So far this semester, several on-campus student organizations have sponsored events keyed towards informing the community on contemporary issues in the Asian sphere. They have touched upon topics of historical and political relevance. In an area as isolated as Williamstown, such efforts are invaluable. Their efforts are commendable in a time when a need for a better understanding of international affairs grows more apparent each day.
These events, however, fulfill only a specific role. They import knowledge; they import interest. Those attending these events are thus passive observers. Asia remains a thing far removed because of a lack of emphasis on cultural exchange within the Williams community itself.
The entire Berkshire area shares in this deficiency, which is expressed by the on-campus Chinese school founded by Jerling Kubler. Some of the school’s students travel from homes hours away, some as far as New York, because opportunities to learn about Asian culture are so rare in Western Massachusetts. The school is open to anyone interested but established mainly to meet the needs of a growing number of families with adopted Asian children and interested parents.
“It provides a network for parents to meet each other. And kids, too, who are sharing the same experiences,” said Janet Ho ’03, a teacher’s aid at the school.
For both Williams and Berkshire communities, a better understanding of Asia, being Asian and why the issues interest us could be aided by student and faculty demonstrations of what Asian culture means to them. An interest in politics, economics or history is not enough.
To meet this need and to stir up a degree of Asian awareness on campus not usually present until the second semester, Asian American Students in Action (AASiA), is sponsoring the first annual Asian Expo, to take place just before Thanksgiving Break. The purpose of the festival, like that of the speakers and documentaries already presented, is educational. However, the event is purely student-generated.
Students from all the organizational subgroups â€“ Koreans of Williams (KOW), Chinese American Student Organization (CASO), South Asian Student Association (SASA) and Asian Theatre Project (ATP) â€“ will participate in performances and give demonstrations spanning several cultures, all under Goodrich’s roof.
Booths will feature face painting, Chinese calligraphy, sushi rolling, videos made recently and in past years by students sensitive to the topics of Asian culture and Asian awareness, and much more. People will be able to participate in the demos and try their hand at games, musical instruments and crafts. Performances will include the Chinese acrobatic yo-yo, Korean drumming and Philipino dance, among others. Food and drinks will also be provided by each subgroup.
All activities will be appropriate for people of all ages. Everyone is welcome, especially children. Admission is free for students and children, and two dollars for everyone else. The Asian Expo will take place on Nov. 23, from 1 to 4 p.m. in Goodrich Hall.