Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Asian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month celebrates identity

To mark the 20th anniversary of Asian/ Pacific Islander American studies and 40th anniversary of ethnic studies at U-M, the University has scheduled a number of events to celebrate A/PIA Heritage Month.

Asian and Pacific Islander Americans live in a world of change, says Han Li, the historian for the A/PIA Heritage Month Committee. Although A/PIA have been recognized as a culturally, historically and religiously unique group, they also resist a compartmentalization into one set identity because there is not a uniform blend of each country in Asia or the Pacific Islands.

“We would like to look at it as a multidimensional entity consisting of the distinct cultures of each nation,” Li says. “At the same time, we would also like to examine ourselves, and consider how each facet of our experience interacts to create our own unique identity. This will lead us to personal discovery and to the redefining of who we really are.”

To commemorate this rich history, the Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs, a unit in the Division of Student Affairs, in partnership with the United Asian American Student Organizations has scheduled a number of events to celebrate A/PIA Heritage Month. These events are designed to give the public a taste of the uniqueness and dimensions of the Asian/ Pacific Islander American identities.

A selection of events:

• March 20: Lunch with Kayhan Irani at noon in the Michigan Union Pond Room. Irani is famous for “We’ve Come Undone,” a play that voices the experiences of Arab, South Asian and Muslim communities after 9/11. This interactive lunch highlights an opportunity to learn more about Irani’s personal perspective on identity and multicultural experiences in America. The event is free. Copies of her new book “Telling Stories to Change the World” will be available for purchase.

• April 10, a performance by hereandnow will take place at 7 p.m. in Angell Auditorium A. hereandnow, founded in 1989 by John Miyasaki, is an Asian American theatre group that seeks to perpetuate the message that each individual has a unique perspective and story to tell. Fueled by disagreement with stereotypical Asian American roles in theatre and film, hereandnow has traveled across the nation to deliver its own unique message and inspire others to voice their own perspectives. This event is free and open to the public.

• April 2, professors Scott Kurashige and Emily Lawsin, faculty members in the A/PIA Studies Program, will host an interactive roundtable to provide students with an opportunity to interact and talk about their personal experiences. Kurashige currently conducts research on Asian American community activism in the context of multicultural cities such as Philadelphia, Detroit and Los Angeles. Lawsin is interested in Filipina/o history, Asian-American studies, and spoken word performance poetry. Time and location for this event will be posted on the Web site.

For a complete listing of the events, go to or e-mail