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Personal Glimpses: An ECAASU 2011 Overview

A sense of rising anticipation and enthusiasm permeated throughout the Asian Pacific American community at the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus as the weekend of February 18th, 2011 drew near. The date marked the convergence of the nation’s largest Asian Pacific American student organization in the nation- the East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU) conference hosted this year by the University of Massachusetts Amherst in Amherst, Massachusetts. Attendees and speakers for the event included more than a thousand students from various colleges and universities from the East and West Coast, members from the 5-College Consortium (Smith College, Mount Holyoke, Amherst College, Hampshire College), military representatives from the Navy, Coast Guard, and the CIA, ECAASU’s ardent advocate in the person of Asian American web-blogger Phil Yu (AngryAsianMan), Paul Kim (Master of Ceremonies for the night and founder of Kollaboration), spoken word artists Beau Sia and Staceyann Chin, music talent Dumbfoundead, and many other notable Asian Pacific Americans performers and artists complimented by performances of UMass students...

Festivities began on Friday evening and more than a thousand students from the East Coast and the state of California gathered together at the grand Fine Arts Center Concert Hall for the Opening Ceremony. Initial welcoming speeches were eloquently expressed and well-received, but the spotlight for the evening was centered on a speech given by Smith College graduate, Lai Wa Wu, on her concerns of the military’s hidden political agenda and questionable motives behind their substantial financial funding for ECAASU each year. Though Lai Wa Wu was criticized for giving a poorly timed speech more suitable for a workshop, she provided the audience with food for thought and opened up dialogue for a controversial and conversational weekend.

The following morning, students scattered throughout the campus and attended conferences of their choice. Some workshops included: “Sexing Asian America,” “Cultural Experiences of An Asian American in Medicine,” “Angry Asian America,” and “Life is Short. Go for your Dreams.” From gaining knowledge about the history of the Asian Pacific American movement to modern-day Asian Pacific American political activism via web and media, students were given glimpses of insights on becoming empowered to speak out against social and political injustices towards Asian Americans. Students were also encouraged to promote the building of stronger Asian American communities by developing cross-cultural awareness and understanding of various Asian Pacific American backgrounds, and continue to work towards mitigating the color line for Asian Pacific Americans.

The ECAASU 2011 conference was an educational, entertaining, and enriching experience for students. The seamless transitions between informative, inspiring workshops to thought-provoking and simultaneously comedic performances are the end product of the hard work of the UMass ECAASU Planning Board and staff who worked tirelessly to organize and successfully host this event. ECAASU 2011 left students with an abundance of knowledge and a sense of newfound empowerment to further the progress of the present-day Asian Pacific American movement and add to the dialogue for the ECAASU 2012 conference.

Stefanie Chin, 2012, CMASS Web Reporter