Northwestern hosts regional summit on Asian-American identity for first time since 1997

Madeleine Fernando, Reporter

For the first time since 1997, Northwestern hosted the Midwest Asian American Students Union Leadership Summit, with hundreds gathering at Norris University Center on Saturday.

The summit’s final speaker, history Prof. Ji-Yeon Yuh, spoke about fighting for Asian-American equality and brought up NU’s own struggle of adding an Asian-American studies major.

In 1995, a group of students put together a proposal for an Asian-American Studies Program, but it wasn’t accepted by the University. In April of that same year, the group held a hunger strike to raise awareness for their cause. The Asian-American studies major was added earlier this year.

Yuh encouraged attendees to fight for equality and freedom, saying it is particularly important now that Donald Trump is poised to become president.

“Now more than ever, we need to know our history,” Yuh said. “We need to support each other, and we need to resist. We need to resist the resurgence of racism, misogyny and discrimination. It’s the only way that we can America great again.”

She also told attendees to band together and become advocates for people of color and their rights.

“We’re the only ones who can fight for our own rights,” said Chelsie Dang, a sophomore at Colorado College, who attended the summit. “This conference has really inspired me to become an activist and take a stand.”

During the annual conference, attendees also participated in workshops and breakout sessions that offered students the chance to network and discuss issues related to Asian-American identity.

The theme of the summit was “Journey to the Center.” SESP senior Phan Le, chair of the planning committee for the event, said workshops encompassed topics like career awareness, mental health, gender identity and activism, among others.

Summit attendees represented more than 18 universities across the Midwest, Le said. A group of about 11 students from the participating schools comprised the committee.

“Things weren’t sugar-coated, and I really liked that,” said Cheng Ying Moua, a freshman at Kalamazoo College.

The event concluded with a banquet featuring performances from NU’s East-Asian interest a cappella group Treblemakers, NU’s Taekwondo club, the Deeva Dance Troupe and Manny Garcia, a Chicago singer songwriter.

Le said the summit theme was ambiguous because organizers wanted attendees to form their own interpretations and opinions.

“When I came up with this theme, I realized that not everyone has a very developed political identity,” Le said. “We’re all on our own journeys (but) there is a central core to our identity.”

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