Sparks Magazine Issue No. 20 | University of Central Florida

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An Asian Pacific Islander American Publication


University of Central Florida

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EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Alexandra Giang MANAGING EDITOR Michelle Lee FINANCIAL EDITOR Amanda Hoffman COPY EDITORS Mumtaz Abdulhussein • Karen Zhang DESIGN EDITOR Brianne De Los Santos PHOTO EDITOR Laura San Juan PR DIRECTORS Xinni Chen • Stephanie Chang


WRITERS Marium Abdulhussein • Eileen Calub • Cherie Chick • Cindy Duong • Hanna De La Garza • Amanda Hoffman • Glenna Li • Tien Le DESIGNERS Aryam Amar • Maggie Dungey • Julia Guerrero • Arun Jairam • Ariana Rao • Mercy Tsay • Kaela Marie Varias PHOTOGRAPHERS Nidhi Bhide • Tejasvi Dudipalla • Rutva Patel • Daniyah Sheikh • Hunter Strokin • Yimeng Zhou PR STAFF Stephanie Chang • Xinni Chen • Jackie Truong • Zexi Zhang

WRITERS Olivia Hemilton • Anagha Hesaraghatta • Khoa Hoang • Sayona Jose • Sanikaa Thakurdesai • Padma Vasanthakumar GRAPHIC DESIGNERS Trianna Nguyen • Ana Sorto • Padma Vasanthakumar • Prakash Vasanthakumar

NATIONAL BOARD COVER PHOTO Natalie Nguyenduc DESIGN Chi Pham & Denise Ferioli MODELS Gabriel Maghari & Nikita Subramaniam

FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL MEDIA FACEBOOK Sparks at the University of Central Florida INSTAGRAM @ucf_sparks_mag TWITTER @ucf_sparks_mag

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PR MANAGER Janine Do • LEAD DESIGNER Denise Ferioli • LEAD PHOTOGRAPHER Laura Cardello • BLOG EDITOR Chelsea Della Caringal • BLOG MANAGER Asma Ahmed • COPY EDITOR Liana Progar • COPY EDITOR Andy Cabezas • COPY EDITOR Kissimmee Crum

STAFF WRITERS Asma Ahmed • Andy Cabezas • Chelsea Della Caringal • Cayla Cornista • Kissimmee Crum • Zainab Jamal • Trudy Lin • Natalie Nguyen • Liana Progar • Angelika Suansing • Bach Tran • Chi Tran • PHOTOGRAPHERS Paolo Agahan • Isabelle Billones • Laura Cardello • Jillian Kate Cinco • Denise Ferioli Timothy Nguyen • Natalie Nguyenduc DESIGNERS Asma Ahmed • Andy Cabezas • Jillian Kate Cinco • Denise Ferioli • Chi Pham • Mayumi Sofia Porto • Gabi Sanchez • Skyler Shepard • Angelika Suansing • Bach Tran PR COMMITTEE Asma Ahmed • Paolo Agahan • Laura Cardello • Janine Do • Denise Ferioli • Zainab Jamal •

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A LETTER FROM THE EDITOR DEAR READERS, There are many layers to a person. With each year, and even each day, we learn something new about ourselves, something we didn’t know before— a new you to tackle a new day, a new year. By the time March 2021 came around, it was clear that we all learned something new about ourselves and even introduced a “new” us to the world. This new version of ourselves had endured so much, having lived through a pandemic among many other things. Everything that had happened since March 2020 led to tearing away at who we thought we were to bring out this new person we had in us all along.

At Sparks Magazine, it was clear that this new person that we’ve become, and that tore its way through the year, desired a change. We wanted to do more than what we’ve been doing, wanted to say more than what we’ve been saying, wanted to dare beyond what we’ve imagined. With this new layer of our identity unleashed, a stronger, unapologetic voice echoes powerfully to stand up for what is right in a world that is filled with so many wrongs. In this issue, the stories our staff explored are moving, contemplative, and, of course, daring. Issue 20 tackles a range of issues and topics, such as the unfair disadvantage Asian and Asian Americans experience due to the constant shifting of goalposts, the importance of language to one’s identity and the gradual loss of that language and culture that the youth now faces, and the the origins of the taboos that trap a whole culture from discussing sexuality and gender openly and freely. These topics not only require you to tear away at how you understand and see the world, but also ask you to look further through the crevices to find something you didn’t know was there. This past semester, just like this past year, made us reflect on who we are and what we do. This reflection sparked a change in us— a change that needs to be seen and heard, a change that breeds change in our lives and communities. Let this issue be a call for change, a call to action, and a call to use your voice. I hope that you enjoy all the hard work, passion, and care our staff put into creating this issue; and that by the time you finish reading this issue, you’re stirred and driven to make way for a new voice hidden inside you.


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hen Mitski steps on stage, the first thing she does is confess to the audience that she’s not good at engaging audiences. It feels odd at first, because how else is an artist supposed to connect with their audience? The reality is, Mitski uses her apprehension to her advantage and lets her music, and accompanying interpretive dance, speak for itself, resonating to the core within each member of the crowd. You hear about her troubles, what angers her and what depresses her. You hear about her experiences with love and you hear about her alienation. And when the chorus of “Your Best American Girl” comes in, and she stares piercingly into the crowd, you realize what it’s like to be seen by someone like you.

This connection is first seen in her song “Strawberry Blond,” which appears in her second self-released album, “Retired from Sad, New Career in Business.” “Strawberry Blond” focuses on the singer’s feelings of inadequacy due to unrequited love, and the bittersweet memories associated with the other person that they cannot let

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go of because of the nostalgia. This nostalgia is tied to things that the narrator associates with their crush, such as strawberry blond hair and the stereotypically white pastoral setting they both lived in, where one sticks out while the other blends in seamlessly. Reminiscent of summer, strawberry blond hair is considered the epitome of candid, white beauty. The narrator longs for “a life in your shape” and the ideal the crush represents, aching over their inability to have a place in their crush’s life. The narrator then says they “follow the white lines,” a double entendre that literally refers to the white lines on the road but figuratively refers to the life path white society has set for her to follow. In the summer of 2020, “Strawberry Blond” saw a surge in popularity as the summery themes and plucky folk chords resonated with the niche internet subculture “Cottagecore,” which focuses on an idealized rural life and romanticizes western agriculture. The community had been criticized in the past for pushing colonialist and Eurocentric settler values, making the adoption of “Strawberry Blond” into the subculture an uncritical celebration of everything

art & design/ Denise Ferioli

Much of her music focuses on love and the experience of being visibly Asian in predominantly white places and the lack of belonging it comes with, as these themes are tied together in her life. The rejection she experienced in life, both societal and romantic, had been a result of her being an outsider due to her race, and is thus reflected in her music. Mitski addresses this in an interview with The Line of Best Fit: “I write personal stories about relationships, and living in this world and being a human being…but I happen to live in a world which views me as an Asian American.”

by Asma Ahmed

Mitsuki Miyawaki is a Japanese American indie and alternative rock singer-songwriter. She studied at SUNY Purchase College’s Conservatory of Music, where she self-released her first two albums: “Lush” and “Retired from Sad, New Career in Business.” Her work has been nominated for awards such as the Libera Awards and the Grammys, the music video for her song “Nobody” even winning the Libera Award for Music Video of the Year. All of her music is drawn from her personal experiences, such as her life as a college student entering young adulthood, unrequited love and her experiences as an Asian American.

the song criticizes and an erasure of its inherent racial commentary. Furthermore, the adoption of this song resulted in farm animal adaptations of “Strawberry Blond,” such as “Strawberry Cow,” causing backlash for whitewashing as a song about the unattainability of whiteness had been turned into a cute song about animals. Mitski further explores her feelings of alienation and inadequacy as she revisits the topic in her fourth studio album, “Puberty 2.” In the music video for the song, “Happy,” this theme is visualized. Featuring an Asian American housewife in the 50s, “Happy” translates racialized inadequacy in the form of a crumbling relationship as the woman’s husband cheats on her with different, glamorous, white women. These feelings are hinted at over the course of the music video, in scenes such as her disappointing her husband while serving him, her finding locks of blonde hair in his clothes and finding a purse with even more hair and “for my blue-eyed cookie” embroidered within. The purse scene is then cemented by the woman looking at the mirror, her brown eyes reflecting back at her strikingly. Throughout the video, there are cutscenes from the white women to the Asian woman, the former being praised by the man while the latter cries alone, visually depicting the feelings of inadequacy the housewife feels in comparison to the other women. The lead single of “Puberty 2,” “Your Best American Girl,” is much more explicit about Mitski’s experience with racial discrimination. The narrative of the song refracts into double meaning, where at face value the song represents the turmoil of understanding one being too different from their partner, though in depth represents the cultural divide Mitski experienced as a Japanese immigrant in America. As the song opens, Mitski establishes contrasting metaphors, starting with the big spoon and the little spoon, where the former refers to her lover and the latter, herself. She states, “But, big spoon, you have so much to do/ And I have nothing ahead of me,” to set up their differences physically and in terms of status, as his future holds so much opportunity while hers holds nothing ahead of her. Mitski then compares her lover to the sun that’s “never seen the night” as he virtually exists at the center of everything and blinded by his own light, or his upbringing and privilege, and therefore unable to see those in the darkness. Essentially, he is everything unattainable for an outcast, like Mitski, but is blind to it. Contrastingly, Mitski is “not the moon, [I’m] not even a star/ But awake at night [I’ll be] singing to the birds” as she does not have a light of her own but exists in darkness. All she can do is sing about her experiences in hopes that someone will hear her trying to move past the darkness and lack of opportunity. She wishes to be seen, and wishes to be heard in spite of an environment that tells her she is undeserving. The greatest comparison in the song is a personal one, directly referring to the differences in their upbringing in the chorus: “Your mother wouldn’t approve of how my mother raised me/ But I do, I think I do/ And you’re an all-American boy/ I guess I couldn’t help trying to be your best American girl.” In the chorus, Mitski is painfully aware of how her lover’s society perceives and disapproves of her, and as a result, attempts to become the “Best American Girl.” For many young Asian Americans, this means assimilating into white American “culture” at the cost of rejecting their own. She then compares their mothers in homage to her culture and the importance of family values where she is aware and apprehensive of

how her Japanese mother’s parenting differs from traditional (white) American families. As the song progresses, Mitski comes to regret wanting to conform to American society and realizes there was nothing wrong with her upbringing. In the final chorus, she admits: “Your mother wouldn’t approve of how my mother raised me/ But I do, I finally do,” and begins to embrace her mother’s upbringing and herself. The song’s meaning is driven home by the accompanying music video, featuring Mitski herself sitting across from a white man. In the music video, the two appear to get along until their incompatibility becomes evident when another woman appears, a white woman outfitted in a fringed crop top and flower crown as a visualization of a youthful American. As the song progresses, Mitski grows into exaggerated self-love, paralleling the engrossed love of the couple across from her, following along the line “but I do, I finally do” and ends the video playing her own music and walking away from the couple, and their ideals. She is finally able to overcome her feelings, setting out to create her own path with her love, rather than yearn for the love of others. By playing her guitar and walking away, she resolves the line of “singing to the birds,” now “singing” for herself out of self-love. Mitski finally overcomes her feelings of not having the unattainable— love and acceptance in white spaces— by deciding to take it for herself anyway, giving us her most recent studio album, “Be the Cowboy.’’ The title of the album in particular is Mitski’s response to overcoming the outsider’s struggle in being accepted as American as she takes a pillar of American iconography and makes it her own. To GQ Magazine, Mitski states: “When I say ‘cowboy’ I mean the ideal swaggering Clint Eastwood cowboy. In my daily life I tend to be the quintessential Asian woman so I thought, ‘What if I was a tough white cowboy?’ This album is about not taking responsibility for your mistakes. Just fucking up and being like, ‘Whatever.’ That’s what a white guy would do. In cowboy movies they’re destroying a town but they’re the hero. I’m entitled to these things.” Mitski is no longer holding herself back with the idea that she isn’t American enough, but she also understands that being a part of Asian representation doesn’t mean that’s all there is for her. “Be the Cowboy” as an album shows Mitski as an artist who is in control of her own narrative as the songs follow an exaggerated persona, essentially her Cowboy. In her song “Remember My Name,” the narrator comes to terms with their loneliness and dissatisfaction, and decides to aggrandize themself, much like how the album is made as a narrative to separate Mitski’s past and present works. At first, it seems like rejection; however, it is a bold statement of selfindulgence that comes from a place of self-love. Over the course of her discography we can see the path from lamenting being an outsider, to understanding and accepting the fundamental differences in cultural upbringings, to realizing that identity isn’t all there is to Asian Americans and letting herself choose how she is defined rather than letting those around her define her. If she is going to stand out, it will be on her own terms: Accepting all parts of her identity and taking them by force to forge something new altogether.

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How to Say

Goodbye: The Loss of Language and Culture




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The struggles of these two young Vietnamese Americans are not unlike many other minority Americans of the same generation. Losing one’s connection to their native culture and


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In such a tumultuous time, it becomes clear how important language is to one’s identity and connecting to those around them.

language is what numerous minorities experience as they grow up in Englishspeaking countries such as the U.S., and this issue has only been exacerbated in the recent year due to the COVID-19 pandemic that swept the globe. Those who long to visit or return to their native countries can no longer do so and the chance to speak their native language with those fluent is now gone. With social distancing and lock-down measures in place, human interaction has been limited to screens and unreliable phone calls. In such a tumultuous time, it becomes clear how important language is to one’s identity and connecting to those around them. Language is the principal method that people utilize to communicate with one another. It helps express emotions, whether that be frustration or happiness, and is what separates humans from other mammals. The latest edition of the Ethnologue, a reference publication, lists a total of 7,117 living languages worldwide; and out of 7.5 billion inhabitants, 1.5 billion, which is roughly 20% of the Earth’s population, speak English. This is a statistically significant number of individuals considering the thousands of languages that are officially catalogued. Many Asian Americans born in the states are not fluent in their mothertongue, and those who’ve immigrated at a young age are starting to lose touch with their first language as they aren’t able to use it as often while communicating with those outside of their family. It’s easy to see how a language becomes “dead” as each generation slowly assimilates to only using English within their daily lives. To date, there are 573 languages which are considered to be extinct, such as the Native American language of Eyak, Palestine’s Domari, and many more that are endangered. This loss of the mother tongue leaves many Asian American youths in a limbo with their

art & design/Asma Ahmed

Elsewhere, the youngest of three Vietnamese American children struggles to grasp onto the last bit of her connection to the Vietnamese language. She knows enough; the standard greetings and conversational vocabulary, to get by when speaking to her elder family members and other Vietnamese seniors. Though, with two elder siblings who barely speak Vietnamese at home and who seemingly embrace every facet of Western ideals, it was unlikely that she would ever be good enough to call herself a true “bilingual.”

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The girl who flew over to the U.S. was once fluent in Vietnamese, only to slowly lose grasp of the language as her schooling years began. Daily use of English with her friends and teachers became entangled with her use of Vietnamese, which she spoke with her parents and family. Sentences that she was once able to articulate fully in Vietnamese now bore the telltale impact of the English language with simple fillers such as “ok” or “like.” One day, the words she once knew were lost to her.

by Kissimmee Crum & Chi Tran

hat does a girl who spent her elementary years at a Vietnamese educational boot camp before flying over to the United States and a girl whose parents fled Vietnam via refugee boats during their middle school years only to meet and raise three Vietnamese American children have in common? Easy. They both barely speak Vietnamese today.

identity and connections to their culture. It’s hard to communicate when words aren’t neatly translatable or are forgotten, resulting in a mix of “Engrish,” which is confusing for both the speaker and the listener. Vivian Le is a 21-yearold Vietnamese American student at the University of Central Florida who feels that it is difficult for her to talk to her family about serious and in depth topics.

“When I see anyone my age being able to speak English and Vietnamese fluently, I feel lacking compared to them”

-Vivian “When I see anyone my age being able to speak English and Vietnamese fluently, I feel lacking compared to them,” she explains. Though she was once fluent in Vietnamese as a child, she felt that she had lost most fluency and tradition after her schooling within the American education system began. Her need to speak in mother tongue went away as she spent more time apart from her family, needing to fit in with the Western ideals at school. Now, “it’s just the basics...the formalities. It’s just enough to get by.”








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In Asian cultures, it is often seen as rude or disrespectful when one speaks in a casual tone to their elders. The lack of honorifics in English leads to a culture shock when first coming to an individualistic country like the U.S. Hearing kids call their parents by their first names is not an occurrence that is seen much within many Asian countries, who place heavy emphasis on respecting seniority.The lack of honorifics is one of the many ways that the Western idea of individualism is slowly taking over the mostly collectivist mindset that many Asian countries have. In the U.S., where youths are encouraged to leave home when they reach the age of eighteen to “discover themselves,” honorifics may be perceived as awkward and unfriendly as it is often used within formal settings rather than a part of daily life when speaking to close friends and family. The stark contrast highlights the polarizing world that many Asian American youths grow up and live in today.

“There are over 300 million more people who have learned English as a second language as compared to people who speak it as their first,” Nguyen said. She Le, 21 explains how learning English is growing in popularity amongst multitudes of countries who aim to keep up with rising Western influences. She states that “a lot of my students are grown adults who had to learn English in order to rise in their careers, inside or outside their home country.” Although these ELLs aren’t leaving behind their mother tongues completely, there’s a growing trend to push it aside for “advancement” and “opportunity.” Some countries even mandate that its citizens learn English as a foreign language, including China and Indonesia. Other countries like India have ended compulsory English-learning in its primary schools; even so, English is still India’s secondmost widely spoken second language. ਲਵਿਦਾ • tof

Communication becomes even more complex as many Asian languages, such as Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese, include the use of honorifics, a form of speech used when speaking to or about a social superior, in daily conversation. In Asian countries, honorifics are used to address social titles and emphasize formalities in dialogue. For example, older brothers are referred to as “older brother” instead of by their first name. This is a concept that is not often utilized within the English language. It can often be confusing and challenging for English speakers, who usually use the same language to talk to their parents as they do their friends, to grasp the concept of addressing their elders by honorifics when speaking to them.

Shaina Nguyen is an English (EFL) teacher at Kindai University in Osaka, Japan. She talks about how there is a large discrepancy between the number of English-language-learners (ELLs) and the number of native English-speakers.

This contrast in culture leads many Asian Americans to shy away from their use of native language and the honorific form of speech, opting instead to embrace English with its more casual tone of use. This growing trend of learning English as a second language has had a large impact upon the loss of one’s native language. It is a problem that is often encouraged by the older generations as a means to be competitive in today’s economy and globalized world.

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The major loss of homeland tongues did not appear out of the blue. It may seem like a rising trend among younger generations, but really is just a domino effect from major globalization-- or westernization.

out on giving well-wishes in fear of embarrassment from flubbing the words or when they choose to say the same three sentences annually, leaving the heartfelt moment to become obsolete over time.

It is easy to see how neocolonialism has pressured this gradual shift from preserving traditions to “embracing” more western ideals. Neocolonialism is the phenomenon of highly developed countries exerting influence over less developed nations by loaning money out only to collect crippling debts. Economics dominate daily life in any country, regardless of their economic status. Whether it be hiring cheap labor in China or the 1000th McDonalds opening in the Philippines, powerhouse Western money is infiltrating the entire world and is leaving its mark. That mark includes pushing these poorer countries to conform in order to keep business with the West.

Although the repercussions of language-loss is evident, it is definitely possible to preserve what values are left without the native tongue. Many young Asian Americans stand true to their identity and proudly proclaim their heritage. Whether they lack language or don’t follow certain customs, these generations don’t reject their cultural identity, they fiercely embrace it.

A 20-year-old student at the University of Florida, Katelyn Castor, talks about her trip to the Philippines and the culture-shock she experienced overseas. “People seemed to welcome me more when I spoke English, rather than when I was trying my best to joke with them in Tagalog.” “They didn’t like me when I wanted to blend in, when I wanted to be like them,” Castor describes. “Then, it was like I was a celebrity when I told them I’ve been schooling in the States all my life. That was a paradox I couldn’t ever wrap my brain around,” she says. Learning English is popular to the point of detriment. It has become so important to other countries to learn English, that the people not only are losing their native language, but long-standing traditions. It’s no surprise when one isn’t as adept at a language, they cannot fully immerse themselves into cultural experiences tied to that language. Even if exposure to tradition manages to still shine past Western influences, it’s not the same experience without proper communication.

One student from the University of Central Florida, Anthony Peregrino, 22, explains how being active in school keeps him in touch with his Filipino heritage. As a child, like many others of the younger Asian American generation, his family would expose him to multitudes of beloved practices. As he grew up, these practices aren’t performed as often, but it’s cultural clubs amongst young people that makes him feel close to his homeland. “I still interact with many [people my age] who are wellconnected to Filipino culture,” Peregrino states. “We have clubs to remind us of long-time traditions.” In today’s turbulent climate of differing opinions and COVID-19, it’s even tougher to keep in touch with our roots. Partisan stances and social distancing have widened the gap between the younger generations and older

Cultural holidays, for example, could be majorly generations. impacted without being able to speak Many are at war in in native tongues. The Vietnamese their own homes Many young Asian version of Lunar New Year, Tết, about today’s Americans stand true to has traditions where children situations and their identity and proudly stand in front of their elders are left with proclaim their heritage. to wish them good health, only the option Whether they lack language wealth, and happiness in order to continue to to receive “LÌ XÌ”--little red withdraw from one or don’t follow certain envelopes of money. It is entirely another. customs, these generations necessary to say these magic don’t reject their cultural words in Vietnamese, otherwise Language plays such a large identity, they fiercely elders do not give money. role in bridging these gaps. The The problem arises native-tongue is a stepping stone to embrace it. when the younger preserving long-treasured customs and generations history. It reinforces fraying ties inside the choose to skip family, as well as ties to the home country itself. There’s much at stake when languages disappear and it goes beyond just us. What happens when native-speaking generations have moved on from this Earth? It’s us left. This broken and butchered language speaking peer group will reflect the broken and butchered culture that remains. The hardest part will ultimately be the literal inability to give a proper goodbye. 10 | SPRING 2021


come from a family of boat people.

Sitting in my AP US History class and furiously writing notes as my teacher lectured about the Vietnam War was the first time, I truly understood the term—“boat people.” I listened to my teacher quickly discuss the refugees who escaped Vietnam

In the 1970s, at the end of the Vietnam War, my father’s family was one of the thousands of Vietnamese refugees who fled South Vietnam in search of a new home. With their six children, my grandparents gathered all they could carry and snuck onto a fishing boat, leaving their families and homeland behind. However, escaping was only the beginning. Vietnamese refugees survived long voyages at sea, facing storms, hunger, thirst, disease, and pirates. Even if their boats managed to reach land, some countries turned them away. Despite all of this, my father’s family survived and made it to a Malaysian refugee camp where they stayed until they were sponsored to immigrate to the United States. These wartime experiences coupled with the loss From a cousin, I learned that in Vietnam, my of their homeland and culture shock can grandparents had a three-story home and a take a severe toll on refugees’ relationships with their family, new home, and identity. pet pig. This story is by THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA after the fall of Saigon, an aside to how President Nixon’s Watergate scandal ended American involvement in the Vietnam War. My mother had once described our family as “boat people,” but the context of how our family came to America remained cloudy. This hour and a half lecture was the most comprehensive explanation of the plight of the Vietnamese refugees who fled Vietnam in the 1970s. Growing up, my knowledge of my family’s experiences during and after the Vietnam War was limited. It was not until later in high school when my parents started discussing my grandparents’ past lives in Vietnam. Throughout the years, I pieced together bits of their past lives to create a hazy image of Vietnam.

According to Alperin and Batalova in 2018, the end of the Vietnam War spurred large-scale immigration from Vietnam to SPRING 2021 | 11

design/Prakash Vasanthakumar

From my father, I learned how my Bà, my grandmother, who knew little English worked as a janitor in a Florida high school to earn money for their family.

Living through traumatic experiences can change an individual’s behavior, personality, and even their biology. One generation’s trauma can also be passed down to subsequent generations. This concept is known as intergenerational trauma or the intergenerational transmission of trauma. According to Sangalang and Vang in 2017, intergenerational trauma, otherwise known as historical trauma, is “the ways in which trauma experienced in one generation affects the health and wellbeing of descendants of future generations.” Historical trauma was first documented in the children of Holocaust survivors who experienced negative mental health outcomes, such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Researchers also found that the children’s relationships with their parents were greatly influenced by the knowledge of their parents’ suffering. As the Zur Institute explains, the transmission of trauma may manifest through the children’s identification with their parents’ suffering, feelings of responsibility, parenting patterns, and communication between parents and children regarding the trauma.

by Amy Pham

From my mother, I learned how my Ông, my grandfather, was sent to a re-education camp because he was connected to the South Vietnamese government.

the United States due to US-sponsored evacuations. Thus, many Vietnamese Americans are descendants of Vietnamese refugees. Similar to the families of Holocaust survivors, the traumatic events experienced by Vietnamese refugees can affect future generations of Vietnamese Americans through their parent-child dynamics, assimilation into American society, and relationship with their own identity. Factors that can contribute to worsened health outcomes in the Vietnamese immigrant population include pre-migration trauma, war-related violence, political persecution, and challenges in a new country. These experiences can also influence the parenting styles of Vietnamese immigrants. Additionally, Kim et al. in 2017 explain that discrimination related to cultural differences, language barriers, and low socioeconomic status is associated with higher psychological distress and mental illness. The experience of being torn from their homeland and rebuilding in a foreign country speaks of the Vietnamese immigrants’ resilience but leaves a lasting mark on their future. Voice of OC in 2020 reports that mental health experts have linked their trauma to depression, domestic abuse, and gambling. Furthermore, Tsong in 2016 states that “post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety are higher among Vietnamese Americans than other Asians.” Vietnamese American families face negative

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health outcomes connected to the social and biological effects of intergenerational trauma. However, the stigma surrounding mental illness in the Asian community stops Vietnamese Americans from obtaining psychological help and allows the mental disorders to fester. The stress Vietnamese refugees experienced continues to affect their families beyond those who immigrated. A study done by Vaage et al. in 2011 explained how a parent’s trauma can disrupt family life and the psychological development of their children. In fact, Vaage et al. found an association between children’s mental

health and fathers with high levels of psychological distress twenty years after their parents left Vietnam. The struggles of Vietnamese refugees immigrating to the United States and assimilating into American society can be passed down through the womb. Intergenerational trauma can also be passed down biologically from parent to child through epigenetic changes, the expression of genes. For example, Nguyen in 2019 explained how refugees with PTSD can pass down high cortisol levels to their children, which could lead to a “greater risk of a hyperactive stress response” and is correlated to anxiety and depression. Therefore, even just having parents who

experienced some form of trauma can impact a child’s long-term health outcomes. Vietnamese Americans and other Asian ethnic groups tend not to utilize mental health services leaving them with untreated trauma. The stigma surrounding mental illness is prevalent in many Asian cultures and a major barrier to mental health care use. According to Mental Health America, “AAPI [Asian American Pacific Islanders] adults are the racial group least likely to seek mental health services — 3 times less likely than their white counterparts.” It is imperative to consider the basis of intergenerational trauma in the Vietnamese American community to develop effective solutions and treatment. While reflecting upon our history as Vietnamese immigrants can be difficult, the dedication and strength of our families in securing a better future is inspiring. However, it is not just the Vietnamese community that suffers from the effects of intergenerational trauma. Several Asian American ethnic groups have their own experiences and struggles that may affect their mental health outcomes. For the future of our communities, we must address this legacy of trauma. According to Yi in 2020, Asian Americans are the “most understudied racial/ ethnic group in the peer-reviewed literature [and] critically underfunded by the National Institutes of Health.” Additionally, much of the current research combines all Asian American communities as one monolith, ignoring the experiential and cultural differences among diverse Asian American ethnic groups. The lack of knowledge on issues related to Asian Americans is hindering our ability to solve problems such as the effect of intergenerational trauma on Asian immigrant families. Increased funding for research regarding Asian American refugee health outcomes is needed to close the gap of understanding and address these problems. Furthermore, disaggregated data, information specific to Asian American ethnic groups, is integral to targeting ethnicspecific issues. Comprehensive research evaluating the factors that influence intergenerational trauma in the Vietnamese American population will provide the necessary context to develop effective policies to resolve this problem. Developing culturally specific mental health care is one strategy that can help treat Vietnamese patients who suffer from the effects of intergenerational trauma. For

example, Voice of OC in 2020 discusses how Dr. Chau, the medical director for Behavioral Health Services at CalOptima, has found that “culturally appropriate psychotherapy” has been effective when treating firstgeneration Vietnamese patients. The process of destigmatizing mental illness and addressing intergenerational trauma all begins with starting a conversation. Increasing education on mental health in Asian immigrant communities is one way to destigmatize mental illness in the Asian American community. Working with community organizations and developing educational campaigns to spread awareness on the issue of mental illness and the harms of untreated trauma is another way to normalize using mental health services.

We must take steps to educate ourselves and address the influence of intergenerational trauma in our community. In doing so, we can provide the support our families may need and prevent further detriments from continuing in future generations. While I still have much to learn about my family and the mark the Vietnam War left on our lives, I hope one day I can fully understand the context of our history. There is still more that must be done and understood to address the intergenerational trauma in the Vietnamese community. I come from more than just a family of boat people. I come from a legacy of resilience, fortitude, and hope.

“Tree has roots, water has origin.” - Vietnamese proverb SPRING 2021 | 13

“No one really got a chance to see the inside of the restaurant, and we were struck down by almost half of our staff. Even still, we’re still here, and we’re very thankful for that,” Sarah Wu said, who works at her family’s restaurant. Tough times didn’t impair their business from persevering. In fact, as a family-run business, V.L.C. Vegan Eatery saw several benefits to their attention to detail and creativity. Chef and owner Jim Wu and his wife Michelle (known to customers as Papa and Mama Wu) both came to the U.S. from China nearly 40 years ago, settling on careers in culinary as it was one of the jobs most accessible to them. Soon, Papa Wu found passion in his cooking, and sought to adapt to a new lifestyle: a plant-based diet. “A plant-based 14 | SPRING 2021

lifestyle is better for the Earth, and you’re just healthier and happier when you’re not eating meat,” Papa Wu said. “It gives you a cleaner mindset, not just health-wise, but also mentally.” In 2005, Jim Wu and his wife became interested in Buddhist practices, including that of vegetarianism, which later prompted their veganism. This in no way, however, has changed the craft, skill or delectability of their food. In fact, veganism leads the Wu family to finding new challenges and discovering a different side of cooking. “Transitioning from cooking meat to plant-based food, my parents have used a lot of flavors that they draw out by cooking vegetable broth and seasonings to create these flavors, they create all the sauces and flavorings at V.L.C.,” daughter Sarah Wu said. “They get a lot of the colorings from vegetables, too.” V.L.C. Vegan Eatery’s menu is constantly expanding with new creations from Papa Wu’s kitchen. They offer an array of traditional veganized dishes, such as dumplings, tofu curry and Mama Wu’s kimchi; as well as other popular options like the Chick’n Tempura Sushi Roll and Ginger Be-ef Stir Fry. They even offer refreshing vegan drinks and amazing desserts, for example, Thai Tea made with oat milk and vegan cheesecake.

design/Gabi Sanchez & Denise Ferioli


mongst the typical and boring food-chain restaurants that crowd the University of Central Florida area resides a new establishment with fascinating dietary proposals. V.L.C. Vegan Eatery first opened its doors in the Waterford Lakes area at the beginning of 2020. With their beginnings being hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Wu family that founded V.L.C faced an unprecedented harsh reality.

by Andy Cabezas

Home is Where The (Vegan) Food Is

“As a chef, I want people to know that now there are a lot more options for vegan food,” Papa Wu said. “It’s not what it used to be. As a chef, you learn that some things won’t necessarily taste like meat, but you can still work with flavors to cook, you don’t miss meat.” Menu items are a healthy take on the regular meat-filled and fattening counterparts. Everything they serve is freshly made, and your body will distinguish that. Their food is light and made with a lot of love from the family. As their name suggests, you are sure to find their meals check all three boxes: Vegan, Love and Care.

photos by / Katherine Nguyen

V.L.C. Vegan Eatery is located at 504 N Alafaya Trail, Suite 113. They are currently open for takeout only, Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Their Facebook is listed under the name @VLCVeganEatery and their Instagram can be found under @v.l.c.veganeatery, where you can find more updates on specials and Papa Wu’s scrumptious creations. *Quotes were translated with the help of Jim Wu’s daughter, Sarah Wu. Sarah manages all marketing and social media materials for V.L.C. Vegan Eatery*

504 N Alafaya Trail Suite 113 Hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 11am-9pm @VLCVeganEatery @v.l.c.veganeatery

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by Zainab Jamal photography/Denise Ferioli

The Effects of Western Imperialism On How South Asia Views Sex

Content warning: Discussion of sexual slavery, harassment, and unsafe family environments. Names have been changed to protect privacy.



ith the mention of this word, my elder’s eyebrows would immediately rise, mouths gape open, and time would move slowly as they ponder my

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upbringing. With the sole emote of sex, I would be silenced and hear words like sharam, meaning shame. Considering this, why, when given an activity defined as a human instinct, does it exist as a taboo in the South Asian community? Have we always been this way?

design/Mayumi Sofia Porto


While more widely accepted and normalized in the West, the space for discussion on sexual activity in the East, specifically South Asia, is limited behind closed doors and is not discussed freely with others until after marriage. Safe discussions considering sexuality and questioning gender are rare. Post marriage, sex is traditionally spoken through visual metaphors or in the context of child procreation. While it may seem like these beliefs are rooted in tradition, this was not always the case.

The British wanted to push their ideals forward and “purify” the residents of a foreign land. Due to this, it deteriorated much of the sexual freedom in the past to better uphold Western beliefs and to give leadership to those that best represent Eurocentric ideals. They stripped away the platform of the devadasis by working to outlaw the tradition, leading to the socio-economic tragedy of their community and now being a marginalized community of sex slaves with few protections of their rights. Hijras, too, faced marginalization and isolation. To best ensure that individuals would fit Western and heteronormative ideals, the colonial state aimed to paint hijras as criminals and delinquits as they were the farthest removed from the Western image. Even to this day,they continue to be oppressed. Along with all of this, the West brought in strict labels for sexuality and gender, resulting in increased homophobia and an emergence of the vilification of sex.

Before colonization and the arrival of the West in the early 15th century, sex was viewed as a spiritual and natural occurence— a true culmination of human instinct. Sex was considerably less a taboo as seen in current day society. As a response to this, the East was viewed as barbarians and sexual deviants to the West. At the time, homoeroticism and sexual imagery was common in This repression and conservatism can also be seen in postall forms of Eastern art. Examples could be seen in books like colonial times. Currently, in Pakistan and other Muslim-majority countries, U.S. interference has been responsible for many the “Kama Sutra” or poetry during the Islamic empire. conservative campaigns shown in Western propaganda. In Before the presence of Western imperialism, individuals the pursuit of oil and power, they have sponsored leaders and expressing sexual freedom and/or identifying within a third organizations like the Taliban that were radical extremists. While gender would be greatly respected, especially, the devadasis the U.S. later stepped back on these sponsorships, it led to the and hijras. Devadasi is a title given to women who are devoted loss of many lives and a rise in the policing of women’s bodies to a deity or a temple for their entire lives. As part of rituals and sexuality as a whole. Thus, many of the countries that are or ceremonies, they performed classical Indian dances and deemed as “backward” or conservative today were a result maintained a high social status within the community. When it of outside interference— not their own values. Thus, the “sex came to sexual partners, they were not tied down to marriage taboo” was largely manufactured from a conservative society and monogamy was not expected as the devadasis aimed to that should not have even existed in the first place. serve God. On the parallel, hijras are a sexual and gender fluid community in South Asia. Before colonization, they would also The effects of this taboo is clearly shown through maintain a high social status and were involved in taking care of intergenerational trauma. Megha, a student at the University of financial responsibilities and more. Their choices would not be Central Florida, stated, “I have never had the sex talk with my parents, even mentioning something similar would make them criticized as there were no strict labels for sexuality or gender. unhappy and angry.” Similarly, around the time of the Mughal dynasty, it was considered normal for everyone to harbor partial or full romantic When all we know has been the action of being silenced, our and sexual feelings for the same gender. As a result, they elders can not even conceptualize the concept of sexual believed that there should be no penalty for expressing it; even freedom. Perhaps, the constant policing that our ancestors poets and royals would be open about their sexuality through have faced in the past and the traumas experienced during homoerotic art and poetry. Kings and individuals in power would colonization have impacted both those in the past and us now. have mistresses of all gender identities with no criticism from the public— except the West.


Yes, the West. The sexual freedom exhibited by South Asia was seen as savage and in need of reform. As a result, the colonization of India greatly impacted the sexual liberation in a negative way. With the arrival of the British Raj in 1858 came the concept and enforcement of the traditional nuclear family. The nuclear family is generally defined as a construct of a heterosexual cisgendered couple and children. While their policies were aimed for the “greater good” on paper, they mainly benefited the high-caste and bourgeois view of sexuality and feminism.

“when all we know has been the action of being silenced, our elders can not even conceptualize the concept of sexual freedom.”

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Similarly, Aisha, another student at the University of Central Florida, mentioned hiding her relationships and any dating history from her parents. “If my parents found out about my romantic interests or feelings, they would be uncomfortable and punish me,” Aisha said. Given these statements, we have a right to be angry and reclaim the sexuality and freedom that was taken from us and reclaim the taboo to enable a more accepting There are also cases of women speaking out during the #MeToo movement and being open about their sexual harassment. society in the future. This arrives even with the strong culture of victim blaming and never centering sex within a conversation. Looking at this, “we have a right to be angry slowly, individuals are starting to break the thick wall of colonial influence and taboo. and reclaim the sexuality

and freedom that was taken from us and reclaim the taboo to enable a more accepting society in the future.”

While it may seem that our culture is tied by the shackles of taboo and that our present is bleak, the sun is slowly starting to rise above the horizon. Due to the voices of activists and scholars, the knots and pindrops around the discussion of sex, sexuality and expression are slowly being untied. An example of this is the Aurat March held in Pakistan on International Women’s Day. The purpose of this demonstration is to amplify the voices of South Asian women that are tied within the caves of patriarchy. Through movements like this, the abysmal effects of the silence surrounding sex are slowly coming to the forefront and important discussions are finally occurring. In India, there are laws being passed decriminalizing homosexuality that finally allow society to envision a future where a petal from the past can safely reside.

“through movements like [the Aurat March], the abysmal effects of the silence surrounding sex are slowly coming to the forefront and important discussions are finally occurring.”

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However, what can we do? Given the systemic, large scale problem, is there any hope on a personal level? At the end of the day, it starts off small, including powering through awkward and difficult conversations. Starting an open and safe dialogue with friends may be the first step. With this, it may be easier to eventually learn to navigate similar conversations when approaching family. However, at times these conversations can lead to unsafe situations, so establishing boundaries and working within a comfort zone is important too. Given the large spectrum and range of sex, sexuality, gender, and more— the best way to abolish the taboo is to be comfortable with it within yourself and understand it on a deeper level. Rather than attach shame or preconceived notions to sex, embrace it and understand it for what it is— a natural process and a human instinct.


rom the hour long episodes to lovable characters, there’s nothing quite like a good, Korean drama. Of course, we have to mention that empty feeling a person experiences when their favorite drama ends. Throughout the good and bad there is a list of K-dramas that have stood the test of time and have been regarded as some of the greatest to ever exist.

It’s Okay To Not Be Okay (2020)

Signal (2016)

A story about two people who unexpectedly cross paths and begins to heal each other’s emotional wounds. Things get more captivating as the drama unveils the truth of their pasts that has been haunting them their whole lives.

A mysterious, walkie talkie allows a detective in 1989 to communicate with a cold case profiler from 2015. With the power of fore and hindsight, the two not only solve crimes, but prevent them from ever taking place.

Some of my favorite parts about this drama were the main character’s chemistry. They were funny, bonded well together (despite their differences), and brought the best out of one another - even after going through harsh realities in their lives. I have a lot of love for the artwork presented in the show, as it made the drama more whimsical with a touch of mystery. We also can’t forget mentions of mental health and inclusion of an autistic character - we rarely get to see that in the drama world, so it makes me happy that they are being brought up nowadays. (9.5/10)

There are no words to describe how amazing this drama is. In the many years I have been watching K-dramas, “Signal” is something beyond compare. The plot itself was unpredictable and had me on the edge of my seat at all times. Consider watching it later one—you will definitely be hooked after watching one episode. (10/10) SPRING 2021 | 19

design/Chi Pham

Sparks’21 K-Drama Recs List

by Cayla Cornista

Crash Landing on Your Friday Night

Fight For My Way (2017) The series follows four friends, who are trying to reach their dreams, while navigating through the harsh realities of life and love. Dubbed as “The Crazy Fantastic Four,” they all start out as individuals who lack abilities. But throughout the series, they grow into themselves. This is something we can relate to, especially in these hard times. Bonus: For those who love the “best friend turned lovers” trope, this one’s for you too! I, for one, am a sucker for things like this, so having that trope plus the realistic, slice-of-life plot made this an enjoyable drama to watch. (7.5/10)

It’s Okay, That’s Love (2014) Centred around the theme of mental health, the series follows a successful novelist/radio DJ and psychiatrist’s lives, who are constantly at odds with each other, but changes when they start living in the same house. Content Warning: Contains mature content I was surprised at how daring the production team was to put this under the spotlight and did it so well. It’s not easy to bring up a topic like this, especially with the underlying stigma it has, but I think it had opened up doors that became included in future Korean dramas. Fair warning, it is not a casual drama to watch. However, I wanted to include it in the list because not only were the performances amazing, but they were able to give careful thought on mental health and a look into the world of those who are going through different things. (9/10)

Honorable Mentions: Crash Landing on You (2019) Oh My Ghost (2015) Kingdom (2019) SKY Castle (2018) Strangers from Hell (2019)

Itaewon Class (2020) Based on a webtoon of the same name, Park Saeroyi’s life turns upside down after an incident in high school and his father’s shocking death. Following in his father’s footsteps, he opened a pub in Itaewon and, along with his manager and staff, strives to become more successful and reach greater heights.

Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo (2016) Pinocchio (2014) Reply 1988 (2015)

What’s unique about this drama was that it wasn’t your typical revengetype storyline. While it does the “rags to riches” concept, the main character was able to figure out things in different ways than usual. Park Seo-Joon’s acting was also what made this drama unlike other dramas that have this type of trope. The cast was also pretty diverse, as we see the inclusion of a Black character and transgender woman. (8/10)

Coffee Prince (2007) An irresponsible bachelor pretends to be gay so he can avoid blind dates arranged by his grandma. He hires Eun-chan to be his lover, not knowing that she is actually a female. Can’t forget to add this classic K-drama! One of things I love about “Coffee Prince” was its on-screen romance/chemistry - the actors made it believable to a point that you feel butterflies in your stomach. It’s definitely a plus if the characters make you feel exhilarated and cringey (in a good way?). (8/10) 20 | SPRING 2021

Tale of the Nine-Tailed (2020) Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo (2016)

When the Camellia Blooms (2019) A single mother opens a bar in a fictional town and begins a relationship with a good-natured police officer, who is trying to catch a serial killer. Aside from its “serial killer in a romance drama” plot, it was empowering for women, as we see the main character grow from her old ways and become stronger than she already is. It is a simple, yet heartwarming drama that tells you that whatever obstacles life throws at you, you can overcome it some way, somehow. (7.5/10)

The World of the Married (2020) Based on the BBC One’s series “Doctor Foster”, it tells a story of a married couple whose betrayal of one another leads to a whirlwind of revenge, grief, forgiveness and healing. Content Warning: Contains mature content. There’s always that one drama where you personally feel some type of way, and it is this one for me. The emotional rollercoaster I went through watching this drama was too much to handle. But through it all, it was another drama I was hooked on. While you witness each and every character go through the motions of married life, you were also feeling it as well. I honestly have to give the actors a round of applause for the work they had put in because it is a drama I couldn’t stop thinking about after a while. (9.5/10)

Hello, My Twenties! (2016) A retrospective, youth drama that speaks about the lives of five young women and parades over their love inhibitions, self-esteem issues, school worries and other typical predicaments women in their 20’s usually worry about. I would definitely consider this as one my comfort K-dramas. Great to watch with girl friends as it is relatable and tackles things that typically women usually go through in their 20’s. Each character is very unique in their own way, which is another way you can relate to them. “Hello, My Twenties” is a feel-good drama that presents female friendships and girl power. (7.5/10)

Reply 1997 (2012) Set in the 1990s, the series follows female high-school student Sung Shi-won, who idolizes boyband H.O.T and her five high school friends. As a teen, she was obsessed with a boy band. Now at 33 years old, Shi-won and her friends are reviving their memories at their school reunion. My first and probably favorite “Reply” series of all. Watching this drama gave me a glimpse of how fan culture was during the 90’s in South Korea. The passion and love the character had for her favorite groups was interesting to witness. What’s especially great about this was the guessing game throughout the episodes. We slowly find out who the character ends up with, while also look back into their past, something I haven’t seen in K-dramas. (8/10) SPRING 2021 | 21

Trendy Asian Traits

An Op-Ed on the Trending Culture of Being Asian

“It’s not bad per se, it’s not bad to recognize your own culture,” said Alfredo Balbas, a third-year student at the University of Central Florida, who was born in the Philippines.“ There are full-blooded Filipinos who are born and raised in America, so it’s good to embrace cultural identities even if you’re biracial, but there’s also people who are trying to understand the culture. On the other side, there’s a trend where it’s just about showing off.”

“It’s sad knowing that people are using [their] culture for fame without wanting to actually learn about it,” said Christianne Joy Balaquiao, a second-year UCF student. “People who hop on this ‘trend’ without knowing what really comes with being an Asian, all the positives and negatives, just shows their privilege.”

Embracing our own culture has always been perceived as a good thing. Tracing back our own roots and learning more about where we came from is heartwarming. We can find a sense of belonging by seeing where our family lineage all began. In a time where technology and social media are prominent, learning about one’s culture is like taking a walk in a park. People who are mixed or people who just want to find out where they came from can discover more about one side of themselves by simply scrolling through their phone. However, there are always two sides of a coin.

The Asian trend can be seen everywhere, such as in Instagram bios where there are always flags indicating their ethnicity or where they’re “from.” There’s also trends on YouTube where people would show off the “experience” of having Asian parents. Most of these people are Asians born in the West and have no first-hand experience of what it’s really like being from Asia and living in their

Ever since Asian culture gained popularity from the whole world, people have started seeing a whole race of people as an aesthetic. From photoshoots to posts on Instagram, there is always someone jumping on the “Asian trend.” The “Asian trend” is the act of popularizing Asian culture and hopping on the bandwagon without looking at it from a subjective point of view. This is mostly seen with the spike of Korean drama viewers or Asian food in pop culture. People are quick to jump on “all things Asian,” even going as far as aestheticizing it. This trend is a small part of a larger “POC trend,” or people of 22 | SPRING 2021

In the United States, there are cultural student organizations in universities that promote Asian culture. They set up events that relate to their racial and ethnic dynamics; however, most of these events are surface level. These clubs take the most basic aspects of being Asian and extrapolate in the small details into their identities. Most of the people that do this are most likely born in the U.S. and have only visited their home country a handful of times. They have Asian genes, have the Asian features, but have a limited understanding of their own cultures and traditions. While most of these students are ethnically Asian, they are Asian American whose experiences are completely different from that of Asians born and raised in Asia. They grew up in the West and only know what it’s like being Asian from what their parents and relatives tell them. More often than not, they’re also the same people that claim to be “so Asian” and “proud” whenever they take a bite of rice. “From an Asian being born in Asia, I do think that this is a problem,” said Balbas. “People only go up to the surface level of being Filipino. People use Jollibee as an entrance to be validated as Filipino.” Students in Asian organizations tend to use their background in

design/Andy Cabezas

motherland. They “educate” their white peers about their background that they’ve only known from the other side of the world. People who have some type of mixed race in their blood would flex on social media and call themselves diverse.

photography/Paolo Agahan

color trend, in which it’s trendy to be a person of color in regard to food, fashion and aesthetics due to it being “exotic.” The nature of this trend, of course, ignores the systemic issues that marginalize people of color, and Asians, in America.

by Chelsea Della Caringal


he United States of America is a melting pot of all kinds of diverse cultures. Majority of the people living in America have different backgrounds, coming from all over the world. However, white culture is, and always has been, dominant in America; but, as generations pass, people are calling for a change. Minorities are demanding their voices to be heard. Today, we see more diversity in society: We see them in restaurants, music, festivals, and fashion. People of color are stepping up to showcase to the world what their culture has to offer, and the rest of the world wants to see it. The popularization of Asian culture in the mainstream media has also impacted Asian Americans to go back and learn more of their roots.

order to fit in, to the extent where they tend to use it as a personality trait. They claim to drink so much boba or cannot live without rice because they are Asian. Though these actions might seem performative, Asians born in America have a different perspective on the issue. “A lot of us haven’t been exposed to the culture,” said second year Justin Quinain.

“It’s actually a good thing that we’re learning more about it in Asian organizations, even if it’s shallow. As long as they are willing to learn, I don’t think it’s bad at all.” - Justin Quinain, 2021 Surface level learning can be a good start. People can grow a more meaningful appreciation of what it means to be Asian. It gives an epiphany that there’s definitely more to being Asian than what is popularized. The problem with surface level exposure, however, is that it generalizes the experiences of being Asian in Asia. Asian trend followers don’t ever talk about the feeling of getting a cone of ice cream from a middle-aged man named Tito (Uncle) Boy, wearing a wife-beater while ringing a bell in the Philippines. They don’t talk about the euphoric feeling of eating lugaw in a karinderya (eatery) in the scorching hot weather. All of that is just everyday life for them. On the other hand, Asians born in America don’t know how else to express the culture because the understanding of their culture is different, because being an Asian American is an entirely different experience with one’s culture. An Asian being raised in America, their life will have more western influence. Their way of life is westernized and it’s not their fault for not being able to experience growing up in their motherland. The most important thing about expressing being an Asian American is education-- to understand what it really means to be Asian outside of East Asian entertainment, like Korean dramas and anime. On the flip side, being Asian in Asia, is another issue. Whitewashing in the Asian community is old news. It has been present in many Asian cultures, especially in the Philippines. Rapper Ez Mil became viral in the Philippines for rapping about being Filipino and his Ilocano heritage. This was well-received by Filipinos in the

Philippines. As someone who has a white background is appreciating being Filipino, he expresses his being Pinoy by denying his white background in his lyrics and calls the Philippines his home country. “Lahat kayo (all of you), all of you ever since bata ako I’ve been kinda discriminated in my own home country,” Ez Mil Raps in his song “Panalo.” “Sure, some would be like: “Luh ang puti puti mo, tisoy” (“Huh, you’re so white, foreigner”) I ain’t tisoy, I’m Pinoy.” Filipino culture in the Philippines is leaning towards being more Westernized. Being Filipino in the Philippines’, the greatest achievement one could accomplish is to leave the country. Children are taught to speak English and not Tagalog. Most Filipinos speak in Taglish (Tagalog mixed with English). They tend to pretend that they don’t know Tagalog in order to appear more foreign. In the Philippines, knowing and speaking English and English only is the preferred social norm. So, when someone like Ez Mil, a mixed foreigner, shows appreciation of being Filipino, it’s not a surprise that everyone loses their minds and he goes viral. The Asian trend has become more prominent as Asians are starting to be noticed in the West. With “Mulan” released in early 2020 and the arrival of Disney’s “Raya and the Last Dragon” this past March, Asians are getting more representation. More and more Asian Americans are also embracing their Asian side. Korean pop music is setting a prime example of just how much Asian culture is getting recognized today. K-pop groups, like BTS and BlackPink, are gaining more attention as the interest for Asian pop-culture continues to rise. The main question stands if it’s performative or pure interest.

significance it has can be disrespectful. Being educated and learning all about the deep rooted-history it comes with is important. Surface level learning can be a start that can lead to something more. At the very least, drink matcha knowing that it came from Japan. Cultural exchange happens all the time and it is enjoyable until a more dominant culture takes certain aspects of the minority culture and aestheticizes them; especially for profit. The beauty of real Asian customs is being pushed to the side by mindless bandwagoners and that is not okay. We are in an era where there’s numerous social reformations. There’s more ethnic diversity in the world than ever before. It’s a remarkable thing that people are learning more about ethnic backgrounds, whether it’s based on a trend or an actual desire to learn about it. Nevertheless, being Vietnamese is more than eating pho. Being Filipino is more than eating lumpia. Being Japanese is more than eating ramen. There is so much more to being a person of color, to being Asian, than the shallow, popularized exotic image they show in the media. There are deep layers in each of these cultures, and their beauty is being overshadowed by the trending media. All cultures are beautiful and they should be appreciated with respect. Yes, it is acceptable to say one is proud to be Pinoy, or proud to be Asian, but there is so much more to a person than their ethnicity; it’s not what makes a person a whole. Being a person of color is not a personality trait.

“When there’s some type of Japanese or Korean in their blood, even if it’s 2%, they would show it off,” said Balbas. “There’s pieces of you that make up a whole. Carrying your country’s bloodline is one thing but that’s not who you are as a whole. Being Filipino, being Japanese, being Vietnamese is not you as a whole. You’re more than just a flag. There’s so much more to who you are than representing a flag.” Partaking in a culture and claiming it as an identity without knowing the deep SPRING 2021 | 23

You Will Never Be Western Enough


Just as it seems that the end goal is in sights for Asian artists, the goalposts abruptly shift, prolonging a neverending game of catch up in the industry. Award category rules change and eligibility criteria are altered, just enough to keep Asian artists from participating. If they are not barred completely, they are put into boxes labeled “foreign” or relegated to a token that is only allowed to create identity work. And if not othered and kept out, their ideas are stolen from them. This is seen time and time again in areas such as music and film, where no matter the talent, you will never be Western enough.

24 | SPRING 2021

Rina Sawayama, a British Japanese artist who sings primarily in English and has lived in the UK for a majority of her life, had been deemed ineligible for the BRIT music awards and the Mercury Prize for not having a British Passport, despite having permanent UK residence. Even though her debut album has been featured in NME‘s 20 Best Albums of 2020 list with a full five stars upon release, she has not received proper recognition for her work. Sawayama has since campaigned heavily for award shows to change their eligibility rules, finally seeing success in February of 2021 as the BRITs conceded. When it comes to artists from Asia, the exclusion is more severe. This can be seen glaringly with the way American media has treated the South Korean band BTS with a combination of xenophobia and underrating. BTS has been consistently breaking records, both in South Korea and in the United States: From being named the top recording artist of the world in 2020 by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry to surpassing the Beatles with three of their album releases reaching No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard in a year. Yet, BTS continues to face hurdles such as being relegated to award show categories like “Top Social Artist” in the Billboard Music Awards and “Best K-Pop” in MTV’s Music Video Awards, the latter of which was created in 2019 when K-Pop acts blew up in the Americas. BTS also faced not one, but two Grammy snubs in 2020 for Best Recording Package and 2021 for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, though the band was invited to perform at both award shows. After the initial 2020 snub, BTS released a fully English song, “Dynamite,” in an attempt to overcome possible language barriers; however, this attempt was unsuccessful in terms of aiming for a Grammy award despite the song’s record-breaking success. Furthermore, in the 2021 Grammys, award categories that featured primarily nominees of color were moved off the main show broadcast. Other popular K-Pop groups, such as BlackPink and Monsta X have faced similar treatment. These artists are offered entry into award shows as performers but not given a seat at the table as participants. Often, they are used for diversity points and program viewership brought by their respective fanbases, but they are rarely awarded or viewed as equals.

design/Skyler Shepard

The global music industry has grown star studded with Asian acts, from the rise of Korean pop music and other subgenres to the creation and growth of Asian groups here in the West. Though the music industry in the East is nothing new, it is only recently that the West has seen its promise, and, by extension, the potential of artists of Asian descent in the West. Despite this, Western, particularly

American and British, academies continue to keep their eyes and ears closed. Diaspora artists have been barred from participating in award shows of the countries they live in.

by /Asma Ahmed

n recent years, there appears to be a trend of Asians dominating media industries with boundless popularity. Now, more than ever, Asian artists are building names for themselves and finding their audiences in different parts of the world. The media has come a long way in terms of diversity; however, can we say the same for inclusion? Despite the greater visibility Asians have in media— be it film, music, or literature— and their immense displays of pure talent and expression with critical acclaim, there still appears to be a barrier that prevents Asian works from flourishing in the West. As Asians continue to outdo their rivals and even themselves, the recognition and merit for such feats are virtually nonexistent.

How Shifting Goalposts in the West keeps Asians as the ‘Other’

In the film industry, a similar pattern can be seen. Asian films are often sidelined into “foreign” categories or have their ideas taken from them as American remakes. Bong Joon-Ho’s 2019 film “Parasite” made history by being nominated for six Oscars, winning Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best International Feature Film, while none of the film’s actors received nominations. Upon seeing the success of the film, American directors have set out to adapt the film into an HBO series, but starring white actors. Other works, such as Yeon Sang-ho’s “Train to Busan,” Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s “Death Note” and Satoshi Kon’s “Perfect Blue,” among others, have all faced such whitewashing. In America, works by Asian Americans that center Asians are rare, where those that do get made are often held back for not catering to white audiences. Isaac Lee Chung’s 2021 film, “Minari,” is an autobiographical film on the director’s immigrant boyhood in rural Arkansas and centers around the American Dream. It features an American ideal, set in America with a predominantly American cast by an American director— but the primary language spoken in the film is Korean. Despite being all-American, “Minari” was disqualified for Best Picture and relegated to Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes. According to a statement by Chung, “‘Minari’ was only eligible for the best foreign language film category due to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) rules on language, so the film was submitted to meet these rules; there was no choice involved in the matter.” According to the HFPA website, rules on language state that “any film with at least 50% of non-English dialogue goes into the foreign language category” and eligibility rules for other awards state that: “Foreign Language award also qualify for

awards in all other motion picture categories except Best Motion Picture- Drama and Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy, which are exclusively for English language motion pictures.” However, these rules did not impede Quentin Tarantino’s 2010 film, “Inglourious Basterds,” which was primarily in French and German with English only making up 30% of the dialogue. Lulu Wang’s “The Farewell,” an American film that is primarily in Mandarin with an all Asian cast, faced the same issue in the 2020s Golden Globes Awards. The West appears to not only have an issue with Asian languages but with seeing Asian faces as well. Asian American led films that feature Asians often have to fight for the right to keep Asians at the center. During the production of “The Farewell,” producers had asked to give the protagonist, Billi, a white boyfriend to “make the film feel more ‘American’ and be a ‘Hollywood film,’” as stated by Wang in a tweet. When adapting Jenny Han’s “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” and

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Kevin Kwan’s “Crazy Rich Asians,” the Asian American protagonists were pitched by Hollywood producers to bere-written as white women. In a personal essay for The New York Times, Han wrote: “I ended up deciding to work with the only production company that agreed the main character would be played by an Asian actress. No one else was willing to do it.” Similarly, Kwan addressed the whitewashing attempts, stating, “They wanted to change the heroine into a white girl. I was like, ‘Well, you’ve missed the point completely.’ I said, ‘No, thank you.’” Arbitrary rules and the demand to cater to Western, specifically white, audiences are major obstacles faced by Asians in the industry. However, when looking at the success of music and film in Asian countries, the question arises: Do we need the West to acknowledge us? When the only time Asians are included is when they fight tooth and nail for the opportunity or if they’re only brought in for clout, it is safe to say the answer is no. Asia does not need the West’s approval to exist. Asian talent and success is not a vie for the West’s approval but proof that there is more to media industries than what the West puts out and a statement that demands long overdue respect. For Asian Americans, their work as perpetual foreigners in their own home is extremely important for representation and shows that no matter how much they are pushed into and hidden in the margins, they are still here as the intersection of the East and the West.

26 | SPRING 2021

The Taal Tribe:

Classical Dance and Indian Americans


yes watching me in the dark. Lights brightly illuminating my face. The wood beneath my feet—warm. The costume on my body felt just right. As if I was meant to be here.

India is a land filled with culture and its colorful remnants. The rich heritage a n d spiritual

It is cumulatively termed abhinaya. Furthermore, these movements are therapeutic and are considered to be holistic towards the well-being of anyone who practices these movements. Dance/ Movement Therapy (DMT), as defined by the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA), is “the psychotherapeutic use of movement to promote emotional, social, cognitive, and physical integration of the individual, for the purpose of improving health and well-being.”

“The common thing all the parents want is for their children to be exposed to the art and culture of India,” says Shaila Sateesh, founder of SaiNrityala School of Dance and a native of Bangalore who has been teaching locally in Tampa for more than 15 years. “They feel that if they don’t do that, they will lose it because they are growing up here.” Most of the students do not go on to rigorously commit themselves to the dance for 8-10 years or do not undergo the expense required to have a traditional “arangetram” or graduation. A performance for family and friends is a rite of passage. It is like a Jewish bat mitzvah or a Latin quinceanera. Fewer still will continue their dance studies once they leave home, but Sateesh This story is by THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA

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design/Trianna Nguyen

Growing up in India, I never felt out of touch with my culture. But my cousins who grew up in the States went through the pains of dual cultures and identity crises. For them, studying a classical dance helped them to find a balance between American and Indian cultures.

By Sanikaa Thakurdesai

Suddenly, the rhythmic beats began, and I was overwhelmed, pouring my feelings out. My hands start forming graceful hastas while my feet take position with hips bent on one side. I tried to reach each and every muscle of my body and moved to the music. I was storytelling. The dance followed, and the rest was history.

interpretations of deities in classical dances are not talked about enough. Among the 7 classical dance forms, Bharatanatyam and Kathak are the most popular dance forms practiced in the United States. These dances are a reflection of the traditional culture in India, and for Indian Americans, this is a great way to understand their native traditions. Primarily comprising three common aspects, Natya, Nritta, and Nritya, classical dances embody facial expressions, body movements, and intricate coordination between the feet and hands.

believes in one thing; “Even though you will leave me, do not leave the dance. It will teach you more than steps.” I personally relate and agree with Mrs. Sateesh because having completed 8 years of training in Bharatanatyam, I am reformed with my outlook to life and relationships. It brought me calm amongst the chaos, in addition to discipline and expressive ways of communicating. More importantly, all classical dance teachers in the States openly encourage students from all religions and nationalities to take up this beautiful art. While keeping in mind the religious backgrounds, classical dances cover spirituality as well. Roma Bordawekar, a member of Rutgers University’s Jhoom from New Jersey believes, “Learning Kathak for over ten years has opened my eyes and mind to something that is greater than me, my culture, and my identity. I aspire to achieve that power of oneness that all my ancestral gurus have claimed to be blessed with.” Most of the movements depicted in classical dances have a deeper underlying meaning. For instance, one of the abhinayas or a piece of dance named Taye Yashoda, which I have learnt, includes Lord Krishna’s mischievous attempts to trouble his mother and the gopis or female villagers. Each and every action was supposed to indicate Lord Krishna’s childhood atrocities. Indian Children often wonder why Lord Krishna is blue. Krishna’s blue “aura,” like the sky or the ocean, is meant to signify his all-inclusive nature, 28 | SPRING 2021

that he was a charming trickster whose pranks were driven not by a mean spirit but a joyful celebration of ordinary life. And that the most well-known and widely revered of the Indian divinities represents compassion, tenderness, and love. Moreover, classical dances also cover unconventional issues like attraction, love, and sex. This is delineated through powerful expressions and firm movements. This art is not about religion but rather is about culture and spirituality in each one of us. Thus, gurus across the states are encouraging people from all cultures to embrace dance as a means of self-expression. As a renowned dancer, Prabhudeva, says, “Anybody can dance.” Many gurus or teachers are taking uncountable steps across the States to keep our culture alive. For instance, the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival and organizations like the Sangam Arts are excellent cultural ambassadors and provide gateways to Indian culture. The “Kalāshraya Dance Festival” celebrates soloists in Indian classical dance. The Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC) Dance festival is also held annually to promote dancers and their passion for this unique art. Most of the reputed universities across the US also have their own Indian dance teams, which proves the growing acceptance of India’s culture among young people. Nowadays, second and third-generation Americans are now

recognizing the importance and connection to these classical dances. “Classical Dance has helped me both physically, emotionally, culturally, and emotionally. It provides me with a safe space to emote through my movements and be stress-free,” says Sushmita Saji, a Tampa-based dancer and now captain of Bulls Nakhra at USF.

“ This

art is not about relgion; but about culture and spirituality in each one of us.

She also believes, “In spite of being a Christian, I am grateful to my parents for letting me participate in other religious and cultural events.” In addition to the growing number of Classical Dance schools or nrityalayas in the USA, this culture is slowly pervading into the US media and pop culture. Recently, a Netflix original called ‘Never Have I Ever’ by Mindy Kaling highlighted the brown culture in the US. With Maitreyi Ramakrishnan and Richa Moorjani as leads, the US television industry has definitely evolved itself in including diversity and brown culture. Moorjani, who is a trained classical dancer, owes her success to dance. “Being a South Asian American, I feel proud to be a part of a generation in Hollywood that is breaking cultural stereotypes and being given the opportunity to tell our unique stories,” says Moorjani. Classical dance has definitely given its

followers a medium of expression and a platform to showcase their passion for culture and traditions. In the past ten years, so many musicals and productions by the ever-increasing nrityalayas have been established to further our gurus’ attempts to spread awareness regarding our culture. The growing popularity of this art is something that I am proud to witness. “Today is the most important day in your dance life,” my guru, Smt Grishma Lele, had blessed me before I performed on stage for the last time as a student of Tanjavur Nritya Shala. That was the last day I wore my sari with the innate ornaments a n d ghungroos tied to my feet. As I completed my routine and heard the shower of applause behind me, I knew that this was not it. I will continue my devotion to dance in some or the other way. We wait against insurmountable odds for something extraordinary to happen to us, only to realize that when it does, we wait again. Ta Ka Dhi Mi, Ta Ki Ta still echoes in my mind whenever I see someone else happily moving to classical beats of music. Dance definitely gave me something to believe that the world is greater than the sum of its parts. It is infinite. It is abhinaya.

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by Liana Progar

A Beginner’s Guide to Photo Card Collecting

Buying from Second-Hand Sellers In the collecting community, there are certain principles everyone is expected to follow: Be nice, honest, fair and do not scam. Before you agree to buy or trade something, look at that person’s page and any other trading/selling account they have. On Instagram and Twitter it is easier to find people’s proof of past transactions since they’ll usually be in a highlight or thread. Proofs are very important to determining who is trustworthy. Scammers sometimes steal proof and claim it as their own. When inspecting someone’s proofs, make sure you’re able to see their handle somewhere in the photo, the item, and who it was sent to. On Instagram, the best type of proof is a shareable story since it directly connects the sender to the receiver. 30 | SPRING 2021

After you’ve checked their proofs, look for an highlight/thread. Some people are particular with they want transactions handled and might ask to send an emoji to confirm you’ve read their

info how you info.

When trading or selling, make sure to ask for proof that they have the item on hand, an address check and mailing proof. These types of proofs help insure that the card is official, check the state of the card, see that the other person owns it, and that your address is correct and that the letter is on its way to you. If you’re bidding for an item on Instagram or Twitter, be sure to check if the seller updates the current bid or they might be trying to trick you into overpaying.

design/ Angelika Suansing & Asma Ahmed


ave you ever wondered what it’s like to collect small pieces of paper with people’s faces on it? While photo card collecting is stressful, it has also made me happy to see my collection grow for almost a year now. If you think photo card collecting is something you would like to do, here are things I wish I knew before starting my collection.

photography/ Liana Progar

Gotta Collect Them All:

Where to Look Site eBay

Pros 1. Can score deals with the bidding system 2. Easy to see the sellers’ credibility/reviews

Cons 1. Overpricing 2. Expensive shipping costs

U.S.A. Mercari 1. Might be able to negotiate a lower price

1. Overpricing 2. Seller fees cause higher prices

Japan Mercari 1. Generally lower prices

1. Requires a proxy service (Neokyo/Buyee) 2. Service fees 3. Expensive shipping

2. Helps see which cards are hard to find 2. Good for group orders 3. Easy to see sellers’ ratings


1. Specialized buying/selling/trading groups for different artists 2. Group admins help protect users from scammers 3. Can be reasonably priced

1. Harder to find people’s reviews/proof 2. Can be overpriced 3. Can be harder to search for items


1. Easy to search for items 2. Easy to see past reviews 3. Might be able to negotiate a lower price/find good deals

1. Seller fees cause higher prices 2. Has less listings sometimes


1. Easy to search for items 2. Easy to see past proof of successful transactions 3. Can be reasonably priced 4. Has bidding

1. Shaky credibility 2. Things are often tagged incorrectly 3. Can be overpriced


1. Easy to search for items 2. Easy to see past proof of successful transactions 3. Can be reasonably priced 4. Has bidding

1. Shaky credibility 2. Often filled with international collectors who only want to sell/trade within their region 3. Can be overpriced

Telling Reals from Fakes There are a few different ways to tell the difference between a real and a fake photocard; however, each rule typically has some type of exception.

Flash Test

Light should be fuzzy and scattered



Authenticity Nubs / Specks

Flash Test Light will be more defined or nearly perfect

Authenticity Nubs / Specks

Excess paper will stick of the sides of the cards, they can be on any edge and tiny

Smooth edges

Other tells for fakes: • Photo is incorrectly cropped, either too zoomed in or too zoomed out, or over/undersaturated • Can be too flimsy or solid compared to a card from the same album

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The exception to the nub rule is different press cards. Many companies release region exclusive items or use different manufactures so there are differences between cards. There are many different versions for albums like Chinese, Korean, Japanese, International, U.S.A., Thai and Taiwan press albums. Press variations can include: Slightly different coloration on the backs of the cards, different corner roundings, slightly different saturation on the front of the card, or missing certain logos. In addition, some regions get special inclusions that can’t be acquired from other regions’ albums. Different companies release different regional presses so make sure to research and understand where everything is from. Try watching unboxing videos; they really help when researching different types of cards, especially when it comes to different presses. And don’t be afraid to ask what press the cards are from!

Furthermore, depending on when you buy the album, the corners of the photocards may be different. Some companies print their first press albums with non-rounded, square photo cards and then print any press after that with rounded corners. A few examples are ATEEZ and Stray Kids. The authenticity nub placement may also change between first and other presses. And if that all wasn’t complicated enough, there are also merchandise, limited press, broadcast, fansign and pre-order benefit items. Merchandise cards can be from tours, come with another item you bought, or bought on their own. Limited press cards are only available for a short period of time and then aren’t printed again. Broadcast cast photo cards come from when artists promote on weekly music shows like “Inkigayo” or “The Show.” Fansign cards are distributed to those who participated in a fan call/sign. Pre-order benefits are given to people who order within the pre-order date range. Since these items are limited or not produced at the same volume albums are, they often lack authenticity nubs and have smoother edges.

• Want to trade (wtt) • Want to sell (wts) • Not for sale (nfs) • Not for trade (nft) • Up for trade (uft) • Up for sale (ufs) • Want to buy (wtb) • In search of (iso) • Left to buy (ltb) • Quote your price (qyop) • On the way (otw) • Group order (go) • Group order manager (gom) • Preorder benefit (pob) • Out of print (oop) • Out of stock (oos)

32 | SPRING 2021

Summary All of this might be a lot to take in, but take your time. Learn what you need to make sure you understand how to collect and not be scammed. And in the end your collection should make you happy! You’re the one who has to look at it and has spent time and money on it, therefore, you decide what you do and don’t collect. You don’t collect for anyone but yourself so enjoy the thrill of the hunt and the excitement of adding a new treasure to your collection at your own pace.

In Solidarity, United This past year, we’ve seen many tragedies and atrocities committed against minorities at home and abroad. From Minneapolis to Atlanta to Palestine, our world is riddled with violence that attempts to disrupt lives and suppress the voices of those fighting for liberation and freedom. These incidents are not isolated, nor are they independent of one another. Any infringement on human rights affects us all, and it is important that we recognize the systems of oppression that allow this to happen and stand up with each other against them. While we all come from different backgrounds and have different stories, it is important that we remain vigilant and stand with our community and neighbors to demand justice. We need to stand together in solidarity with the Black community, the Indigenous community, the Palestinians, and the voices around the world that desire the same freedoms and liberation from the very systems that oppress them. We, as Asian Americans, must also stand up and show up for our own community. We can’t stand in the shadows waiting; we must use our voices now to pave a new path towards justice and peace.

Activism is not just a personal struggle: it is equally a collective effort.

With a country as diverse as America, we need to take time to learn about the people we live with our joint and individual histories as we all share an intertwined story. And because of the diversity of the American public, it is crucial that we foster and practice intersectionality within our activism, education, and support to promote equality and justice for all. As Asian Americans, we must understand that we are not a monolith, but rather a diverse group of peoples brought together by our collective experiences under a political identity. While, as people of color, we all experience marginalization at the hands of white supremacy, the oppression we face takes form in different ways, connected at the roots. This is why it is important to stand in solidarity and be inclusive of each other in our activism as we fight against the same system. Solidarity, of course, looks different for everyone. The best way to move forward towards solidarity and intersectional activism is education. Sparks Magazine, as well as several UCF Asian American student-run organizations like the Asian Pacific American Coalition (APAC), hosts several workshops and discussion spaces to unpack these issues and topics and help one another learn. There are also several online resources available, such as articles, virtual workshops, etc. The resources are available and it is a step in the right direction. And while education is important and valuable, it is just as important to engage with your community— whether that be the UCF community or the local Orlando community. Engage and participate in events organized by community leaders and partake in ways that are needed to better the overall community. There are several activists and leaders working hard to fight for a better future right here and abroad; we must do what we can to help. Though these issues are nothing new but are the result of centuries of systemic oppression, we continue to feel their effects to this day. Therefore, it is our responsibility to make the effort in dismantling these systems to create a better future. It is up to us to use our voices and stand up against the injustices we see in our world. We need to be there for one another and we need to use our voices: We can’t let silence dictate the future. Together, in solidarity, we can bring about the change we are fighting for.

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