By Miru Osuga
The APALI 15th Year Anniversary was a sentimental and invigorating call to community action. Full of sweet moments of tradition—cue the APALI letters, food friend songs, and facilitation circles—the room warmly welcomed alumni back into a community of thoughtful agents of change.
Speakers shaped a mood of inspiration. In the spirit of learning history to combat oppressive erasure, Yen Link Shek, one founder of APALI, spoke of the program’s founding. “If we don’t know our own history, we’ll repeat it,” she said. As college students, we had the privilege of having a space to organize, she reminded us. We needed to advocate for others and be leaders for society, she said. She moved us to think critically and deeply around why we were here and who was not here. We had that potential to create change; it was our responsibility to push the conversation.
Other speakers moved us as they reminded us about APALI’s powerful role today. Dr. Fariha Khan discussed APALI’s importance, especially given the election. Peter Van Do talked about APALI defining PAACH and how the program promoted leadership, growth, agents of change, complexity, and PanAsian endeavors. He ended with #HaveFun #CheerForEveryOneOn Stage #AAPride #AAStudiesNow #ThisIs2016 #BLM #LoveIsLove. Dr. Dana Nakano also spoke about the politicization of our identities, and the power of claiming “Asian American” and “Person of Color” as our labels.
Kusum also spoke of her experiences at Penn. All the notes I have on my white paper napkin are black streaks of eyeliner, remnants of make-up mixed with tears as I realized the depth of my appreciation and love for her.
I also cried because I remembered how special this space was and still is. As we shared our stories from our own experiences with APALI, I realized that time and place were different, but the spirit of the program was constant. It didn’t matter if we’d done the program one semester ago or ten years ago; the level of respect and listening that we gave each other was the same. Being in this inspired space, we felt the energy in the room, the power of a collective consciousness built throughout these last fifteen years manifesting itself today, together.