an interest in Asian cultures. We try to bring an interest, a spark, in people. The idea is to break down all the stereotypes that exist, and show that we are just people.”