AAAB to seek change in name, focus on social issues

Miki Johnson

When the Asian American Advisory Board’s new executive board took office three weeks ago, its members started their term by devising a new name to more closely identify with its changing constituency.

Currently called “the Asian Pacific American Coalition” by its members, the group is still in the process of getting its new name recognized by Associated Student Government, said Sarah Yun, AAAB’s new co-chairwoman.

Alan Fu, AAAB’s former chairman, said the group realized last year that it no longer functioned as an advisory board, but waited to adopt the name until the new executive board took office so members could approve the name change.

AAAB was formed over 10 years ago as an activist group that included representatives from each of Northwestern’s Asian-student groups and advocated for political issues facing Asian Americans. The group really “came together” while organizing a 1995 hunger strike to lobby for an Asian-American studies program at Northwestern, Yun said. In 1999 the administration created an Asian studies program.

Since many of AAAB’s original goals have been met, the group has modified its focus to be more responsive to the changing needs of NU’s Asian-American community. Because AAAB and the South Asian Students Alliance are the only two Asian student groups with Associated Student Government senators, they must represent the Asian voice in Senate, Fu said.

Now that there are fewer political issues facing the community AAAB represents, Yun said the group wants to concentrate on addressing Asian-American identity issues.

“We want to talk about what it means to be an Asian American at Northwestern or in general,” said Yun, a Weinberg sophomore.

Fu said AAAB is trying to move toward speakers that address social issues as well as political ones, such as their Spring Quarter speaker, comedian Margaret Cho.

The group’s upcoming 6th annual “Mr. PanAsia” pageant is another example of the kind of programming AAAB plans to increase. The May 30 event is designed to discredit stereotypes about Asian men as “scrawny” and “dorky,” Yun said.

By sponsoring events with a wider appeal, AAAB hopes to expand the portion of the Asian community involved in the group, reflected in the addition of “Pacific” to the group’s name, Fu said.

According to Yun the group decided to change its name because it “needed that refreshing change, to have a different outlook.”

“I hope that through our work other groups will start opening up,” Yun said. “And … instead will consider that we are all Asian Americans.”