Coming Into Focus

By Leah Aulisio-Sharpe ’22, April 15, 2021
Asian American Alliance educates the campus community about anti-Asian violence during Focus Asia Month.

In the wake of recent incidents and growing anti-Asian sentiment across the country, the annual Focus Asia Month programming put on by Ithaca College’s Asian American Alliance (AAA) — a student organization — is especially timely this year.

The monthlong observance includes a series of events designed to celebrate Asian and Asian American culture on campus and to educate the campus community about various issues related to that culture. Over the past year, the Asian American community has been subjected to Covid-19-related sinophobia and vulnerable to hate crimes, such as the shootings in Atlanta last month.

“We hope to open the door to an interest for racial justice ... We are inviting students to become allies and take advantage of our events to broaden their horizons.”

Hana Cho ‘21 and Elena Chang ’21, co-presidents of Ithaca College's Asian American Alliance

AAA co-presidents Hana Cho 21 and Elena Chang 21 prepared this year's virtual programming and worked to balance public educational platforms with safe healing spaces within the community.

“We hope to open the door to an interest for racial justice,” the pair said. “We will be providing many resources from the Asian American perspective and will continue to advocate for all BIPOC even after the month is over. We are inviting students to become allies and take advantage of our events to broaden their horizons.”

At one event last week titled, “Stopping Asian American Hate: Mobilizing Collective Grief Against White Supremacy,” assistant professor Wendi Yamashita spoke about the anti-Asian climate and ways to mobilize collective grief against white supremacy.

“My hope is that we can mobilize this collective grief we are experiencing to push us to think expansively about the changes we want to see in our world. It is my hope that grief can make us see where we as Asian Americans are positioned within white supremacy, our privileges and also our oppression.”

Wendi Yamashita, assistant professor, Center for Study of Culture, Race and Ethnicity (CSCRE)

“These attacks, specifically the Atlanta shooting, is not a form of extremism,” said Yamashita, who is assistant professor in the Center for Study of Culture, Race and Ethnicity (CSCRE), and coordinator of the Asian American studies minor. “It’s happening all of the time, historically and now. It’s not an aberration, and seeing it as such is a privilege.”

More to come

April 15, 7 p.m.: Alumni Panel with ICUnity — panelists will discuss memories from their time at IC, parental expectations, working under the current economic situation, and post-graduate independence.  

April 16, 5:30 p.m.: Healing and Centering Asian American Grief, Rage, and Sorrow: A Gathering for our Hearts — therapist and yoga and meditation teacher traci ishigo will lead a workshop designed to provide a healing space for grief and various emotions that many Asian Americans are feeling in the wake of rising anti-Asian violence. The workshop will also provide a space to discuss Asian American identity and experiences on campus.  

April 22, 6 p.m. Cooking Up Culture — the AAA has been compiling a cookbook with Asian recipes from AAA’s food events, as well as students and alumni. The cookbook will be revealed at the event, which will also feature stories about food and culture. 

April 29 6 p.m. Guest Speaker Keegan Ferrell — Keegan, a Chinese adoptee, will speak about his adoption story. 
 

Yamashita also spoke about the history of anti-Asian discrimination and violence in the United States and called attention to the need to create solidarity and alliances with other communities of color who are disparately affected by police and military violence. The goal in doing so is to dismantle the systems and structures that perpetuate inequality, premature death and white supremacy.

“My hope is that we can mobilize this collective grief we are experiencing to push us to think expansively about the changes we want to see in our world,” Yamashita said. “It is my hope that grief can make us see where we as Asian Americans are positioned within white supremacy, our privileges and also our oppression.”

“The Asian American Alliance has had a huge impact on my experience at Ithaca College. It has given me a community where I can discover more about my identity

Jaye Kayne ‘22

The evening concluded with AAA members sharing how their identity has impacted their experiences on and off campus.

“This event was very personal,” said Jaye Kayne ‘22. “I was thankful to be able to speak about my own experiences regarding my Asian American adoptee identity, as well as my feelings and emotions about the Atlanta shooting.

“AAA has had a huge impact on my experience at Ithaca College,” she continued. “It has given me a community where I can discover more about my identity and learn about other Asian identities as well. It has influenced my decision to minor in Asian American studies, which has provided me with an immense amount of knowledge and support.”