Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Events Spotlight Mental Health Awareness
May 3, 2023
AAPI THRIVE Project is hosting two events in May that addresses racism and mental health.
UW Tacoma’s AAPI THRIVE Project will host a “Bystander Intervention to Stop Anti-Asian/American and Xenophobic Harassment” event on Monday, May 15, 2023 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. over Zoom. The event will be facilitated by the nationally-known nonprofit Right To Be. The event is free but registration is required.
The feature event for the month of May is the “AAPI Mental Health Awareness and Heritage Month Celebration,” on Friday, May 26, 2023 from 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. in William W. Philip Hall. This half-day event, designed to increase awareness of mental health across campus, will feature a panel presentation with mental health experts, cultural performances, a showcase of student academic and creative work, and information about free mental health resources from the Asia Pacific Cultural Center in Tacoma. Artist, educator, and global agitator, Anida Yoeu Ali will also offer a poetry reading. Ali, who is Senior Artist-in-Residence at UW Bothell, was born in Cambodia and raised in America.
That event is organized by Dr. Ronald “Ronnie” San Nicolas, a native Chamorro from the Pacific Island of Guam and Assistant Teaching Professor in the School of Social Work & Criminal Justice at UW Tacoma, also a key partner for AAPI THRIVE Project. “It’s important to understand how Western approaches are adapted to meet the needs of populations like Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders,” said San Nicolas. “There’s a stigma that keeps people from accessing the necessary resources and services. It’s important that we treat mental health just as important as physical health.” The event is free but space is limited and registration is required.
The APPI THRIVE Project’s kickoff event took place on March 7 and was organized by Tanya Velasquez, Associate Teaching Professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences and Co-Principal Investigator of the project. That event, a panel discussion called “How Critical Asian American Scholars Disrupt Institutional Racism in Higher Education and Beyond,” brought together four renowned scholars of Asian American Studies. The panel included UW Tacoma School of Education Dean Rachel Endo as well as Rick Bonus, Professor of American Ethnic studies at UW Seattle, Kevin Roxas, Dean of the Woodring College of Education at Western Washington University and Eric Tang, Director of the Center for Asian American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.
Each of the four panelists started by talking about their K-12 experience as well as their experience in higher education. “From kindergarten to eighth grade, I cannot recall having a teacher of color,” said Roxas. “I went to high school, grades nine through 12 and cannot recall having a teacher of color. I went to university for four years and I cannot recall having a teacher of color in that space.”
Endo, Bonus and Tang described similar experiences of feeling marginalized, or even attacked, because of their identity. Endo discussed a time when she and her friends were targeted while walking home from school. “This white girl opened her backpack,” said Endo. “She had a water gun with bleach and started spraying us. One of our teachers found out about this and she thought it was funny – and this was a teacher that I respected and loved.”
The conversation shifted to a discussion of how higher education must change to better serve Asian American and Pacific Islander students as well as other students of color. “I think the trouble with a lot of schools is that we always talk about recruiting the most diverse student population, but we ourselves don’t change,” said Bonus. "The shell is the same. The new people who come to our campuses, students from places we’ve stereotypically not heard about, places like Bhutan, we don’t know their histories.”
Going forward, the panelists talked about the need for more inclusive spaces and for classes and faculty that reflect the diversity of the student population. “I have to say that the role of Asian American studies in higher education is to produce better ideas across the disciplines,” said Tang. “I think it’s about producing better knowledge for all of us.”
THRIVE is the result of a $2 million dollar AANAPISI (Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution) federal grant. Events and activities sponsored by the AANAPISI Program do not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education and endorsement by the Federal Government should not be assumed. The AAPI THRIVE Project's goal is to expand supports and services for Asian American, Pacific Islander and low-income students.
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