Mi Row cooks kimchi fried rice for the first event of APIDA Heritage Month Jan. 17. Credit: Twinkle Panda | Lantern Reporter

Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Heritage Month celebrates the diverse range of ethnicities that make up the Asian American experience.

The university’s APIDA Heritage Month began Jan. 17. The festivities, which are intended to celebrate diverse Asian American experiences, combat stigmas and share cultures, will conclude with the Korean Culture Show Feb. 14 and feature events such as film screenings, talent competitions and cultural discussions.

APIDA Heritage Month is nationally celebrated in May. However, Ohio State’s Multicultural Center celebrates in January and February to incorporate it into the school year, Elizabeth Dang, a fourth-year in public management, leadership and policy, said.

Dang, the student chair of the MCC’s APIDA Heritage Month planning committee, said she interviewed people and formed the committee during the fall semester to plan and organize heritage month events for the campus, promote APIDA-identified organizations’ events and collaborate with various other diversity groups.

The heritage month kicked off with the event, “Cooking and Conversation: The Love Language of Food.” Various students gathered to celebrate family recipes and their cultural background.

“Kimchi fried rice is one of my biggest comfort foods within Korean culture,” Mi Row, a fourth-year in East Asian languages and literatures, said.

Row said sharing kimchi fried rice is their way to show love toward the people they care about and stay connected to their Korean American identity and father. Row is also a mentor in the APIDA cohort, a part of the MCC that promotes student leadership and a social community, according to the MCC website.

Dang said she hopes the heritage month events will allow the Ohio State community to learn about different ethnicities within APIDA and help members of the community preserve their cultures.

“I think one of my fears is being that generation that cuts off the language or spreading the culture to future generations,” Dang said. “And I don’t want to erase or forget the background and history that my parents and my family and my people have been through.”

Growing up, Dang said she met a lot of people like her who assimilated into American culture while trying to hold onto their own. She said going to college makes these students question their identities, so a goal of hers is to help students reclaim the culture they might have lost sight of while trying to fit in with American culture.

Molly Jasina, a second-year in neuroscience and a mentor with the APIDA cohort, is a transracial adoptee who was born in China. She said she is glad to have gotten a chance to learn about her Asian identity in college through attending APIDA events, joining the cohort and taking classes about Asian American history.

Jasina said that during her first year of high school, she experienced anti-Asian discrimination. She said a classmate mocked her about Asian accents and made gong sounds when she was around.

“I went home to my mom and I cried. It was the first time I experienced a stereotype that negatively impacted me,” Jasina said.

Dang and Jasina both talked about the model minority myth and its role in APIDA discrimination. Dang said the myth paints Asians as being self-sufficient, smart, rich and submissive. Jasina said the myth sets up Asians as being closer to being white than other races and creates a false hierarchy between people of color.

Both of them referenced heritage month as a means to reclaim space and highlight their histories.

“Asian Americans are willing to share and show off their culture and the things they are proud of rediscovering,” Jasina said. “So showing off their heritage and culture with others is saying that, ‘We are going to take some space right here. We want to share it with you, and we hope that you’ll respect that,’ because there’s a lot of racists and wrong done in America.”

APIDA Heritage Month will carry on through mid-February, and the MCC website provides a list of the events, including the Chinese New Year celebration with the Chinese American Student Association Saturday.

“This month is important for people to challenge their ideas of what they think APIDA people of Asian, Asian American people are and kind of just deconstructing those thoughts if they are harmful,” Dang said.