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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

A captivating close to an InspirASIANal month

Published: April 4, 2014
Section: Arts, Etc., Top Stories

After a month of celebration, APAHM (Asian Pacific American Heritage Month) came to an end last Saturday night with a closing ceremony by BAASA (Brandeis Asian American Students Association). The theme of the night was a witty play on words: inspirASIAN.

Tifani Ng’s ’16 opening speech reflected general thoughts most of us share: All great things must come to an end and even after the end of APAHM the community remains. She spoke of how everyone has their own personal identity, but share their aims and efforts in order to make a positive impact on their community. The closing ceremony was stylized as a dinner show complete with a three-course meal served by students-turned-waiters for the night.

The first act, Frances Chang ’16 and Leila May Pascual ’15, dazzled the guests with their jazzy rendition of “Feeling Good.” After their impressive performance, Paul Sukijthamapan ’13 came on stage to talk about Project Plus One. As one of the founding members of Project Plus One he shared his own inspiring story. Sukijthamapan was born in Northern Thailand in a small farming community where he used to gather mangos and sell them in the market streets. Money did not come easy, and he emphasized the limited choices he had for education and food.

Sukijthamapan’s family then moved to the United States, and the American dream became a reality. He’s now on his way to become a doctor after studying biology at Brandeis. He explained why Project Plus One was created. A question occurred to him in the midst of his new life filled with promise. What about those who don’t have the same opportunities? After his revelation, Sukijthamapan went on to volunteer at a free clinic in Timor and discovered the pressing need for medical services—a need that he, with the help of others who value non-profit care for those left behind by capitalistic market culture, could meet.

Project Plus One focuses on the health and needs of the local people first and aims to strengthen the local health system with compassion. Sukijthamapan’s story inspired the audience and urged us to utilize all the choices we have; it’s not about your job, or background, but how you serve. He ended his inspirational segment with a phrase any motivational speaker would be proud of: “You are more than you think you are. You are braver than you think you are.”

A musical break lightened our charged spirits with covers of “Next To Me,” “We All Try” and “Strength Courage & Wisdom,” all sung by Giang Luc and Sophia Pascual. Their unique voices were outstanding. Luc and Pascual returned to the stage later on with previous performers Chang and Pascual with “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” a Whitney Houston classic, to close the night.

The Jubilee Project is a familiar name to anyone involved in the Asian American community on Youtube. But for those who didn’t know, members of the Jubilee Project Brandeis Chapter explained how they aim to promote and produce media that spreads awareness about current-day issues. In this case, their debut film, “A Perfect Match,” featuring Sichan Kim ’16, Catherine Fuh ’16, Andrew An ’16 and Andre Tran ’14, promoted awareness of Leukemia blood cancer. The film was directed by Minh Pham ’16 and tugged at the audience’s heartstrings with a cute romance and a heartbreaking epilogue.

Next was the endearing and talented feature performer of the night, Jun Sung Ahn, otherwise known as Jun Curry Ahn on YouTube or the winner of Kollaboration 2012. He charmed the audience with the bow of his violin and classical covers of “River Flows in You,” “The Moon that Embraces the Sun,” “Counting Stars” and a “Big Bang” Mashup. As a pleasant surprise he added a cover of “Let It Go” from the popular movie Frozen. Like most of the past feature performers, Ahn shared his own experience as an Asian American. Ahn was born in South Korea and moved to America when he was 10 years old. His YouTube channel started with a modest 500 subscribers but he now boasts over 400,000—a number he describes as both humbling and amazing. One of his most popular clips is a humorous violin and dance cover of the ever popular “Gangnam Style”.

Ahn entertained a quick Q&A session. He answered questions like, “How has your career shaped your identity?” “Of all instruments, why the violin?” “Has your violin playing ever helped you with the girls?” “What’s one piece of advice to Asian Pacific Americans who want to pursue their artistic passions?” Ahn’s answers ranged from humorous to frank. He voiced his appreciation of the big Asian American community on YouTube and commented on the racism he faces in YouTube comments. Phrases like, “Oh, he’s good because he’s Asian”, devalue the time and care Asian Americans put into the videos they make and work they do.

Ahn left the audience with a hopeful—and, dare I say, inspirational—message. He advised that we shouldn’t be daunted by the racism, and instead we should find our voice, and pursue our dreams. The celebration of our achievements and encouragement to dream big isn’t limited to the month of March. APAHM may be over but as Bruce Thao, a community leader in St. Paul MN, said, “Becoming Asian American is a process of identity formation, exploration and recreation. It is the amalgamation of part Asian, part American, part self. It is Thanksgiving dinner with eggrolls and stir fry. It is a discovery, but once uncovered, it is a precious gem.”