ASA'S ATHLETIC ATTEMPT
BIG/LITTLE GAME NIGHT
BIG/LITTLE SPEED FRIENDING
TREAT Yo' Self Night
ASA GAME NIGHT!
ASA PRESENTS: BLOGILATES AKA CASEY HO
ASA Presents: Dr. Erika Lee
Don't call her Miss 7-Eleven: Spoken word Poet Ramya Ramana performs poems about race, womanhood and family
Written by Devin Dang
On Sunday, September 25th, the Asian Students Alliance had the pleasure of hosting slam poet Ramya Ramana with the support of the Asian Studies Center at the University of Pittsburgh. Opening up for Ramya Ramana was two of our very own ASA members, Rosa Zeng and Sarah Suhaimi. All of them performed in front of a modest crowd of Pitt students in the William Pitt Union Ballroom.
I was able to talk to Ramya before the show. I found out she is currently a senior at St. John’s University. It was her first time performing in Pittsburgh and her second time performing at an out-of-state university. She is always busy with school and work, so her trip here was a big deal for her. She enjoys performing in front of college students due to the connection that similar age and experiences brings.
Ramya is the 2014 New York City Youth Poet Laureate. Through her spoken word, she highlights social and political issues that resonates with her. She is best known for her “Miss America” poem in response to the racism 2014 Miss America winner, Nina Davuluri, faced. I was able to experience the same powerful emotions of the time as it was one of the poems she performed that day. In addition to the poems she performed, we had the privilege of being one of the first to listen to her unreleased recorded piece. She has an objective of making spoken word as accessible to people as much as movies and music. She asked us not to record or share the details of the piece. I hope everyone gets a chance to listen to it once that piece is finalized and released. She is sure to be someone to break into the mainstream and make a mark for all Asian Americans.
XPGH: Dusquesne InclINE
(photos courtesy of Brent Go)
Freshman Welcome Social
Water Pong Tournament!
What Kind of Asian Are You?: Slam Poet Alex Dang performs at Open Mic Night
Written by Ja-Way Wang
On Saturday, November 14th, Pitt ASA had the pleasure of hosting an open mic night with guest poet Alex Dang at Nordy’s Place in the William Pitt Union. Amongst his many other accomplishments, Dang has been on the Portland Poetry Slam nationals team for 2013, 2014 and 2015, and was the Eugene Poetry Grand Slam Champion in 2014 and 2015. He has traveled across the country and released a chapbook titled “You Can Do Better”.
Three student openers performed three very different acts on the night. Sarah Suhaimi performed poetry pieces from her book Licking Fingerprint that utilize prose and blank verse to express the complexities of her identity. Rosa Zeng performed a passionate acapella rendition of Florence + the Machine’s song “Shake it Out” and Chris Chuong performed a slam poem about his journey to Christianity.
When Alex Dang walked on stage, he energized the crowd with his smile and his enthusiasm. His poems heavily reflected his identities as a second generation Asian American with immigrant parents and as a millennial. Each one of his poems was an emotional roller coaster that had me laughing at some points and holding back tears at others. His last piece “What Kind of Asian Are You,” one of his earlier poems that helped his career get off the ground, was a wonderful expression of complex emotions and thoughts about being Asian in the United States. Dang performed both fully developed and new, unfinished poems and engaged the crowd with his openness and vulnerability.
What makes Alex Dang particularly inspiring and powerful to me is how relatable he and his poems are. Alex is only a college senior, a year older than I and similar in age to many of my peers who were sitting in the audience. At many moments of his performance, I felt as though his voice spoke for my own. His poems addressed immediate issues and concerns that my peers and I face, and it was encouraging to hear such an articulate expression and commentary on these issues that many of us, as his contemporaries, struggle to vocalize. Also, Dang's charisma and positive energy was really refreshing and energizing. Often times college students stress out over the career path they want to pursue, and are struggling to understand themselves, but Dang's performance reminded me that positivity can completely change the way we move through our daily struggles.
Asian and Gender Queer: DarkMATTEr shares the realities of living as Transexual South Asian Americans
Written by Ja-Way Wang
On Saturday, October 17, ASA had the pleasure of hosting Alok Vaid-Menon and Janani Balasubramanian of the trans South Asian performance art duo DarkMatter. They performed to a full house at Nordy’s Place in the William Pitt Union with every seat taken up, people standing and sitting on the floor. The audience of around 170 attendees was a diverse crowd of Pitt students, Pitt staff, students from nearby universities, and people living in the greater Pittsburgh area. DarkMatter performed their set and afterwards participated in a short interview-style Q&A as well as a Q&A with the audience, followed by a meet and greet.
Alok and Janani performed powerful pieces that drew from personal experiences, their identities as South Asian Americans and trans individuals, their critiques of certain sociocultural frameworks and issues affecting the trans community, to name a few. In the Q&A they discussed some of their inspirations, which included an Instagram account that highlights fashionable children, the story behind their name and how they met (at Stanford for undergrad), thoughts on trans violence and the trans feminine and trans masculine dichotomy, and elaborations of certain ideas touched in articles and press.
This is my second time seeing DarkMatter perform and more so than the first time, I was convinced that I was part of a greater, evolving Asian American narrative that involves people whose experiences I can not relate to, but whose pain and struggle resonated within me. I had the privilege of talking to Alok and Janani before and after the performance and though their poetry can often be very serious and intellectually overwhelming, they as people are constantly laughing and amicable. Upon eye contact, anyone can feel their passion and their drive. Though the characteristic of both Alok and Janani that really inspires is their genuineness and courage. Their poetry is just a small testament to the immense struggles that they have gone through, and are still going through, but their ability to articulate pain and hardship and translate them into empowering statements is truly something special. They are truly the trailblazers who will shape the discourse around LGBTQ and Asian Americans in the coming years.
Fun At FlagStaff!
EXPLORING PITTSBURGH: MOUNT WASHINGTON & The Duquesne InclinE
Living for something Greater: Jason Lee of Jubilee project shares his journey to happiness
Written by Ja-Way Wang
On Saturday, September 21, Pitt ASA welcomed Jason Lee, one of the founders of Jubilee Project to campus. Jubilee Project is a non-profit organization that makes short films, PSAs and documentaries with the mission to increase social awareness and inspire change. Their content empowers and enables its viewers to action to live a meaningful life.
Jason’s lecture surrounded the idea of “Living for Something Greater”. Alongside several videos, including never-before-seen content, Lee shared his journey to a happy and fulfilled life. His background growing up the immigrant parents is one that I, and many other Asian American students on campus could relate to. After excelling through grade school, his journey took him through college at the University of Pennsylvania, one of the nation’s top universities, where he thought he would find happiness but to his surprise did not. With the notion from his parents that a respectable, high-paying job would bring him happiness, he landed a prestigious job doing managerial consulting at Bain & Company. Even then he didn’t find the happiness that his parents had assured him he would have. Little did he know then that one short video he would shoot with his older brother Eddie would radically change the way he lived his life.
His story isn’t mine to tell, so in short, he and his brother quit their jobs at Bain and the White House respectively, and joined up with their friend Eric who dropped out of Harvard Medical School to begin Jubilee Project.
As a second-generation Asian American with Taiwanese parents who have relatively traditional values, what stood out to me when I heard about Jubilee Project five years ago was how they diverted from what my parents would consider “ideal” lives to pursue careers in media that are bring in little income land little prestige. I thought, “They’ve made it! Why would they give up what so few people can achieve?” Upon further thought, I came to understand that Jubilee Project and their work redefines achievement in Asian American households and attempts to push Asian American identity away from traditional standards of success defined by monetary and social gain towards public service beyond just the AAPI community.
Jason also talked about the idea of living for “why” rather than “what”. Living for “why” means to live with a purpose, and Jason stressed that chasing a goal or status, as ends, will not bring you happiness. Furthermore, Jubilee Project stresses millennials, especially Asian Americans milennials, to “follow their dreams”, and in discussing this idea with my peers, many skeptics brought up the concern of financial feasibility and stability. While at first I struggled to come up with response to these concerns, I realized that my conditioned ideas about monetary prosperity being directly correlated to happiness were deeply rooted in my identity, and that many Asian Americans, including myself, don’t know what happiness looks like beyond the picture our parents have painted for us. Personally, I recently decided to leave the pre-medicine track that I had long been walking on, in “pursuit of happiness” and hopefully will begin to experiences what happiness and fulfillment in living for something greater looks and feels like.