Loyola workshop promotes empowerment of Asian voices

By Pauline Lacson

“This identity has been created for us, so how can we make it ours?”

These words were spoken by Jason Chan, program coordinator for Loyola University Chicago’s Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, during a recent “Fitting the ‘I’ in Identity” undergraduate workshop.

Chan spoke about factors which shape the social identity of Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) while workshop attendees learned how race is socially constructed in American society.

Upon immigrating to the U.S., Asian Americans did not identify as Asian Americans,  Chan said.

Rather, they would often identify with their cultural, ethnic, or linguistic group, such as being  Vietnamese, Khmer, or Filipino. The idea of being an Asian American is constructed from many historical, social and political forces, and cultural factors while living in the U.S.,  Chan said.

Chan’s question prompted listeners to think about the value of developing AAPI identities individually and on campus. Doing such promotes empowerment for AAPI voices, Chan said.

The workshop was the first event for Project Voice, a movement and initiative recently started by Loyola’s Council of Pan Asian Americans (COPAA), and embodies the movement’s values and mission.

Vicki Dang, 18, a bio-chemistry freshmen and co-executive director of Project Voice, said the Project Voice’s mission is to “build solidarity amongst cultural groups on campus and create a space for Asian American Pacific Islanders at Loyola.”

Likewise, Kristen Surla, 21, an English and sociology senior and co-executive director of Project Voice, said “We aim to foster a sense of interpersonal relations between ethnicities.”

Attendee Kyla Ferraren, 19, a biology freshman, left the workshop with a piqued interest in identity.

“It made me more curious about my identity and how I should feel about it,” she said.

The “Fitting the ‘I’ in Identity” workshop was part of a week-long celebration for Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage month (which is during the month of May, but was celebrated at Loyola as students will be on summer break by early May).

Project Voice is planning many events for the next academic year, and not only for Loyola’s AAPI community.

“Anyone is welcome to our events. We don’t want to be exclusive,” said Dang.

Incoming freshmen can look forward to more initiatives from Project Voice in fall 2012, and in the following spring, the group will shift its focus to the greater Loyola community.

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